How did we implement DesignOps at 17LIVE from scratch
Optimizing design collaboration: our Experience with DesignOps implementation at 17LIVE
May 11, 2023
DesignOps, It's all about People.
The word “DesignOps” wasn’t known until communities and design managers started to discuss it in 2016. The most renowned article then would be DesignOps at Airbnb published by Airbnb Design.
Starting in 2020, DesignOps began to be widely discussed in various academic seminars abroad, such as DesignOps Submit, Figma Schema, Figma Config, Design System Week and so on. That’s when I first learned what DesignOps is.
What is DesignOps?
Design Operation focuses on the health of the practice, the people, and the projects.
DesignOps strategic goals might look like this:
Progress — completing projects efficiently.
Process — achieving goals efficiently.
People — working together efficiently.
Many articles discussing what DesignOps is have already been published on Medium. Therefore, this article will focus on why and how to implement DesignOps in the design team at 17LIVE; let’s Start it!
Why Need to Implement DesignOps?
When I joined 17LIVE, the Product Design Team comprised only three individuals (1 UX Designer and 2 UI Designers). However, with the rising workload, the team has grown to 14 members, including 7 UX Designers, 6 UI Designers, and 1 GUI Designer. We are now responsible for the design of two products. The HQ Design Team has also grown to 26 members.
Due to a shortage of designers and prioritization of project work, the standardization and documentation of processes were neglected for a long time. However, as the team expanded to six people in the second half of 2021, these issues gradually surfaced. Additionally, with 17LIVE adopting a hybrid remote work style since mid-2021, communication time increased and these issues continued to grow. Since we plan to continue expanding, the momentum to introduce DesignOps is unstoppable.
How Dit It Start?
How do we start implementing DesignOps from a state of orderly chaos but gradually becoming disordered and messy? From the end of 2021 to the end of 2022, it can generally be divided into three stages: advocacy, implementation, and optimisation.
In 2021, when problems arose, I started seeking solutions and experiences from experts and seniors. To gain insight, I attended the IxDA Taiwan 2021 and Figma Config 2021 events.
I attended two annual conferences and gained knowledge on DesignOps-related topics. I organized this information into a presentation and shared it with my entire design team at the end of 2021. At the time, most team members were unfamiliar with DesignOps, leading to various questions and an expressed interest in implementing it during the Q&A session. This marked the start of a year-long implementation journey.
It was not like making projects or features that you can reach goals directly while implementing DeignOps. Instead, it unfolds and becomes multiple projects within the group and processing parallelly. Each project has some connection with the others; those documents, systems, and processes became a network to support every designer while they were designing. Next, using the strategies that I mentioned above to show what we implemented into our team successfully.
Progress — completing projects efficiently.
☞ Design System
The first thing that pops up in every designer’s brain will be the design system when we talk about how to design efficiently. 17LIVE has experienced several times of rebranding, which cause lots of styles and components to exist in our products.
We focused on organizing our design libraries inherited from the past and arranged uncountable discussions between UX & UI designers to have a consensus on the behaviour, usage, and style of every component. Then, documented it all.
☞ Files Management
From a DesignOps perspective, tools like some Figma components, plugins, or widgets can help designers to speed up their design process. Moreover, they make it possible to allow everyone to understand the context of the project simply by reading the Figma files.
This makes it more effective for different designers or other teams to get involved in the project while having handovers quickly. We’ll have an article to describe how to increase our Figma workflow by using some components soon.
Process — achieving goals efficiently
☞ Workflow Visualisation
When our new hiring designers were first involved in a project, they would start familiarising themselves with the development workflow. During this time, most of them would feel confused about the whole process during this time we realised that a visualised workflow not only makes it friendlier for new team members but also helps other departments understand what outputs the design team can have at different stages to make a project more efficiently achieve its goal.
☞ Project T-shirt Sizing
After a long and in-depth discussion, we have agreed to move away from the previous method in which each designer would evaluate their workdays based on their own experiences. We now have established three project sizes along with corresponding definitions and workdays. This method helps us incorporate design workdays into the timeline more accurately.
☞ New Hiring Playbook
I think I can relate to this one as I have gone through a similar experience myself. It was chaotic for me while going through my ng onboarding, as I was handed only some google drive links, Sketch and Zeplin access, without any guidance. I was thrown into the deep end and was expected to figure things out on my own. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
However, as we went along and gathered more information and documents, we started organizing all of them and structured a one-week onboarding program for our new hires. With the help from the onboarding buddy, those members who arrived later to our team were able to smoothly familiarise themselves with organized documents one by one.
People — working together efficiently.
☞ How to Work with Me
During the first round of onboarding training, we ingeniously introduced “How to Work with Me” with our newbie and all team designers with a workshop. This not only helped new hires understand how to effectively collaborate with everyone but also allowed everyone who has been working from home for a while to understand how to better communicate and provide feedback in a remote environment.
Making any processes, using tools, or documenting guidelines is likely to encounter situations where they are not applicable, not ideal, or need updating.
Feedback for these can occur in routine meetings such as Design System Discussion where the design system, design tokens, and component styles are discussed bi-weekly. Others can come from 1–1s, ad-hoc catch-ups, or feedback during our new hiring onboarding program.
By gathering feedback from multiple resources, we announce in a channel what issues have arisen, what’s our solutions, and why we have come to these solutions. The transparent and open discussion lets everyone understand that every voice can be heard.
Is it necessary to have a DesignOps team? Obviously, NO!
As a design team grows to a certain size, teams like DesignOps or Design System become more important and valuable. However, having or developing a mindset of DesignOps will be the best solution for smaller teams. Using the same tools, following the same standards, and adhering to the same development process are all important manifestations of DesignOps when you’re in teams of more than one person.
As for the future of DesignOps at 17LIVE, we keep learning, implementing, advocating, and optimizing as we go. (Though we still have a long way to go. 😂)
Also, I would like to express my gratitude to all members of the 17LIVE HQ Design Team for your interest and cooperation in implementing and discussing DesignOps. Your involvement has made the implementation and operation of DeisgnOps a smooth process.
And last but not least, don’t forget to document everything you do! To end on a positive note, let’s quote a statement made by Jennie Yip during a Twitter conversation back in 2021:
If you don’t document it,
it doesn’t exist. — Jennie Yip
Are you also the one in your team advocating/implementing DesignOps? Have you encountered any challenges during the process or gained valuable experiences? Feel free to share with me!
Thank you for reading and please don’t hesitate to give a round of applause (I’ll take it as encouragement for all designers in my team😍).
I’m Should, see you in the next article 👋