Design Explorers by Agoda Design

Leveraging design thinking for work processes enhancement

August 30, 2021 Agoda Design Season 1 Episode 7
Design Explorers by Agoda Design
Leveraging design thinking for work processes enhancement
Show Notes Transcript
As our design team started to grow and scale, the need for enhanced processes and workflows to support our day to day jobs and the way we collaborate began to emerge.

In todays episode we discuss with Anita and Eark, two of our Senior Product Designers, how they discovered and realized that need, and how they have used their design skills to help improve the way we work together.

By identifying some of the pain points and roadblocks that our design teams and individual designers are facing, they've developed frameworks and workflows to help mitigate some of these issues to ensure we provide a consistent and optimized users experience for our customers and partners.

 Eark  00:00

We try to provide some guidelines to the fighters so that they can be more well informed about things that are going on within the team and guide them about like what what is the right thing that designer should do before during and after the working process basically.

Anita  00:15

So with this standardized design process, this not only help designer follow the same workflow, and then improve work efficiency, but also provide better collaboration and transparency costings.

Nahum  00:32

Hello, and welcome to the design explorers a podcast by the Agoda design team. is a global digital travel platform where you can book hotels, vacation rentals, flights, and airport transfer. In this podcast, we'll be sharing the awesome work of our design team discuss interesting trends in relation to design and travel and talk about product design in general.

Nahum  01:00

My name is Nahum and I will be your host for the show.

Nahum  01:08

Hello, Yuki, how are you today?

Yuki  01:11

Hi Naum I'm doing great. How are you?

Nahum  01:13

I'm good, I'm good. This is your first appearance on the podcast,

Yuki  01:17

This is 

Nahum  01:18

We are changing, changing the format of it, we're having a co host, which I think is it's really cool because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the episode, get other people take on the discussion. So maybe you know can give some brief introduction for our listeners about you.

Yuki  01:38

Definitely. So first of all, I'm super excited to be here. And learning along the listeners as a background, I myself is joining the Agoda design team as a full time in the next couple of weeks. But I've been here as an intern. So that's how we kind of got gotten connected. And since then, you know, I really wanted to get involved with the community of designers at agoda, as well as you know, in Asia in general. And so I thought this was a great opportunity for myself to talk to many people, and great designers and learn amongst the listeners as well. And so I'm super excited to be here. 

Nahum  02:21

Awesome. And I really, you know, I really enjoy your your enthusiasm and and how you wanted to participate in that. So I'm very happy to actually having you co hosting together. I think it's gonna be really fun.

Yuki  02:34

Yeah, I'm hoping to bounce some great ideas and leanrs some things with everyone.

Nahum  02:40

Yeah. And yesterday, we actually recorded our first episode together, which is the seven episode with Anita and Eark, two of our designers. We talked about how they improved, you know, the design team processes and workflows, which is really cool, because they're using their superpower their design skills to actually solve their own problems and their team problems.

Yuki  03:06

Yeah, this one was particularly interesting to me, in the sense that, you know, designers were a lot of times we're focusing on digital experiences, through screens. But I think when we're designing internally, for people, in terms of process, I think that's a very different skill set, where you can still apply the same framework. And so it was an interesting conversation. I think there's a lot that I genuinely learned from them. So I actually wanted to ask you, like, you know, we had these issues that was raised by Anita and, Eark, in terms of what the process tried to kind of solve. Did you feel like those were the same issues that you were experiencing as well? 

Nahum  03:53

Maybe not so much for me, I guess they were solving more issues of, you know, the main core team that collaborate together and are working more on the UI not not the things that I'm working in my day to day. But I do feel that they overall improve the design team workflow. And what's cool about it also is that, you know, they saw some problems, and instead of just complaining about it, they took initiative and actually thought how they can fix those. So I think that was really cool.

Yuki  04:27

Yes, definitely. Yeah, you. As a reminder you are working on the supply side is that

Nahum  04:34

I'm working on the supply side, and I'm working on more of the strategic UX, I would call it right. less about the UI implementation or the visuals, thinking more about the bigger problems that we have a supply and supply to explain the listeners might not know is how we handle all our supplier. We have a system To help hotels and other service providers to connect to Agoda. 

