Designing at TransferWise: a case study.

What it’s like to join the team, get up to speed, and then get started.

I joined the design team at TransferWise six months ago. I’ll be honest: it took me a little while to understand how things work around here.

Our sunny corner of the London office is home to product, brand, and marketing designers, as well as copywriters and UX researchers. And a whole host of plants, too.

In my first weeks, I watched product designers sit with writers to co-work on prototypes, while engineers chipped in and analysts reported on progress.

I wondered how this kind of closeness to the product and collaboration was possible. And I wondered how I could carry it into my own work here.

So here’s what I’ve learned about the team, how we work, and how I put it all to use in my first project at TransferWise.

We design with empathy. And we’re all a bit different.

We design with dogs, too.

From sending hard-earned money to family back home to spending it abroad with the TransferWise card — people trust TransferWise to be simple, fast, safe, and fair.

As designers, our job is to understand what that means for our customers. We identify their wants and needs when it comes to their money, and then work out a vision to make it happen.

But we’re not all cut from the same cloth. Our design team is made up of many skills, backgrounds, and personalities — and five distinct disciplines.

UX researchers help us better understand our users, and product designers identify customer problems and design solutions to solve them.

Marketing designers help us clearly communicate our message, and brand designers make it recognisable and consistent.

And copywriters help it all sound clear, delightful, and effective.

Our many design tools allow us to explore different possibilities and find unique solutions to our customers’ problems, together.

As a team, we each bring our expertise to the table to build a strategic vision. And then we work out how to do it, step by step.

And then we help our product teams focus on what people really do, want, and need.

We don’t work with product teams. We work in them.

Brainstorming together.
There’s no way we could achieve our goals as designers alone. Instead, many of us bring our skills to product teams, where we can really sink our teeth into specific areas of the customer experience.

With a team of product managers, engineers, and analysts, we identify the challenges our customers face, define a mission to make things better, and then get started.

We work everyday with our teams to understand and improve different parts of TransferWise for our customers. Each product team is autonomous and empowered to solve the problems they feel are most important. With everyone we need to get it done, we work together from start to finish to solve problems big and small.

That’s why, on any given day at TransferWise, I now find myself brainstorming with UX researchers to launch experiments, working on landing pages with marketing designers, getting knee-deep in numbers with analysts, and thinking big picture with product managers.

We solve big problems. Together.

Going over results from a user test.

With an understanding of how we design at TransferWise, I embarked on my first project with my product team, Help Experience.

The challenge: customers struggle to find answers to their questions in our Help Centre. Instead, they skip straight to contacting our (amazing) customer support team.

The mission: help customers help themselves, so they can have a little more time back in their day. Guide them to the right help articles at the right time.

The team: Product manager, product designer, analyst, engineers, our customer service lead, and me, copywriter.

And help from: UX researchers, brand designers, and marketing designers.

We have a tried-and-true process to get to the core of our customers’ struggles and figure out how to fix them. So, during a team summit in Budapest, we got started on fixing our Help Centre.

1. Really and truly understand the problem.

We knew the Help Centre could use some design and copy love. But we didn’t know just how much our customers needed it.

Our analysis revealed that more than 60% of our customers who visited the Help Centre weren’t reading articles to get the help they needed. Instead, they went straight for the Contact Us button.

So, we ran a series of tests to understand why users weren’t reading our articles. Turns out, when they visited our Help Centre, they felt lost and underserved. They wanted more structure and context to their own experience.

2. Decide on design principles.

Engineers and analysts vote on design principles.

Once we knew what we needed to improve, we came up with some principles to focus our work. Here’s what we decided.

Contextual. Information is relevant to my profile, state and journey.

Intuitive. It’s easy to find what I’m looking for.

Organised. I know where to search for something when it’s not presented to me.

Beautiful. I find it pleasant to look at and use.

3. Build a prototype and a plan together.

An iteration of the desktop Help Centre design.

Armed with principles to guide us, we determined how to design, test, analyse, and build the new Help Centre.

As a team in Budapest, analysts were sketching on whiteboards, product managers were devising the perfect user test, and engineers were planning how to measure success. I know, it sounds like design heaven. It kinda was.

4. Test and improve.

We returned from Budapest with a Help Centre prototype that everyone on our team contributed to and believed in. Then, we put it in front of customers to see what they thought. Then we did it again (and again, and again).

After many (many, many) design and copy tweaks, we created an MVP that we’re ready to build.

5. Ready, set, build.

Our engineers are hard at work building the new help experience. So, stay tuned — we can’t wait to see what our customers (and you) think.

Sound like a nice place to be designer?

Well, we’re hiring, and we’d love to hear from you.