Q&A Series With PeopleDoc’s Head of UX Nicole Harris
One reason why customers love PeopleDoc is the user experience (UX). We are committed to developing products that are easy for employees and HR users to intuitively understand and use. This drives adoption and ensures our users can get things done as quickly and easily as possible.
I recently sat down with PeopleDoc’s Head of UX, Nicole Harris, to learn more about how we deliver great experiences to our users. This post is the first in a three-part series about PeopleDoc’s approach to user experience.
You recently went through the process of creating an internal design system. Can you tell us a little bit about what a design system is?
Design systems vary from company to company depending on the requirements of the organization. They are usually a toolkit to help designers, product owners and developers create high-quality, consistent user interfaces.
Our design system, called PeopleDoc UI, is broken into two parts - guidelines on how we approach design and design examples.
Our guidelines define our view on great design and how these ideas should be applied in our solutions. They include standards for making pages accessible to the widest possible audience and instructions on how to write consistent, easy to understand interface text – both essential for making our solutions easier to use.
Our design examples are built in HTML and CSS (the code that we write to create user interfaces), to provide our developers with ‘out of the box’ solutions.
This part of the design system is broken into two main sections – components and design patterns. Components define how a small piece of an interface should look and work. For example, what a button looks like and how it behaves when the user puts their mouse over it. Design patterns take several components to create more comprehensive interfaces – for example what a list of employees looks like, and how you might filter and order that list.
Together the guidelines and design examples provide our team with everything they need to develop full pages that are consistent, powerful and adhere to design best practices.
What problems does PeopleDoc UI solve? Why is this design system important for PeopleDoc?
Our team is rapidly growing and we ship new features with every release. In such a fast-moving environment, it becomes increasingly challenging to scale design, both from a technical and product perspective.
Having a design system aligns our team and helps us to onboard new colleagues quickly. It ensures we can deliver designs faster that are more consistent and of higher quality.
On the technical side, when any web application reaches a certain size, it becomes very difficult to manage HTML and CSS. Using a design system significantly reduces the amount of code we need to write and maintain, which helps us to roll out designs faster, reduces maintenance time and makes bugs less common (or at least easier to identify and fix).
From a pure design perspective, having a toolkit of pre-existing design solutions is invaluable in specifying and designing new features, or updating older pages. Where PeopleDoc UI doesn’t provide an ‘out of the box’ solution, our guidelines help our designers to develop interfaces that are consistent with the rest of our application. Where new designs are specified, we can then add them back into the design system. This iterative process keeps PeopleDoc UI relevant and up to date with our changing product requirements.
Finally, and I think most importantly – PeopleDoc UI helps us build more consistency between our solutions. This is most important from a user experience perspective; users who already know how to use one interface will find it easier to learn a new interface that utilises the same patterns. This significantly reduces cognitive load and helps our users feel empowered and in control.
Nicole Lindenbaum is the Director of Product Marketing at PeopleDoc. She writes and speaks about HR service delivery, HR technology, digital transformation, and the future of work. With significant experience in enterprise software, Nicole has worked in both HR technology and document management software.
Nicole holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and a Master of Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.