Yuki  05:06

That's great. Yeah, I think they're they're slowly rolling out their templates or process that they've built to the supply side as well.

Nahum  05:14


Yuki  05:14

That's what I've heard. But yeah,

Nahum  05:17

It might be a bit different. It's it might not be exactly the same as core. So it will be interesting to see how it works. Yeah,

Yuki  05:23


Nahum  05:25

So Yuki, you, you were a new joiner in our team. So I'm curious, how do you feel you know about our conversation with Anita and Eark?

Yuki  05:33

Yeah, it's, it's actually quite empowering to see that there's a process that is already strongly embedded within the team. It I think, a lot of times, based on my experience, when you join a small team, and there isn't a strong process, I think you have to wear many hats and push yourself many times out of your comfort zone to really learn and then actually get used to, I guess, hidden process that is never outlined anywhere. And so having a process that is agreed upon by everyone, and that you can look at as a guidebook will definitely be helpful in terms of whenever you're stuck, or what you should be doing throughout each phase of the project. So I'm really looking into, you know, studying what they have made in detail and actually living and going through the process that they've made.

Nahum  06:28

Definitely, and I think I think, you know, probably most many of our listeners are also maybe their beginner of the beginning of their career or new designers. So this kind of perspective might apply for them as well, right, when they're just joining new teams or starting their first steps in, in this field. So um, I think it's going to be very interesting for them

Yuki  06:50

that I think Earl actually touched upon that a little bit. And then you can find out a little bit more in just a couple of minutes.

Nahum  07:01

You sure will. So with that note, and with no further ado, let's begin the show.

Nahum  07:10

Hi, and welcome to the seven episode of the design explorers. I am here with Yuki and our guest today are Anita and Eark. Two of our senior product designers, Anita and Eark have been working on improving our design team processes and workflows to ensure we provide a consistent and optimized user experience to our customers. they've identified some of the pain points and roadblocks that our design teams and individual designers are facing during the day to day job, and created frameworks, workflows that mitigate those issues. Today, they're going to share with us all about this. Aita and Eark Welcome to our show.

Eark  07:40


Yuki  07:42


Nahum  07:43

Let's begin by giving our listeners a background about who you are. And how long have you been at agoda.

Anita  07:48

Hi, everyone. I'm Anita. I have been in Agoda for more than four years. I'm currently working on property page on the consumer facing product. I have been worked on homepage search page booking form, basically the entire hotel booking funnel, which is the major product helps Agoda on making profit. Im also briefly work on supply side non hotel accommodations and other products. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Nice to meet you guys.

Eark  08:24

So Im Eark, I also been here around the same time as Anita for like four years ish. And in my early days here, I work on product marketing team like pricing loyalty program for core accommodation funnels, like search team and property page team. But I'm currently working on flight team, which I helped to optimize and build great foundation of the product that are user friendly. And of course, like highly converting internal business. Yeah

Nahum  08:52

Awesome. So today, we are talking about some of your initiative that helped our design teams with their day to day work and processes. Maybe you can explain to us what exactly you did, you know, how did you improve their work.

Eark  09:06

Ah so basically, Anita and I, we created a figma workflow template. This is like what we call within the Agoda. And this template aim to set a standard out of the way we should work within defining basically. And we try to provide some guideline to designers so that they can be more well informed about things that are going on within the team and guide them about like what, what is the right thing that designer should do before during and after the working process, Basically, Yeah, that's like the brief of what is Figma workflow template

Anita  09:38

Yeah, so the the working template is the key result we have with this project. But we actually improve designers working process and we make it standardized. So with this standardized design process, there's not only help designer follow the same workflow, and then improve work efficiency. But also provide a better collaboration and transparency costings. Yeah,

Nahum  10:05

can you share with us a bit more? What exact problems were you solving? What need you were identified as part of this improvements?

