My roles: Product Designer, UX Researcher, UX Strategist
As a Senior Product Designer at GitLab (end to end DevOps solution application), part of my responsibilities include both identifying and driving new design opportunities and solutions for both the business and the user. In some cases, ideas are brought to me via my PM, other team members such as designers, engineers or leadership, and of course our customers. In other cases, I have the autonomy to identify and drive product improvements and do so when I see a valuable opportunity. My particular area of focus from the product and business standpoint is the Plan stage which works with use cases, users and flows related to Project Management.
At the time, our product had the concept of something known as “milestones” which was a feature that enabled users to timebox and track work. Users had repeatedly expressed a need to have multiple milestones which allowed work being allocated to a hierarchical work structure such as a larger business theme > milestone > iteration which was not possible at this time. They could only assign work to a single milestone.
Just a few examples of user requests for this feature:
How might we allow product managers (represented by our persona, Parker) to assign work within multiple boxes of time that are related to one another for reporting and tracking work in such a way that it rolls up to higher company goals and initiatives?
This was a need our entire team knew existed. We dogfood our product and are asynchronous communication first which includes async feedback from our users, so we not only had personal experience with this need but documented requests from the community.
This was important because we wanted to ensure that we didn’t see the need just from our own dogfooding experiences, aware that we as the designers and builders of the product have innate knowledge of the tool that our users may not. In addition to that, we had our own workarounds which may not reflect those that our users had to attempt to address this problem.
I started by researching via our issues what our users requested and how they defined this need. I also began exploring potential low fi solutions with my PM (in Whimsical).
Research also included evaluating our competitors and their approaches to addressing this problem, exploring existing design patterns within our product and design system that could be reused and evaluating user feedback.
Through collaborating with my team, we determined that the existing Milestone approach which users had previously been using for timeboxing work was a solid foundation to build upon in that it had a similar use case to this new feature and already addressed many of the usability needs.
For MVC (Minimum Viable Change), we decided building on the foundation of a milestone was a great place to start. I knew these items needed to exist together in the product and compliment one another but also be usable apart from one another if need be. Because of that, there were certain features we wanted to keep and others we knew needed to change.
Design patterns such as adding, editing, deleting and accessing/relating work to this new feature would be the same as Milestones, but the name of this new “thing” and its states would need to differ.
We determined after extensive feedback review from users that the work “iterations” made more sense than “sprints” because sprints spoke to a Scrum agile methodology specifically but iterations was agnostic to any particular framework.
Iterations needed to be something that users could define as upcoming, in progress, done or have an option to archive in the event they cancelled the work or accidentally created the iteration.
Product managers needed the ability to create and assign work to multiple timeboxes, understand at a glance what work was completed and not within that timebox as well as the status of the items within that timebox.
This is currently a manual process (MVC) which we know isn’t ideal, but it’s a solid foundation to build on. Planned work for this feature includes automation which will allow the system to automatically create new iterations based on a cadence and roll work over to the next iteration that isn’t yet complete.
Holly Reynolds is Product Designer who occasionally relaxes by baking, knitting or reading for hours. Problem solving, crafting great experiences, travel and chocolate are some of her other passions. She lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband and two hairy German Shepherd rescues.