zipongo design collaboration

Zipongo design team during a review with Wake

The office kitchen… where all self-control wilts away into a sleeve of double stuffed Oreos. We’ve all felt the temptation to grab a surprise donut or take an extra slice of a co-worker’s birthday cake. But when you need to stay productive (and awake), maintaining your health is a major contributor.

According to a study by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), employees who eat healthy all day long were 25% more likely to have higher job performance. And those who the eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables at least four times a week were 20% more likely to be more productive.

Considering productivity is the cornerstone of success for most organizations, it’s time they start being more proactive in providing their employees with healthier options.

Zipongo‘s online nutrition solution makes it simple to eat well. They work with employers and health plans to improve healthy outcomes through personalized dietary recommendations.

We sat down with Del Anicete, design director at Zipongo, to discuss the intricacies of designing an app that offers everything from tailored recipes and meal planning to grocery lists and online ordering. Del is one of the original designers at Zipongo and has been a part of the evolution in taking Zipongo from a small meal planning app to a more robust platform that includes several services for its users.

Del Anicete, Design Director at Zipongo

What are some of your main responsibilities as design director?

When I joined the company, it was a 2 person design team. We were responsible for all of Zipongo’s product design needs including all marketing materials as well. We’ve grown a lot since then, now my main responsibility is to manage and provide creative direction. My day-to-day is less hands-on design work and more focused on our team. This involves unblocking challenges we might be experiencing, forecasting our team needs, design process, direction, and design strategy.

What are some of the best ways you’ve managed to keep designers focused on a team?

Keeping us focused could require several moving parts, but my main objective is to remove any distractions we might have and to also give the creative freedom to explore and make decisions. We also try to find ways to communicate often, as these design discussions help with creative inspiration that directly impacts focus and production.

How are things different today than when you began in 2014?

Design at Zipongo has changed a lot. We test and validate our design hypothesis based on quantitative and qualitative feedback. We weren’t able to do much of that in the past, but now we make it a point to ingrain that process into our workflow. Nothing is perfect, but we strive to create a design culture that approaches decisions and solving problems objectively.

Another change has been the way we collaborate. We’re getting better at the validation frequency we need from other teams. This helps us avoid issues and misunderstandings later down the road. Now each product has their own unique team, consisting of a lead designer, a product manager, a couple engineers and one “paired” design support.

What sort of challenges are you experiencing internally as your design team has grown?

Like any other small company, I think we all experience similar growing pains in one form or another. For our team, consistency is something we’re looking to improve. Since we’re divided and focused on specific product features, it’s very easy to work in silos that can lead designs in a very different direction. That means making sure our discipline of communicating, sharing early and sharing often is very important.

What were some of the challenges you had with communication and design collaboration as your team grew?

We used to have these design reviews that were twice a week. At the time, we were looking for a balance between fewer meetings and still finding ways to communicate in person. During these reviews, there would be a couple stakeholders such as product managers, engineers, but it was mainly for designers. The reviews gave the team the opportunity to gain feedback, but the problem was that we would sometimes have to wait to share our work. Which made it clear, we needed something that allowed us to share more frequently without these meeting constraints.

What were some of the things you did to solve this problem?

Jesse Brack our Creative Director at the time, researched a couple tools and found Wake as a possible fit for our team. What we discovered about Wake, is that it was easy to be transparent and gain feedback, but there were some questions at first. Do we actually need it? Is it worth the extra step for our teams to adopt? So we decided to initially test it within our team. Then soon after, released it to the product managers, engineers, and marketing. After getting positive feedback we decided to bake it into our workflow.

How has Wake helped solve some of your communication challenges?

Wake unblocks any issues we had in the past regarding design reviews. Transparency was key. Now, we didn’t have to wait until our next design reviews. They can just post on Wake, allowing us to have feedback session at any time of day.

“Wake has been a huge help aligning communication amongst the teams.”

How has this changed the way your team gives feedback? Is everyone equally involved?

It’s been a great change for our team and has added that extra level of communication we were looking for. We also learned people were more comfortable to give feedback on Wake than in person. It gave a platform for individuals who were not so vocal during our design reviews.

“Everything in Wake feels natural and supports those in-person conversations we’re already having.”

From a leadership standpoint, the majority of my time is spent on the app. It’s great because I’m able to give direct feedback at any time of the day, on the go. It’s also a great way for me to stay up to date on projects, design conversations, etc.

What are some of the features that your team gets most excited to use?

As we’re still learning and find better ways to use Wake, there a couple features that stand out. We use spaces to organize the level of feedback we’re looking for. Certain design specific feedback is organized and shared in one “design” space. Another space is dedicated to a broader scope of team members specific to the project or feedback. For example, a space for the whole product or marketing team.

“Spaces is huge for us. It solves the problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen.”

We also use the Apple TV app to display our designs on the company TV monitor. This helps our team share with a certain level of transparency within the whole company.

Annotations is also a big one. At times, we found ourselves losing context to what was communicated. Annotations can define the feedback and help give context because now you’re able to point to specific elements within the design.

The Wake team has been really great about being receptive to our feedback. We’re excited that Wake is constantly listening and optimizing features we need.

Any final thoughts?

Our goal was to be transparent, improve design collaboration, and find ways to get the best possible feedback, at any time, in all settings. Wake helps us accomplish that. We know this doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction, but we can use Wake to supplement those needs.