Anita  10:13

Um, yeah, so the knees were actually coming from ourselves in the first place, we actually identify some issues during our everyday design process. So we try to solve this funnel and, and later on, figure out, lots of designers are facing similar pain points. So in order to deep dive on this pain points, we start interviewing designers, costings, and see some patterns in different design stages. So some issue were identified before design, during design, and after designing common pain points before designing is like, how can designer fully understand the requirements? and define a pop problem statement and hypothesis? And do it design processes? Like? How can designer better collaborate and give feedback in early stage? An example after a designer finished their exploration will be like, how can we have a proper hand off and make sure designers check their experiment after. So these are a lot of needs we identified during interviews, but we prioritize the most important one and try to improve upon that.

Nahum  11:31

So you saying what triggered your motivation is actually some problems that you were facing as part of the team?

Anita  11:38

Yeah, the designer from the core team encountered this in our daily work. Ever since the team grows bigger involves with a lot of team collaboration, as the core team with the side funnel and even with the design system team, for example, designer from different teams working on the similar ticket, but they they both are now aware of. So two design solution, might have now different direction. Or even designers don't reuse or follow the design system properly. So those example might sounds really minor, but think about all this little things get accumulated, it will create a lot of chaos on our product. So so me and Eark we're actually trying to solve this problem separately. And later on, we figured out okay, we are actually doing this at the same time. And then we we start working on this together as a team. Yeah.

 Yuki  12:42

It's, it's actually really interesting how you guys, everyone, you said, kind of face these problems, but how is it that you Anita and Eark kind of got together and wanted to actually do something about it?

 Eark  12:54

It's actually pretty funny, just like what I need to mention, like we both of us, we're trying to solve the same problem at the same time, because like, we weren't aware that we also like, you know, doing the same thing. And then Brie, like, our design manager was the one who actually like, you know, put us together that like, okay, hey, like, you guys could do similar things. Like, why don't you guys collaborate, and we actually had this thing called, like, you know, a figma migration project, which is, like, you know, a migration of the software from sketch to figma. And the team kind of, like, saw the opportunity that like, you know, on figma, we can work more effectively by just like, you know, the solver feature itself, like, you know, we can comment on each other, it's more collaborative, it's more real time. So why don't we just like, you know, use this opportunity, as, like, your official kickoff to kind of like, you know, do the process improvement within Agoda. So I think that's just like, you know, our official like, starting point to, to work on this.

 Yuki  13:49

And yourself, Anita, you know, you wanted to say something or add something to that.

 Anita  13:53

Yeah. Add on to Eark's point, we actually started working on the process improvement before Figma migration. We have defined and centralize the workflow. But as Eark mentioned earlier to, since we have to migrate our tool from Sketch, and also there's a Abstract and Zeplin, altogether to to figma. The original process needs to be iterate based on it. And yeah, that's why we, we have this working templates on figma In the end,

 Yuki  14:31

and I guess I wanted to kind of go more into the why of why these things actually happened. And so you know, you mentioned that everyone was facing all these problems, did you can you share some stories or like at certain point in time where you felt like this was something that we needed to do something with

 Eark  14:50

think like, what we we started to feel like we need to do something about it is when we see that the problem is getting bigger bigger because the team is also gradually growing really big. And it's become more obvious when the problems start to reflect the on our product itself. Like, when we work in an efficient and effective way, we kind of like, started to see that, hey, the product started to become inconsistent, the product started to be in cohesive, like, we see the thing that are so fragmented in like, you know, our user journey in within Agoda. So we feel like if we don't do anything about it, then it will become like, you know, a really bad problem for us to have for, like, you know, a product company. So that's why we started to take it seriously. And then we see if there's any other way that we can, like try to make all the team to work in a more seamless way. And then in a more peaceful way, like less frustrating. They don't want to mean, so. Yeah, I think i think that's that's how we get started.

