Malgranda Mondo — Esperanto for “small world” — was the name of this Envato hack week team aiming to bring internationalisation to our product.

Looking back at my time at Envato

Damir Kotorić
Mar 27, 2016 · 10 min read

On September 23rd, 2013 I joined Real Madrid. I played in the regional league until then, so this was a massive move for me.

Before joining Envato I spent four years working at a digital agency in Geelong, as well as freelancing on the side. I was giddy with joy after receiving a phone call to talk about the job application I had sent through a few days earlier.

Isn’t she a beaut’! Former brewery, then school, now Envato head office on 121 King St.
The building interior has a Google, friendly, we-are-not-the-suits feel that resonated with me.
Design Party was an event where everyone in the company was invited to come along and learn some design-thinking problem solving skills.

“Working here would be like joining Real Madrid!”, I exclaimed with passion and honesty in the interview. It got a good laugh and it kinda stuck. I met the requirements for the role, gave good answers in the interview, but this was the cherry on top. I got the job: User Experience Designer at Envato.

Just a regular day at Envato. The robot is a Double and it can be controlled by people working remotely.

Making my start on the search team

I made my start on the search team, helping them get a new faceted search feature off the ground. You know, all the filter options you use in a sidebar on a site like eBay or Amazon.

View on Amazon.

My first question was “why don’t we just use Google search instead of building our own?”

I was a total noob in this space. I quickly realised there was an entire world of knowledge in the design of great search experiences. The book Designing The Search Experience helped me a long way in understanding it all.

Meeting the community

The amazing thing about Envato is the incredible community of people from all over the world, who make money with the company’s platform. If I did my job well I would tangibly help people like Muhammad, Ajmal or Ivan and Irina be their own boss. If that’s not motivating I don’t know what is.

Envato’s meetup in Indonesia

I invited the community to work closely with us on the faceted search project. The response, as I expected, was optimistic.

The recruitment message on the Envato Market forum.

We’d talk to these customers on Google Hangouts and Skype to pick their brains and better understand the problem. This was also a humbling experience because these guys were domain experts. The first time I was working with customers that were tech-smarter than me.

One of many sessions I facilitated to better understand the needs of our customers.
One of our authors, SFX Studio, made this parody (among others) in appreciation of the long-awaited feature.

The flip side of such a passionate community is they don’t mind bluntly telling you when something you ship doesn’t match expectations. I noticed a fear of community feedback among the team at Envato HQ. A healthy degree of fear is good. It forces you to get your shit together before you ship. But this fear inhibited creative thinking. “We can’t make significant changes because we might seriously upset the community. Take a look at what happened to after they redesigned.”

As I saw it, what ended up happening was new features would ship in micro-iterations in order to reduce risk and possible forum outrage. This didn’t solve the problem. In fact it made it worse. The community would be frustrated that problems weren’t fixed quickly, and I’d be frustrated that we were shipping work well below my capabilities and the highly talented people working at Envato.

A change to the background colour and font size caused 83 pages of complaints on the forums.

It would get ridiculous. Like the time we changed the background colour on Envato Market from a dull grey to white. Looking back at the old design now, it’s pretty clear it was a change for the better. Yet, at the time it caused a complete outrage on the forums.

The community became understandably frustrated due to change fatigue. Not until later — with our experimentation with product design sprints — did we start shipping significant work we were proud of.

User testing new features

We’d create a Mailchimp email campaign and send it out to potential users (like people that live in Melbourne in the example below). Then we’d screen the submissions and send out another email to people we wanted to talk to based on their response. The recipients would then schedule the sessions themselves by clicking a link in the email that opened Calendly, which would automatically find free spots in my calendar and present it to participants as bookable times. It worked like charm.

Basically, I’d send out a Mailchimp email campaign and wait for new appointments to pop up in my calendar.

The process involved in getting user testing participants.

I’d then run the user test by taking the user through some tasks like “You’ve been hired to put a website together for Lady Gaga. Find a website theme that would get the job done.”

