Collaborating across departments to facilitate design in a new way, while getting close to customers.

Background

Atlassian is the maker of JIRA, Confluence, Hipchat, and more, provides the tools to help every team unleash their full potential through collaboration and communication. Based in Syndey, Australia, they have a smaller but mighty office in San Francisco housing the bitbucket and hipchat teams, as well as the great Atlassian Marketplace.

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The once-small design team at Atlassian, now topping over 100 designers

As an product designer with Sydney-based Atlassian from 2011 – 2013, I owned the visual and interaction design for the Atlassian Marketplace and contributed extensively to the Atlassian design guidelines, laying the foundation for third-party development with Atlassian as a platform.

Stretching in my role, I helped facilitate multiple collaborative design exercises, founding this as a practice within the San Francisco office to get teams on the same page. In addition, I helped found the contextual inquiry and usability testing programs in the San Francisco office, spreading the gospel of research throughout the company.

Founding a contextual inquiry program

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To help Atlassian grow and spread knowledge across rapidly growing teams, I helped found and run contextual inquiry with 30+ organizations throughout the Bay Area, forming teams and scheduling visits, interviewing multiple individuals from a variety of roles.

In this process I brought business, marketing, engineering, and even the founders, to observe individuals using their products across different organizations. At each site we took photos and videos, interviewed three users from a variety of backgrounds, observed the physical environment and assets used, and took copious notes about workflow and collaboration.

These notes were boiled into top findings and delivered to the company via the internal Wiki for product-specific and cross-product growth. In this process we were able to inform individuals who rarely get the chance to speak with customers, and hopefully build empathy throughout the organization.

What one colleague said about my work in this program:

Jerry inspired the whole company to venture out on regular contextual inquiries and shared his wealth of knowledge across departments with passion. He hit every project with an infinite amount of design energy.

Tash KeunemanTash Keuneman, UX designer
Tash worked directly with Gerald at Atlassian

Instituting Rapid-fire Usability Testing

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Beyond contextual inquiry, at the annual Atlassian Summit, a 3-day conference aimed at upskilling Atlassian users on all things project and product, I helped institute and run rapid-fire usability testing – mini user-tests of 60-70 users a day across light-weight prototypes from most of our product set.

Unifying through collaborative design

As a part of a growing cross-continent design team, Atlassian needed a way to let everyone get involved and get excited about the benefit of design to the company. To this end, they developed a “Playbook” of facilitated exercises to help individuals from a variety of backgrounds help empathize and understand users and their needs, sketch and contribute to designs, scope projects, and move forward as a team.

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In the formation of this playbook I had the opportunity to facilitate 10+ sessions including a full-day session for defining a new offering with Bitbucket. These sessions spanned collaborative empathy maps, user journeys, sketching, experience canvasing, and more.

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Exercises like “trade-off sliders” allowed users to dig deep into underlying assumptions about what projects should focus on, and what our users need.

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Beyond defining user needs and possible features, the playbook allowed individuals to deeply understand the core value of an MVP-focused development process, and talk productively about what should be included for an MVP release.

I helped run a number of sessions around utilization of the “MVP canvas”. Here is the VP of design, Jurgen Spangl, talking about this in more depth:

Defining the Atlassian design guidelines

As the small but nimble design team began to grow within Atlassian, we realized that we needed to standardize and formalize some principles, practices, and components in a formal design library. These guidelines would also be useful for our third-party developers who needed standard guidelines to move forward to build into our ecosystem. I worked with the design team in Australia to help contribute design guidelines and code to the now public Atlassian Design Guidelines.

Defining the tables for the Atlassian Design Guidelines

Defining the tables for the Atlassian Design Guidelines

In this process I owned and helped code up the tables guidelines as well some deep work into keyboard shortcuts among other components. In this process I did a great deal of literature review and product review in terms of what was happening in the present, while looking to standardize towards the future.

After finalization, guidelines were written up in an internal wiki, but I also committed code directly to the public-facing website. The process of delving deep into the best and most applicable patterns across our product was incredibly useful for better understanding the underlying nature of UI components and their purposes.

Redesigning the marketplace

My primary role as a product designer for Atlassian in San Francisco was to be embedded with the Atlassian Marketplace team. The Atlassian Marketplace serves to host third-party add-ons to Atlassian products, adding additional functionality for hosted and cloud installations.

The main goals of our redesign from the original scrappy “Plugin Exchange” was to simplify and beautify towards our standard marketing design guidelines, while highlighting partner add-ons in an appropriate fashion.

During this redesign I was responsible for end-to-end requirements gathering, wireframing, visual design, and working with engineers to get it built. The marketplace now advertises over 2,000 add-ons across multiple Atlassian products.