 Anita  15:55

Think about our Agoda, our culture, I think everybody knows that we encourage everyone to run experiments on every product. And, you know, we don't really need to ask anyone for permission. And I think good side about this is that it keeps us moving fast, and being flexible. But think about this. On the other hand, the flow, and then the overall experience might seem fragmented on one product. You know, like, typical example is that we actually have design system as our foundation in the front end design. However, designers sometimes don't follow the design language and guidelines, we have some reasons. Maybe because of the business requirements, the time constraint, or even, like the technical limitation. So we oftentimes realized this after we saw the experiments already launched, and it was kind of like too late to fix. And then like this kind of things keep happening. So we step back a little bit and look at the whole picture. And we can realize, design team can play an important role in this process. And how can we bridge the gap from our end, and try to make a more cohesive user experience design?

 Yuki  17:27

I see, and so just to give our audience a little bit more context about, you know, you mentioned, as we scale as our design team scale, we we kind of began to start facing these issues within consistencies. When did you kind of feel like this was a the problem that we started to experience at agoda.

 Anita  17:49

I think probably like, two, three years ago, when our team started going to a much bigger team. I think Nahum probably know better than any of us here, when the time Nahum joined, the team was much smaller. We were sitting together in a corner to a point that some designer we're in a different floors or area. So it's really hard to communicate with each other. When there's more teams and people, yeah, it's really hard to see what's other designers are working on. And we kind of lose the sense of transparency. And I think this kind of problem just revealed more, when things go bigger. Yep.

Eark  18:32

Just to give more context about it, like, you know, when when Anita mentioned that agoda was like really small. At that time, there was like, no standard or whatsoever that like, you know, new joiner could like follow, like, we don't exactly like, know what to actually do. Like, we normally just like work within our team. And we report to our like Product Manager, we only work within our circle, which it was okay, when the team was small, because the impact is not as big. But when the team is getting like, a lot bigger, it's become a problem, because each one of us become like a huge chunk. So that's when it's like, you know, what I mentioned that the the impact, like the results started to show and that kind of like there's like, pretty bad on like having an ineffective working process within a big team.

 Yuki  19:16

Can you give us like a number in terms of like, how big the team was, when you started having this problem?

 Eark  19:22

It was from like, from from 10, designer to like, 40 designer, then we started to feel like, it's become a big problem. And the scale like, it's like, it's scaling up so fast. It's like from 10 to 40. It's over like a year or two. So it's pretty, like pretty quick to kind of like grow the team. And I guess at that time, we didnt have like a strong foundation for for design for designers to kind of like follow the right process.

Nahum  19:50

And you've been working on this initiative for how long? About six months to a year, something like that, right.

 Anita  19:55

I think about one year

 Nahum  19:57

One year?

 Anita  19:58

like we Yeah, we work like since 2019, last, like the end of 2019? I think.

 Nahum  20:06

So I want to take you back on time because this is a huge problem. It's not an easy problem to tackle. So I want to understand, when you begin when you started, like, what were the initial steps that you took, because this is not an easy task, it's not an easy problem to solve.

 Anita  20:22

Yeah, we start with interviewing designers and devs. As the first step, we ask around and see if we find out some similar pain points from different designers. We also interview our devs, because our design process is also involved with them when we are handing over our spec, right. So it's kind of like we design solution for our customer, right? We do interviews, and we find out their needs and pain points. So we just kind of apply the same method as we do this. Yeah.

 Nahum  20:54

So you were actually applying some design thinking to this problem.

 Eark  20:57

Yeah, it is actually like the design design UX design process to solve the problem. But it's like the will not the problem for our customer, but it's the problem within our design team. So it's actually pretty fun. And just like, from what Anita mention that we try to get the insight from interviewing, when we get the insight Anita and I, we actually like, you know came back together and consolidate the insight, and then just trying to map it out to like, like, how we think the ideal process should be and what is actually like, you know, how Agoda design process is actually is, so we kind of like map it in together, and come up with like, kind of like a diagram of like, Okay, what is like, you know, how, how should one designer start, what would be like, you know, their contact person who have to talk to what they need to do before, during, and after the design in order to make like, you know, a more well informed environment that, like, everyone is kind of, like aware of what everybody else is doing, by by not adding too much effort into, like, you know, trying to make this thing work.

