This was quite a year for anyone building software. Companies faced unprecedented challenges and had to make tough budget cuts, often resulting in less software spend. This, in turn, put a lot of pressure on software teams to move quickly and expand their offerings to survive the consolidation wave. Amid these demanding circumstances, it was quite easy to compromise on quality and delivering real customer value.
It’s no easy task to fight against the gravitational pull of mediocrity, but the Lattice Design team stepped up to the challenge by leaning into the three mindset shifts we established at the start of the year. They were:
This group is extremely clear-eyed about the ways we can improve our culture and processes. But simply identifying opportunities won’t be enough in 2023. We need to view ourselves as co-owners of our teams, not just members. And this means driving action on our observations. If you see something that can be improved in the way we work, what are you doing to drive that improvement?
As companies scale and more people are involved in any one decision, processes and culture tend to shift to a place where consensus becomes the goal. This puts a drag on velocity that should be mitigated as much as possible. We should absolutely value the feedback of others. That said, there’s a difference between filling the gaps in our perspective and red tape. The former reduces the risk in our decisions, the latter disempowers and delays. When you feel your momentum slowing down, is it to reduce risk or build consensus? If it’s the former, identify if the risk is bad (type I decision) or if it’s fine because it leads to learnings (type II decision) then act accordingly. If it’s the latter, call it out, and let’s cut the red tape.
While we share the same ultimate goal as our cross-functional teammates (delivering value to our customers), we have a unique responsibility of delivering great design regardless of what we finally ship. It’s easy to preempt the feedback of a PM/Stakeholder/Engineer and begin to self-impose constraints on our work. But this is a failure mode and results in us hamstringing ourselves upfront. Our designs should inform and evolve project requirements and development timelines, not the other way around. There’ll always be negotiation (it’s healthy!), but we should be a constant voice for best-in-class quality. Let’s be the balloon, lead with what’s possible, then negotiate from there. Push back on constraints when necessary and escalate when the tradeoffs being suggested will degrade the overall experience in an untenable way.
Looking back on the year, I’m very proud of how the team exemplified these mindsets. Especially the third one, “be the balloon.” This sorta became a catchphrase and rallying cry. I heard it echoed in the crits I attended, read it in people’s self-reviews, and saw it in praise and recognition between teammates. To us, it meant letting our creativity expand. Pushing the boundaries of a brief or spec, and inspiring others while doing so. I saw this mindset show up in several ways across all our design disciplines, and I want to highlight a few examples.
We entered the year with a bold goal of redesigning the front of our business, lattice.com. The team saw this as an opportunity to redefine what a homepage looked like. They broke most of the typical conventions, stripping away the typical abstract image, pulling key content into the hero section (instead of the traditional “below the fold”), and utilizing motion to communicate what would otherwise take dozens of words.
The team identified that while we had a Design System, there was still an opportunity to define our broader UX patterns. So they formed the Design Pattern Club. It wasn’t in the org chart and it wasn’t connected to an OKR. It was simply a group of passionate designers who wanted to up-level our experience. And they did, defining a beautiful page header system, robust & user-friendly data tables, a streamlined cycle setup system, and more.
Here at Lattice, we define premium as “exceeding expectations.” But what are the expectations of companies when it comes to their HR software? Our research team played a pivotal role in demystifying this. Through in-depth research, they helped us better understand what the market deemed as “expected” vs. “unexpected,” ultimately sharpening our POV and strategy for next year. They’re also expanding our quant toolkit by establishing SUS benchmarking. It’s a big lift but will up-level how we identify UX hotspots and assess quality over time.
The past year has been a testament to our team's dedication and ability to thrive in challenging times. They’ve driven solutions, moved quickly, and ballooned Lattice’s experiences across the board. And it’s why I’m so excited for 2024! While we’re still in the thick of this macroeconomic cloud, the horizon is promising and the team has shown that it has a winning mindset.