The Anatomy of a Large Product Design Organization

Or, why Wayfair is doubling the size of its Product Design team

As my career has progressed, I’ve come to recognize the value of a strong professional network. As such, during the last two years, I’ve had countless one-on-one conversations with product designers who work in the Boston area.

These conversations more-often-than-not involve a casual walk around the Wayfair headquarters in Copley Place. Conversations are usually fairly wide-ranging. We talk about design systems, agency vs in-house design, management strategy, team culture, and Game of Thrones, just to name a few. However, the topic that comes up most often is the structure of our design team. More specifically, what does each of these 40–80 product designers work on? This post will serve as the definitive answer to that question


Side note, why is coffee the de facto offering when meeting like-minded professionals? Between work and networking, I sometimes have as many as four coffee-chats a day. If you want to chat, feel free to ask me to grab ice-cream, or a churro. We’ll both be happier for it.

While network building is a selfish side-effect of the conversations I have, the main pretext is recruiting for Wayfair’s Product Design team. While there are currently around 40 product designers on the team, we’ve been tasked with doubling the size of this group before the end of the year. So… I shall be drinking much more coffee in the coming months.

How Wayfair’s Product Team is Organized

To understand the structure of the Wayfair Product Design team, you’ll first need to understand the size and scale of the whole product organization. It may or may not be okay for me to share the size of this team, but it’s safe to assume there are many hundreds of people.

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.

Super-Pods: Focused on the Customer Journey

The hundreds of people in the product organization are logically separated into five major teams we call “super-pods.” Rather than being responsible for separate sections of the site, each super-pod is focused a loosely defined aspect of the customer journey. Here’s a way-too-brief summary of each super-pod:

  • Inspire Super-Pod: Helps customers determine what products are right for them
  • Find Super-Pod: Helps customers narrow our vast selection of products
  • Plan Super-Pod: Helps customers organize projects large and small
  • Buy Super-Pod: Helps customers customize, configure, and purchase products
  • Enjoy Super-Pod: Helps customers during the post-purchase experience
Where Spotify calls them Tribes and Squads, Wayfair calls them Super-Pods and Pods.

Pods

The five super-pods are divided into around 50 scrum teams that Wayfair calls “pods.” Each pod focuses its efforts on a more specific aspect of the customer experience and owns that experience across mobile web, desktop, and app. As is typical with scrum teams, these pods generally consist of:

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

The small size of our pods 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.

Example Pods

I won’t list all 50ish pods, but here’s a rundown that will give you a good idea at the variety of pods at Wayfair.


Augmented Reality: Uses the latest in ARKit and ARCore technology to render true-to-scale product models that allow users to effortlessly measure and visualize the perfect pieces for their home.

Augmented Reality Pod: iOS ARKit functionality.

Product Customization: Builds dynamic features for things like fully customizable upholstery or complex furniture sets that help customers better visualize, configure, and purchase products specifically tailored to their style and budget.

Product Customization Pod: Custom Upholstery Expereince

Shop The Look: Inspires customers by allowing them to discover new styles and products in our shoppable room experiences

Shop The Look Pod: Room Ideas Experience

Product Sort & Recommendations: Leverages vast amounts of data to curate products that are tailored to each unique customer.

Chat & Messaging: Develops a robust chat experience to connect users across platforms with in-house experts so they can get the assistance they need faster.

Chat & Messaging Pod: Web and iOS chat experience

Idea Boards: Gives customers a place to compile, organize, and share items they’re interested in. Think Pinterest meets Anylist.

Room Planner: Our design tool that lets users build a virtual room, and fill it with their favorite products to see how everything looks before they buy.

Room Planner Pod: Adding a product to a room.

Visual Search: Leverages our custom-made deep learning photo search tool to enable customers to find items inspired those they find online, or in-person.

Visual Search Pod: Photo search functionality.

Design Services: Offers affordable interior design services by matching Wayfair customers with professional third-party, interior designers.

Design Services Pod: Interior design feedback experience.

Product Search: Enables users to find the most relevant products, utilizing dynamic past behavior, and relevant keywords.

Wedding Registry: A seamless registry experience that guides and inspires registrants, while creating a frictionless purchase experience for guests.

Wedding Registry Pod: Confetti = delight.

Home Services: Offers integrated assembly and installation services and top-notch renovation products.

Consumer Guidance: Presents product information in visual and compelling ways to guide users to the purchasing decision that’s right for them.

Consumer Guidance Pod: 3D model-driven 360 view functionality.

Loyalty and Financing: Develops strategies that allow all customers to bring home items that fit their style and budget.

User-Generated Content: Harnesses customer knowledge to help future users find reliable content about products they’re interested in.

User Generated Content Pod: Customer reviews and photos

Want to hear more about the 30+ other pods? Ask me to grab a coffee, or better yet, a churro.