 Nahum  22:04

And you mentioned, you know, you spoken with all these different stakeholders, with different designers, different developers. So I assume you also are facing some challenges, right. From that perspective, everyone have their own way of working their, their opinions? How did you handle that? What sort of challenges were you having with all the different stakeholders? And how did you handle those?

 Eark  22:25

I think, obviously, you know, when at Agoda, we are pretty fast paced, as everybody might know, time is like a really limited resources. And once we want to introduce anything, any process, anything that they need to follow, they will look at it as like an additional step that will slow them down. But I guess then everyone kind of like agree that we have this problem where it actually, you know, show on our product design quality, we are more kind of like, willing to take, you know, any, like, proposed solution in order to make this thing better. But of course, it's not perfect. Like when we have our first What do you call it, like, thurible, like the things that we kind of, like propose to design team was like a template, right? The template is, consists of like, the blank template that for designer to throw in, like, you know, all the design problem. If I say admin, how would you measure it and all the checklists that they need to kind of like, on talk to people to make sure that they don't miss anything. And Firstly, this kind of lists all the extensive list of all the things that they need to do? And obviously, is it too much like nobody has got time for that one, but like, once we launched the, the, the template, we actively, like, monitor for the feedback from the designer, about like, Okay, what are the challenges that they have with this kerlin implementation, like, what are the thing that we could make it better, we definitely like went in and simplify some of the things that might not have a lot of impact, because some of the thing is already something that designer are already doing it by but we just put it there as a reminder so that no one is missing that so we just kind of cut the thing that it doesn't really let you add any value to it and really simplify it into a way that it is seamless enough to be integrated into designer working process. So I guess there is like no one solution but a really important thing is we need to be actively reaching out for feedback from the user. So I think that's like similar to the design process design thinking like you know, we we think about it we test it we measure it we iterate more and more so like it that's pretty similar. 

 Anita  24:38

Yeah, I think also like we started with in the core design team first to start small and then like, it helped to kind of like you know, apply this on the core team first and then later on, we try to apply on the supply side, but then yeah, there's on the supply side they have a different workflow compared to the core team. We are working on more, mostly Like velocity tickets compared to, you know, supply side. So then we try to, like create another template for supply side, more like a milestone template for them to, you know, kind of like, fulfill their needs. So that's also something we are like, I think this, we were doing right, because I think this working processes, for sure will be kept iterating. And based on, you know, the designers or the workflow and stuff. And then that's for sure, like the, as Eark mentioned, right, our first iteration we launch and then later on, we kind of like, launch the survey and ask for feedback. And then we have a second iteration, and then this will keep going.

 Nahum  25:40

Are you still working on those? Or is it like an ongoing initiative,

 Anita  25:44

I think we are also trying to work for the next step will be combining this with the guild templates, right? Because I think one of the one of the things, feedback from the designer is that, like, they do this template, but that is the context is similar to the guild, right. And then the guild session is like the the review section critique section on the design it did in the design team. And then if we can have like, combine those two as one template, and I will say, design allow time, they don't have to do exactly the same thing over again. So that's why we also try to do as well,

 Nahum  26:23

can you briefly explain our listeners what, what are the guilds? Actually?

 Anita  26:27

Yeah, so guilds design guild session is like the meeting that, you know, designer gather around like once a week, and then we kind of like, share our design. And then, you know, designer can share the feedback and then critique about like the design. And then before we show it to the PM, that will also help the designer to kind of like has a different perspective on their on their end. So that's kind of like a Yeah, design critique section, but we call design guild. 

 Yuki  26:53

Awesome. And, yeah, so like, I think, having been doing this for a year or so now, as you mentioned, when did you kind of, were there any proud moments where you felt like the ball really started rolling, as you mentioned, like the first iteration was just a template. And there were a lot of things that needed to be improved, and that have been improving. But were there any points where you felt like, Okay, this is we're getting traction, people are slowly adopting the process that we have created.