I made an elaborate setup using a combination of mobile phone recording, Google Hangouts and screen recording to both live stream each session to my team and record it at the same time. While I was facilitating the session, my team could jump in and send me questions via Slack and I‘d then ask the participant.
Playing around with an eye-tracking machine at RMIT. The amount of overhead required to get one of these tests organised made testing inaccessible. Later we looked at solutions like EyesDecide where the test can be done remotely with a participant’s web cam.
A typical Skype user interview. Here I was talking to one of Envato’s authors in Bosnia.

Finally, I’d write up a summary of all user testing sessions, my recommendations on what to do next, and at times I’d put together a 5 minute clip of the best bits and share it with the team or even everyone at Envato if the tests gave lots of insight, which they usually did.

Loving every product design sprint

The design war room for the Layers project which was the poster-child of how design should work.

Personally, I’ve learned as much in the total of about 8 weeks that I spent in design sprints as I did at the remainder of my whole time at Envato.

A draft client story (using the jobs-to-be-done approach) helped us analyse the problem and who we were solving it for.
Rapid wireframing, feedback, dot voting, bubble charts. Can life get better than this?

Sprints are great because a bunch of clever people are put in a room, the job titles left at the door, and given a problem to solve in 7 days. What follows is an explosion of ideas, learning, and inspiration. In these photos we were working on the Layers project, which was a landing page for a new type of site builder thanks to a partnership between Envato and the Obox team.

Idea presentation time.
Feedback time.

It was another one of those humbling moments where two non-designers, a front-end developer and copywriter came up with some of the best ideas.

Meeting with Obox, a key stakeholder in the project. We were building a landing page for a collaboration effort between them and Envato, so we wanted to make sure they were part of the process.
The outcome of a week’s intense product design sprinting.

Disrupting ourselves with design sprints

In the spirit of “disrupt yourself before someone else does”, Envato decided to try a completely new spin on the idea of selling stock photography. Instead of experimenting new ideas on Envato’s own PhotoDune, we decided to instead build a completely new product and see how it competes.

Unstock, Envato’s new experiment aiming to take the corporate “stock” feel out of stock photography. Ignore the two piglets.

We again turned to product design sprints to come up with the concept of a brand new stock photography experience, resulting in Unstock.

Working from anywhere

I’m forever grateful to Envato for letting me pioneer their new work from anywhere policy and giving me the opportunity to work for one of Australia’s hottest startups from my hometown in Bosnia.

A panorama view of Doboj fortress, that I took on a walk after a day’s remote working.

I wrote a post on Inside Envato talking in depth about my remote work experience. In short, it was an amazing opportunity. All information workers should be able to work like this.

What more do you need?
Back at HQ.

During my time in Europe I got the chance to meet the Eastern European Envato community face-to-face. The Envato Belgrade meetup stands out as my most I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-do-this-for-a-living moment ever.

The RedLionProduction team (Envato Market author) made their way all the way from Central Russia to attend the Belgrade Envato meetup, and to party of course :)

Winning the 2014 Envato Football Cup

The biggest trophy I’ve ever won.

In a turn of events that would make even Sepp Blatter blush a bit, I co-organised and won the 2014 Envato Football Cup (We couldn’t name it Envato World Cup because a corrupt organisation in Zürich owns the rights to it, and it happens to like suing people Donald Trump style).

My colleague Stevo and I were swept up in World Cup fever and decided to get a PlayStation competition happening at Envato. Then we thought: why not invite our community along as well and we’ll play matches via Internet?

Preaching design thinking and empathy

Back to real work. I saw my role as one where I not only design, but one where I help build empathy and design thinking awareness at Envato.

The inaugural Design Party.

Design Party was an event where designers and non-designers alike could come along to practice their problem solving skills. It was a session where participants were assigned problems to solve, and would use techniques like storyboarding and rapid prototyping to come up with a solution in the two-hours in which it ran.

