I've been overseeing global design, research and content for all of Equinix's customer-facing digital experiences — both web and mobile — since 2010, and it's been non-stop since the start. Starting from nothing gives you the opportunity to build a great team and a powerful practice from the ground up... but it does mean you're starting from nothing. But hey, nothing can be good, too.
Building a UX Practice
In 2010, UX at Equinix was me. Just me. But I was able to quickly wean the company off of vending out design and front-end UI development, and start to build a practice in-house, which has now grown to a team of 14. As part of that growth, teams had to be exposed to, and sometimes instructed in, the new processes and deliverables that a UX team was bringing to the table, including:
- Evangelizing design thinking to senior leadership, helping them understand where design adds the most value within the product development lifecycle, and where to invest.
- Building a process where design contributed to product management's requirements, developed task flows, which led to wireframes, and then high-resolution mockups.
- Incorporating user feedback at regular intervals into our product development -- customer interviews, workplace observations, and 1:1 usability studies.
- Recruiting and hiring a kick-ass team of talented visual and interaction designers, HCI experts, and content management/development professionals, and then building a design culture where they can be happy and successful.
Equinix Customer Portal (ECP)
We're right in the middle of our largest global redesign effort yet: a crazy initiative that started with customer and stakeholder interviews nearly a year ago, and has touched every aspect of not just our product, but our teams' structure and roles, our tools used, and our development process. Hey, why not rebuild the plane and add a few new cool features while it's in flight, right?
Before a single screen or task flow was examined, we started with our users. We interviewed users from a wide range of customers and industries, gathering pain points, likes, and feature requests. We also ran workshops with our internal stakeholders and our Service Desk colleagues (who spend all day assisting customers and listening to their feedback), working through each major feature's task flow, looking for places to solve for common pain points, as well as opportunities to improve or streamline. The results of this work allowed my team to assist our Product Management colleagues in developing our scope and requirements for the redesign.
With user research and business requirements in our pockets, we moved on to a variety of different design explorations, from initial hero work just to help start conversations, to a broad range of design studies that helped set our design foundation. Studies covered topics as broad as Search and Onboarding, to granular studies that examined progress indicators and the file upload process. These Design Studies gave us the visual and interaction language to help us set expectations with senior leadership, and set a North Star for the team to rally around.
With our design vision foundation now in place, progress moved on two parallel fronts: horizontally, the development of a broad and deep set of Design Guidelines (effectively, our style guide for the redesign); and vertically, the design of task flows and wireframes for our features that were approved as within scope for our release. Whether just getting a tweak or two due to the updated Design Guidelines, or being torn down to the studs and re-envisioned, each feature received a thorough interaction design exploration. We also roped our PM team into a thorough information architecture audit as well, making sure our wayfinding strategies were solid.
With our Beta and Golden releases under our belt now, we're moving ahead with continual Quality of Life improvements, as well as adding new features requested by our users. We built a Portal Preview, localized in 16 languages, to help ramp up new and existing users with our updated UI, and continue to gather user feedback — both quantitative, via tools like Hotjar and Google Analytics, and qualitative, via tools like Qualtics and in-person and online user interviews. The work never ends.
EQIX Conf Room Flow
EQIX Flow Wall
EQIX Shipments Flow
ECP Work Visit
ECP Smart Hands
ECP Portal Preview
Mobile Design + Development
While we build our Customer Portal to be mobile-friendly, some complex data sets just can't be consumed comfortably in a mobile format, no matter how much UX thinking you throw at it. After talking with customers, we also realized some tasks are more suited to the "just in time" experience a phone can offer. So when we developed native iOS and Android apps for ECP, we chose the functionality very carefully, to ensure the most useful features to mobile users were available and optimized for that modality.
Design Studies, Design Guidelines + UI Component Library
As I mentioned above, the ECP redesign effort has also provided us with an updated set of Design Guidelines, which we'll use to inform our Marketplace redesign effort next year (see below), as well as other vertical enterprise apps we offer to customers. Our last redesign was back in 2012, and the work was honestly looking a little dated. A great time to build something that feels more open, clean and modern, on a flexible responsive grid system, that can take advantage of new front-end frameworks.
Along those lines, we're also building out a comprehensive UI component library, which makes both the designer's and the developer's work, easier and faster. Having a kit of UX-approved controls, patterns and page elements that UI developers can pull from to build pages means we avoid building hi-res versions of wireframes in most cases (saving time), and there's less iteration during review cycles (saving even more time).
Finding a service like Frontify has made it easy to share our guidelines with our PM and Engineering teams, as well as the broader design community. You can dive into our Design Guidelines -- the good, the bad, and the ugly of it — at equinix.frontify.com.
Tools + Process
We're a Sketch shop, having transitioned a couple years back after Adobe's sunsetting of Fireworks, and it's been pretty smooth. Sharing UI kits means we deliver consistent wireframes, and it's an easy climb up the fidelity ladder to high-resolution work when needed. We've also invested in Invision Enterprise, which is a great tool for building prototypes and gathering feedback.
We've moved from a traditionally waterfall development approach to Agile, and building Design Sprints into our process where designer, product manager, and engineer work together to make the product great. We've tied Sketch, Invision Enterprise and JIRA together to make creating, sharing and tracking design work a simple flow that everyone can follow and deliver feedback on.
I'm always looking for ways to make the team — and the process — faster, more efficient, and more fun.
Equinix Marketplace + Exchanges
ECP isn't everything, however. We work across a wide range of vertical portals, as well as the Equinix Marketplace: a powerful tool that helps our customers find partners and resources within our datacenters to help their businesses grow.