 Eark  27:22

For me, it was when we were able to have like a better onboarding session for new joiners through design team, like let last I mentioned before, like, we had nothing to kind of onboard the signer to within Agoda team. But now I think the process become more smooth. And then it's like, we are more prepared, like we can answer like, almost not all question from from the new joiner, but at least we have set that good foundation to get them started. And like, you know, when they ask us question, we know, like, how could we improve it? And then, like, we know, that, like, what we come up with is clear enough, is it like intuitive enough? I think that that's when, like, you know, I feel like what we did actually, like make quite a big impact to our design team to create something that we didn't have before. And I guess like, right now, even though it was pretty hard for us to kind of like get that adoption rate for a designer to just use our template. But now once is kind of like integrated in the way within like their daily day to day thing, even though it's kind of like a small thing. But I think we have seen like a quite a drop in terms of report on you know, things that designer or each team are not aware of, I think that thing has improved like quite drastically, even though it's not 100%. But it actually like quite, quite quite improve. In terms of Okay, the we can work more peacefully we are there is no frustration, we don't have to kind of like solve the problem in a really limited amount of time. So I think I'm really happy with that.

 Anita  29:02

So the change happened in design team is that there is more transparency cross team and we have better collaboration. When we work on our design. We see designers start informing and tagging each others in the early stage. We also have this feature on figma designer can tag each other's MPs or devs, wherever involved in this project. And we can leave a comment on the design and get a quick feedback, have a better communication and alignment. I think one thing I want to mention is that our design flow heavily involved with design system as well. And we also see better collaboration between product design team and design system team. Yeah, it's not 100% apply like what Eark mentioned, but we definitely see some improvement. Yeah

 Yuki  30:00

Wow, such, I think I'm going to be personally joining the team later on, so I'm looking forward to kind of studying the actual, I guess, design workflow. But just to wrap things up, having kind of completed or taking part in this ongoing project, what are some tips that you might have for other designers and other organizations that are starting to feel the pain points that you felt maybe a year or two ago? Do you have any tips or recommendations for them as to what they should be doing?

 Anita  30:34

Um, so every design team has different culture and different process and issues. So they need to kind of resolve it by themselves. And they also depends on how big is the team and other factors. I couldn't say much on the problem itself. But what I can say is that as a designer, if you identify some issues on your end, no matter is within your team or outside your team. As long as you see this opportunity to improve, and can actually benefit out a group of people don't hesitate, initiate and figured out a way to resolve. Try to zoom out a little bit and think in a more holistic way. There's a lot of ways, we can gather feedback and ideas, we just need to kind of prioritize them and focus on the critical ones. And we tried to come up with the solution and keep iterating on it. I think that's just the way

 Eark  31:41

for me to personally to add on to like my biggest takeaway from doing this project would be like to look at the product in a bigger picture always, like, even if you're a small, big team, it's always important to collaborate. And to be aware of what actually going on within like, you know, the whole team, the whole organization, especially for a big team like us, it's really easy for us to lose sight of big product picture, most of the time, we tend to focus on like one or two areas that we work on. But at the end of the day, the user come to like a or Agoda app, they will judge us from like entire experience from the beginning to the end. So it's everyone's job to make sure that we provide a great user experience to our product holistically. And it can start from our day to day working process. I mean, I think that just like what I believe after I kind of like you know, overcome this kind of project.

 Nahum  32:38

Alright, we're coming to the end of the show, Anita and Eark, I think this is really awesome how you used your design skills to solve you know, our designers problems. And thank you very much for coming to the show today and sharing this and hopefully, you know, this will inspire our listeners to take similar initiative.

 Eark  32:55

Thank you so much for having us as well.

 Anita  32:57

Thank you.

 Nahum  32:58

Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you are listening, and share it with your friends and colleagues. Don't forget to subscribe to our show to get notified when we are releasing a new episode. And if you want to learn more about the work of the design team at agoda visit agoda dot design. Thanks again for listening and hope to see you in our next episode.