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For global businesses like Miele, establishing scalable processes to deliver effective and consistent website design across multiple platforms and markets can be a complex task. But it can make a big difference to the business. When Terri Tu, Head of Digital UX/UI joined Miele X, she recognised the need for a clear design system. But, with multiple platforms and multiple teams already established, she also realised it would be incredibly challenging. We talked to her about how her team introduced an effective design system that reflected Miele's 'Immer besser' philosophy and the impact of their work.
Terri, from Canada, originally studied photography and became she interested in graphic design, soon realising she enjoyed being in the computer lab more than the photography dark room. She decided to take a web design course and pursued a career in digital design, now living and working in Amsterdam.
Working with diverse platforms
The aim of introducing a design system is to create a collection of reusable design components that work together to build different applications. Alongside this, Terri’s team also needed to establish a clear set of standards to guide designers and ensure consistent quality for every component, at every stage of the design process.
“Implementing a new design system would have been much easier if we were starting from scratch,” she admits. “But at Miele, we have a variety of platforms. Our ‘Immer besser’ philosophy also means we need to ensure that we are releasing work of the highest quality.”
A step-by-step process
To cut through the complexity and ensure quality of design, Terri and her team established a series of design steps. “In Step 1, each scrum team includes a relevant designer,” she explains. “The lead designer for each topic – for example, buttons – establishes the rules for their topic and make sure they work across all platforms.” To maintain quality, any changes to the design system are introduced incrementally. The team also created a single design information resource. “We call it the ‘source of truth”, she says.
Step 2 involves working with the developers to decide how to test if a new design will pick up any bugs. “At staging, we also have two levels of Quality Assurance – a standard QA and a design QA to test for layout and accessibility,” adds Terri.
At Step 3 the team works with product managers to agree a release schedule. “We decide on what will be released in each sprint. This ensures we launch everything in line with our rollout plan across all the platforms.”
The final step is a QA check after release. “We do another design QA in the production environment and test for bugs again,” Terri explains. “And after release, we continuously review quantitative and qualitative data to see how the changes affect performance.”
Small changes, big difference
Terri believes that continuous testing and performance reviews are vital to measure the impact of the design system and any changes they introduce. “For example, small things such as changing a button from grey to yellow increased conversion by 13%”.
Terri points out that design changes are not just about the bottom line. “We always want to improve the user experience. We need to give customers a premium brand experience, so we always balance conversion rates with brand needs”.
Influencing how Miele does business
Introducing the design system has also allowed the design team to introduce, test and fine-tune bigger changes. This included releasing a homepage pilot internally to gather insights into how customers were using the homepage and the product pages. Terri outlines how the results led to some interesting insights. “We discovered that often customers don’t know what they’re looking for, so their searches are very broad. Users search for category level words like vacuum, washing machine, not specific models, so they appear to want more information at a category level.”
As a result, Terri’s team introduced homepage features that helped customers engage with products in line with what they were looking for. “Now we’re working with the customer insights team to help us understand what’s important to customers,” she says. “Eventually, this will influence how we position products and design pages around them.”
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