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As a lot of people will tell you, scaling rapidly isn’t easy. Product design for OpenShift.io started off as a team of one and grew to five within months. Today, we’re a globally distributed team of 15, including designers and front end developers. Here are a few lessons our design team learned while we grew.
Divide and conquer
OpenShift.io combines existing open source projects like fabric8, Jenkins, Eclipse Che, and OpenShift Online to provide an end-to-end environment allowing developers to plan, build, and deploy applications. With such a huge project, there’s always a lot going on. We realized quickly it was going to be impossible for everyone to be an expert in everything.
Logically, that meant we would need to divide different areas of the project between different members of the team. It also meant we’d need to build communication and trust into the foundation of our team’s process. So how could we stay in sync while focusing on distinct aspects of the project, often working with varied engineering teams and stakeholders?
First, we needed to make sure everyone on the team, from development to product management, had visibility into what we were working on. In addition to our team scrum calls that help us stay on top of our work for each sprint, we created a series of design demos to share progress and get feedback from all of our stakeholders. These calls give us an opportunity to walk through ideas and thinking with a wider group and catch potential issues at the beginning of the design process.
We also set up asynchronous sharing – we post all designs to our communication channel, which helps keep our teams aligned across time zones and geographies. The channel is public, so anything we share there can be seen by everyone involved, which can help avoid surprises that might otherwise slow things down.
Despite our efforts to increase transparency with open review cycles, we ultimately ran into issues when it came time to implement finished designs. With work coming from a lot of different designers, it was tough to keep track of status for everything. What screens are finished? What still needs review? We had to create a single source of truth - one place to track everything we were doing across the entire project.
We used Google Sheets to develop a design tracker for the team. It provides the status of every design we’ve touched, and it’s open to everyone, internally and externally – there is nothing our community can’t see. It keeps us organized and increases transparency to our work, which is vital to the open communication we’re trying to foster.
With so many designs coming out of one team, maintaining consistency with our design choices is key. In addition to team peer review, we use PatternFly as the foundation for all of our designs.
PatternFly is an open source design project providing Red Hat designers and developers with a set of patterns and visual design elements that can be applied across products. With its guidelines, standards and code, PatternFly makes it possible to scale usable and consistent design across the entire company.
OpenShift.io is also exploring the possibility of building out a design system for our project that is based on PatternFly, but less flexible, making it possible to ensure a more granular level of consistency.
Design in the open
At Red Hat, we aim to apply open source principles to everything we do. The biggest lesson we learned while scaling design for OpenShift.io? As we became more open, we also became faster and more agile. A key to successfully scaling any team is openness.
We can’t pretend that we’ve solved every problem - we’re still learning. But applying the open source way to our design practice helped us to scale, and we’ll continue to prioritize transparency, inclusivity, collaboration, and community as we grow.
Head to Openshift.io to learn more about the project.
The User Experience Design (UXD) team at Red Hat is focused on creating consistent and delightful product experience that people love to use. To learn more about our team, find us on Twitter @RedHatUXD or visit our website.