The Anatomy of a Large Experience Design Organization — 2.0

Or, why Wayfair employs so many Experience Designers

Jesse Kaddy
Sep 18 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post

This is the new-and-improved edition of an article I originally published in 2018. The size and shape of Wayfair’s design team has changed substantially since the original version. While in 2017/2018 our main goal was to grow the headcount of our team, our focus since has shifted to enhancing and empowering the team we have.

🧠 How we’ve evolved

The Experience Design organization at Wayfair has evolved immensely since I joined the team in March of 2016. I typically communicate the rate of change simply by comparing the size of the team. When I joined, I was one of eight UX designers. Today we have around 70.

While the size of the Wayfair XD team is impressive, there are many aspects of our evolution that provide more nuance into the ways we’ve grown since 2016. Here are some of the most important:

  • A mature and fully integrated Design System that is built and maintained by a dedicated team. We call it Homebase. Emphasis on Home, because home-furnishings is.. ya know…our thing.
  • An extensive and collaborative XD onboarding curriculum that ensures our new team members have the tools and knowledge they need to be effective.
  • A thriving Communities of Practice program (we call them XD Collectives) that enables team members to collaborate on shared interests. Examples include: Accessibility Collective, Career Development Collective, Diversity/Equity/In Collective, Visual Ambassadors Collective, and the Bad Movies Collective 🤪.
  • We now have the single combined role of Product Designer, where we once had separate roles for User Experience Designers and Visual Designers. This role gives designers more autonomy and authority to execute projects end-to-end project.
  • We utilize a repeatable design methodology that combines the best practices of Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean UX.

🗺 How our Experience Design Team is Organized

You may have read about the Tribes and Squads team structure that Spotify has plastered across the internet. Wayfair’s product team is structured somewhat similarly. Where Spotify calls them Tribes and Squads, Wayfair calls them Super-Pods and Pods and Squads. These groups are housed inside Wayfair’s Storefront product organization.

Storefront

Storefront is an organization within Wayfair that is responsible for crafting the customer-facing experience across desktop, mobile web, iOS, and Android for Wayfair, Joss & Main, Allmodern, Birch Lane, and Perigold. This group is primarily made up of Experience Designers, Product Managers, Web Analysts, and many, many Engineers.

👉 Storefront XD Leadership: Director-level Experience Designers.

Super-Pods: Focused on the Customer Journey

Storefront > Super-Pod

The hundreds of people in the storefront org are logically divided into 4 large teams we call “super-pods.” Rather than being responsible for separate sections of the site, each super-pod is focused on a loosely defined aspect of the customer journey.

👉 Super-Pod XD Leadership: Associate-Director-level Experience Designers.

Here’s a way-too-brief summary of each super-pod:

  • Core Funnel Super-Pod: Responsible for the main e-commerce experience. This team inspires our customers to imagine their perfect home (Discover Pod), seamlessly helps them to find that perfect piece (Find Pod), and enables them to feel confident in their purchase (Buy Pod).
  • Tailoring Super-Pod: Adapts our web and app experiences to ensure we’re the very best place to buy every product we sell, for each customer in every store and geography.
  • Tools & Services Super-Pod: Gives our customers the superpowers they need to shop how they want, confidently buy, and fully enjoy their purchases, resulting in increased loyalty to Wayfair.
  • Platforms Super-Pod: Builds and supports platforms, technologies, frameworks, libraries, tools, and design assets. By unifying these efforts we are able to more effectively design, collaborate, and execute on a shared vision for the future of Wayfair.
Image for post
Image for post
Where Spotify calls them Tribes and Squads, Wayfair calls them Super-Pods and Pods.

Pods

Storefront Super-Pod Pod

The 4 super-pods are divided into 18 teams that Wayfair calls “pods.” Each pod focuses its efforts on a more-well-defined aspect of the customer experience. Here are a few example pods:

  • Buy-pod: Helps customers evaluate, configure products, and purchase products
  • Find-pod: Helps customers narrow our vast selection of products.
  • Plan-pods: Helps customers organize projects large and small.
  • Home Services-pod: Helps customers assemble, install, and protect their products.
  • Homebase-pod: Creates and administers Wayfair’s design system, enabling teams to ship the best possible customer experiences, quickly.
  • Platform Services-pod: Build flexible, reusable, and performant tools that enable dynamic customer experiences.
  • Wayfair Professional-pod: Help businesses make good spaces great.
  • Best in Class Super-Pod: Helps customers feel that Wayfair is a trusted source to buy everything in our catalog.

👉 Pod XD Leadership: Senior Manager-level Experience Designers.

Squads

Storefront Super-Pod Pod Squad

The 18 pods are further divided into 35-ish scrum-teams that Wayfair calls “squads”. The small size of our squads enables us to more quickly research, design, and launch new initiatives. It also lets us remain nimble as we react to qualitative and quantitative data. As is typical with scrum teams, these squads generally consist of:

  • Product Designers
  • Content Strategists (AKA, UX Copy)
  • User Experience Researchers
  • Product Managers
  • Engineers (Full Stack, QA, Front End)
  • Web Analysts

👉 Squad XD Leadership: Lead-level Experience Designers.

Example Squads

Here’s a sampling of some of Wayfair’s squads. You’ll notice that the interfaces and interactions for some squads necessitate a more advanced experience, while other interfaces are relatively simple. In these cases, while the interface may be easily understood, the problem space each XD is responsible for can be seriously complex:

Home Services Squad: Builds an in-house marketplace for customers to access vetted, quality professionals for assembly and installation.

Cart & Checkout Squad: Provides customers the best possible purchase experience from when they first add a product to their basket, all the way through placing & confirming their order.

Product Customization Squad: Focuses on creating a best-in-class customer experience for all furniture and decor products by enabling customers to customize and sample products.

Lifestyle & Luxury Brands Squad: Delivers differentiated experiences for Wayfair’s Lifestyle and Luxury Brands that are tailored to the unique needs of each brand’s customers. This includes Allmodern, Birch Lane, Joss & Main, and Perigold.

Reviews Squad: Helps customers feel confident that they are shopping trusted products and brands, with help from millions of their fellow customers.

Visualization Squad: Helps customers interact with products in their space by building 2D and 3D platforms for an Augmented Reality (AR) and room planning experiences.

Visualization Squad: Lens XR
Visualization Squad: 3D Room Planner

Homepage + Category Pages: Creates a frictionless path that enables users to discover the breadth of Wayfair’s catalog or the shortest path to the specific product they came for.

Follow me on twitter: @jessekaddy

Wayfair Experience Design

Perspectives from Wayfair's Experience Design Team

Jesse Kaddy

Written by

Associate Director, Product Design (UX/UI) @Wayfair in Boston, MA. x Optaros MRM//McCann. Comic nerd. TV/Film nerd. Nerd Dad. OG Millennial. @jessekaddy

Wayfair Experience Design

Perspectives from Wayfair's Experience Design Team

Jesse Kaddy

Written by

Associate Director, Product Design (UX/UI) @Wayfair in Boston, MA. x Optaros MRM//McCann. Comic nerd. TV/Film nerd. Nerd Dad. OG Millennial. @jessekaddy

Wayfair Experience Design

Perspectives from Wayfair's Experience Design Team

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store