How We’re Improving Accessibility and Usability at Guru: Part 3
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been proud to share the investments we’ve made into improving the usability and accessibility of our product (if you haven't already, read part one and part two). From dedicating an entire team to the effort to championing a cross-functional sprint to make fast, meaningful changes, we’ve taken several intentional steps towards laying a strong foundation on which we can continue to build great experiences.
This is only the beginning. We see the usability and accessibility of our product as fundamental to all future enhancements we make and are optimizing for continued improvement in those areas. Today, we’ll share how teams across our entire product organization use the design system to create accessible user experiences, and how they think about usability as they design new features and enhancements.
Though the technical “design system” is created and maintained by a dedicated pod, the tool itself is leveraged throughout the entire product development process on all teams. From initial designs to the actual code, the components of our design system are leveraged to create a consistent and seamless experience across our entire product.
The design system guides everything from the consistent sizing of buttons to the details of where and when those buttons appear, giving users predictable patterns and making it easier to navigate the app. This sets important parameters for our designers, giving them flexibility with the base structure of usability across the app.
Tiffany Lin, Senior Product Designer, explains how the design system factors into her work: “I always start with the design system, it’s very much baked into my design process. When I start a project, it’s always lovely to have a reusable library of components and best practices—it’s much more productive than starting from scratch.”
The presence of the design system team also encourages everyone involved in building our product to consider accessibility and usability goals throughout the entire process. Laura Desmond-Black, Senior Product Manager, says that she thinks of usability and accessibility guidelines as requirements, both when we’re looking at new features and iterating on existing ones.
People use Guru at work, so it’s important that we’re relying on the design system to craft an accessible experience. A lot of people benefit from good, accessible design because it’s clearer what’s actually going on in an application that has good accessibility. Thinking about these concepts as table stakes makes the entire development process simpler because accessible design becomes part of the project requirements.
Because it creates reusable components, the design system adds consistency and simplicity to the process of building new experiences, too. Mansi Pathak, Engineering Manager, had this to say about her experience with the system:
“When I’m working on project estimation, I always start by checking which components we already have in the design system and what doesn’t exist and will need to be built out. That also helps me think through what we can build to be reused in the future, which is really important as we estimate our work. It also helps us create a dialogue with the designers if we notice that they’re not using an existing component—we can work together to understand if something new needs to be built, or if we should adjust designs accordingly.”
Mansi explains that the design system gives everyone a shared language and library of resources, which serves as a helpful anchor throughout the product development lifecycle; from development through delivery, it’s the responsibility of our entire team to ensure we’re building an intuitive, highly usable, and accessible product.
She points out that everyone at Guru uses our own product every day, and should have the ability to raise any areas that they believe could be improved:
We think that everyone, regardless of role, should be able to submit their ideas to make usability improvements throughout the app.
Go-to-market employees, such as sales and customer experience representatives, also play a critical role as the voice of our customers and can advocate for their needs and ideas for improvement as well.
“Our efforts towards usability and accessibility build trust and confidence with our users that our product can and will support their needs,” Tiffany says. “Even the small, incremental changes we make along the way play a role in the ultimate usability of our product."