Shifting from userless design to people-focused collaboration

Getting kicks out of people.

Instead of developing features for the sake of features, we're having a continuous chat to keep our operational tools up-to-date and ready for the future. (Original photo: Andrew Taylor)

I am a designer at Wolt – but let me stop you right there. While I work at the hip and cool food delivery app startup, my responsibilities lie somewhat in the dark. A bunch of tasks that don’t exactly offer material for mingling at a cocktail party. But I love it. Here’s my story on how I got back to designing for people – with people.

I recently joined Wolt – a company that is revolutionising food delivery. We are known for our superb mobile app which makes ordering food from vendors a breeze. Through the Wolt app, users can follow the courier’s journey on a map in real time. The whole journey is supported by an appetizing estimated time of arrival.

Userless experiences

I have a background in user-centred design. I started my career in an academic world and got a PhD in usability engineering. After that I’ve worked both as a UX consultant in several ITC companies, and as a UX-spiced product manager in a couple of R&D teams.

Considering my background it is surprising how few contact points with the actual end users I have had throughout all these years.

Here are just some possible reasons for this tragedy of design detachment.

  • “Our product is so secret that we won’t show it to the end users until it is ready.”
  • “We do not have enough budget to get users involved in the design process.”
  • “We do not have time to organise user tests as part of the product development.”
  • “Meeting users wouldn’t bring any valuable information.”
  • “Our product is so different from any earlier offering, that there aren’t users who could find themselves in an actual use case scenario.”

I have found the lack of end users in the design process frustrating. I’ve tried hard to change this is in several past positions and organisations – with varying results.

And this is why I dig it here at Wolt.

Continuous dialogue keeps the complex W-ball rolling.

Getting back in touch

I was hired to Wolt as a Design Lead. But, alas, not for the frontside of the mobile app we all love. Oh no, I work with the less hot – yet super crucial and interesting – operational tools.

The operational tools are vital for managing the restaurants and orders throughout the process. They also provide customer support for both the consumers and business tiers – and slave away in the background making Wolt’s magic possible.

Now let me tell you why I get my kicks from exactly this.

At Wolt, I hit the ground running. It was my second day at work when I was given my first design task. But unlike ever before, I had an instant connection with the end users of the product. Our development team is located just 10 metres away from the customer service room, where many of my end users – Wolt’s customer service representatives – spend their days helping all people involved with the deliveries.

What I did, was to immediately walk to that room and start observing and interviewing my colleagues – the actual users of the product I was to be designing tools for. And I loved that. I felt like the user-centered philosophy I’ve longed for throughout my career was finally in place.

The reasons for this epiphany are manyfold. Let’s bullet.

  • I am able to talk with the users whenever I have questions concerning their needs and wishes for the tools.
  • If I want to show them my UI design proposals, I simply grab my laptop, walk a few metres and show the users my Sketch drafts for feedback.
  • The users are highly motivated in giving feedback. This makes sense because everything I work on potentially makes their life easier.
  • Using the tools intensively on a daily basis, my users can truly point out the real pain points in their everyday work.
  • My end users are great people (♥), and I have a feeling that together we are able to improve the operational tools, and through that, Wolt’s business operations as whole.

It’s a people business

Working with operational tools is a bit different from working with trendy consumer apps. The focus is not so much in cool UI transitions, but rather in solving the actual UX issues and improving the efficiency of the tool usage. I have found it simply amazing how truly motivating and rewarding it is to work on design, when constantly keeping the user’s needs in your mind is the key.

The way we do this at Wolt gives me a feeling we are in this together to reach our common goals. And this, my friends, is what ultimately contributes to Wolt’s success story.

I have my user-centred design wings to fly with – finally.

And it’s superb.