Snippets of user interviews would be played at the start of the session to familiarise participants with the problem and to empathise with real people who would benefit from a solution.

Then there were a bunch of other ways I attempted to help spread the design message at Envato.

This board next to the kitchen (high traffic = great real estate) helped spark some conversation that otherwise wouldn’t happen or would have been harder to make a case for. Product sprints started a short while after.
The Envato Market Forums are a goldmine for finding problem points in the product. Unfortunately, most of them are hidden away and not visible to people who can help alleviate them. The Empathy Board made empathy easily accessible.
In 2015 the Envato Market website was still unresponsive and there wasn’t much talk in the office about changing that. Users were often requesting it, and it made business sense to let users find and favourite purchases on their mobile. 10% of users were on mobile. That’s a big amount considering the site was unresponsive! Thanks to Ioanis for the demo. Later that year the website became responsive. I’d like to hope this little gimmick had at least a little to do with that.
The search team (now Discovery) empathising at twice the normal rate. I played some relevant user testing videos to help my team understand and empathise before a roadmap planning session.

Designing the API

An example of “my kinda project” was the Envato Market API. Our old one was archaic and difficult to use. I took the API from “hey we need a better API” to requirements gathering, feedback, paper sketches, feedback, to prototype in a week. The new API is live on

Brainstorming ideas for the new name. I really dug the charm of We settled for
Concept for the home page hero section.
The new Envato Market API. Users have used it to build over 30 different apps that talk to their Envato Market account, and thereby create custom dashboards for example.
The walkthrough of the new API app registration flow was brought to you by Giancarlo’s wonderfully soothing voice.

Rolling up my sleeves and coding

Working with technologies like Git, HTML, CSS, SASS, JavaScript, CoffeeScript, and a bit of Ruby on Rails.

During my first week at Envato I — with lots of help from developers — installed the development environment on my machine. Over the last few years I learned to use the command line, Git, SASS, Middleman, beginner Ruby and Ruby on Rails, CoffeeScript, and I wrestled a lot with Boxen updates, and most importantly I got to learn how developers deconstruct problems and the impacts that UX decisions had on their job.

You’re supposed to refer to the pull request, but well done anyway Damir of 2013.

And, in over 2 years I never broke the master branch once! Ha!

Overcoming my fear of the command line

I hated the command line. Why couldn’t they make a user interface for this thing instead? Then as I began to use it more and learned some of its commands I realised it wasn’t that bad. Today I’m super boastful of my new Matrix like powers, though I still have a healthy degree of fear and caution.

Command line swag.

Thank you Envato developers for helping me overcome my paralysing fear of the command line.

Hack week fun

Along with design sprints, hack weeks made me really appreciate to work at Envato. Modelled after Silicon Valley companies, it is a time to put your regular work down, and do something completely new.

I got to play with Xcode…
… and helped my hack week team prototype a new iOS app for Envato Market authors.

I pitched for an overhaul of the Envato Market badges. Others were interested and we managed to turn the concept into reality.

The Envato Market badges gamify (it’s a word!) our product, and encourage higher usage, and make the product just more fun to use.

I became an Envato Market author

I made a sale of some aerial stock footage I uploaded of Jan Juc beach and became an official author on VideoHive, Envato’s stock video site.

I was greeted with a new badge! Oh the sweet joy of being surprised by something you worked on.

Thank you Envato for these great memories. Many thanks to the product managers, devs and design colleagues, I worked with. I look forward to seeing what you’ll come up with next.

By the way, I’m launching an aerial photography business called Falcon Films in mid-2016 and along with it an aerial stock video and 3D mapping product. Follow me on Twitter for updates of my journey.

Think big, work smart.

For designers and developers or anyone who’s shaping the future of our digital world. Thoughts on digital innovation and the process to enable it.

Damir Kotorić

Written by

Dreamer-upper of digital products.

Think big, work smart.

For designers and developers or anyone who’s shaping the future of our digital world. Thoughts on digital innovation and the process to enable it.

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