Kayce Reed-Buechlein, Principal Designer.
Design leader, educator, and contributor with a focus on research, IxD, and human factors. Growing products and people since ’08.
I’m currently focused on Product-Led Growth and design leadership at Formstack; an online form builder & data collection platform that enables individuals and teams of all sizes to get work done.
Also an Adjunct Lecturer of HCI/Design at Indiana University Bloomington in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.
I hold a Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction Design (2008) and a Bachelor of Science in Informatics (2006) from Indiana University.
My strengths include taking disparate ideas and requests and turning them into thoughtful, usable solutions that make users feel powerful. I’m a good teacher and have a ton of experience encouraging and growing the people and things around me.
PLG is an emerging and exciting opportunity happening at Formstack and I’m glad to be participating. Our tiny team (of three folks) is busy evangelizing PLG concepts across the organization, learning from leaders and stakeholders, running experiments aimed at organic growth of accounts and adoption and retention of Formstack’s most sophisticated features, and identifying what constitutes a Product-Qualified Lead.
The problem we aimed to solve
We took our rapid beginnings as an opportunity to optimize all of our processes for learning, as quickly as possible. We identified how we wanted to create moments of intervention in Formstack products’ user interfaces to promote growth and retention and how to target and furnish key customer lists to assist the Sales Expansion Team.
My role is lead designer, planner, and evangelizer around all PLG initiatives. I started Q2 2020 getting organized in creating experiment design templates (to optimize our processes for learning, speed, and results), and I identified key moments in the user journey where intervention made sense. Using various types of UI/UX interventions, I employed A/B testing to our experimentation, allowing us to quickly identify successful or not-so-successful tests. Over the course of the quarter, we ran a total of 8 experiments across 2 products and were able to demonstrate financial value and that there is a key opportunity to continue to expand our PLG efforts moving forward. All product interventions were designed, tested, and implemented through Sketch (design) and Pendo (in-app intervention).
Workflows, a Paid Add-On for Advanced Form Capabilities
The Workflows add-on combines Formstack’s online form builder with flexible workflow automation tools to manage both simple and more complex business processes. Multiple people in an organization can collect, review and edit submitted data on a single form. Since the initial release, a number of improvements have been made to the featureset including the ability to send the Workflow back to a previous participant for erroneous or missing data, the ability to fully customize the assignment email participants receive, and much more. Organizations within the healthcare and higher education industries have implemented Workflows across their entire organization to solve seemingly infinite use cases.
Since the company’s founding, Formstack has been a data capture tool where a single form was filled out by a single person, thus creating a single submission record. We recognized, however, that most business processes happen with multiple people, many touch-points, and not always through a linear and clean path to completion. Because of this, we aimed to reimagine how people fill out forms to allow for much more complex Workflow management to take place within the Formstack product.
My role in this project was Lead Designer of the cross-functional engineering team tackling Workflows. We took this initiative all the way from concept and early customer discovery to a fully realized production-worthy solution. I oversaw all design and creative leadership for the team and much of the planning and organization to bring the product to market. Since launching in 2017, we have continued to improve and iterate upon the included functionality, regularly learning from our customers and creating improvements and additions that make their lives (and usage of the product) easier. Workflows remains Formstack’s highest revenue-generating add-on since it was released.
- Survey, competitive analysis, customer and stakeholder interviews
- Low to high-fidelity design
- Interactive prototyping
- Usability testing
- Iconography, spot graphic, and visual design asset creation
Phoenix User Interface Design System
This design system includes all UI components, UX patterns, iconography and typography, spot and scene graphics, and guidelines documenting how they are to be used and implemented throughout the Formstack suite of products. It was designed and built using Sketch libraries with particular attention given to change management and increased alignment with engineering for a growing team of designers.
The problem we aimed to solve
Handoff of designs to engineering always presents some surprises. We wanted to create a system that could streamline that process and eliminate some of the questions and subtle differences we would see when new features shipped to production. We were also growing as a Product Design Team and recognized that we all needed to be on the same page, implementing UI components that were consistent from designer to designer. We designed a standard set of reusable components and UI patterns that could be created using Sketch libraries and also built by the front-end engineers to ensure consistent and cohesive improvements were making their way into the product.
For this project, I lead a team of product designers to reimagine Formstack’s user interface; creating all UI components as symbols within the Sketch library framework, and putting into place a series of process checks to ensure the design system is always kept up to date. I also led efforts to document how our design system is used, using tools like Frontify and Zeroheight. I crafted many of the components but I would gladly say that this effort was perhaps the best example of team collaboration I have experienced professionally, to date.
Disclaimer: I am only showing a few example screenshots. Here you can see how the form builder and overall UI improved during my time as a ‘Stacker through the implementation of the PHX design system.
Designing for Growth in the Organization
Being with a single company for over 5 years presents a wonderful opportunity to see, firsthand, how quickly growth can occur, not just for your business, but for your customers. Throughout my time at Formstack, I was oftentimes tasked with designing what I would consider Enterprise features.
- Managing user and group permissions, adding bulk users, purchasing ala-carte and unique types of users were all things I led on design.
- Updates to the main Forms page allowing users to organize their forms into folders, sorting, searching, and filtering the information, managing access and permissions.
- Anytime a user submits a form a number of actions can take place; any number of emails can be sent, based on logic rules the user defines, web-hooks can be triggered, specific integrations can run. Data captured in the form can be mapped to create custom emails. These are all parts of the Formstack product I designed.
I was the lead designer on the Enterprise cross-functional team, focused on these features that allowed the Formstack product to scale and support very large accounts.
|Click the screenshots to see each screen in action.|
Rebranding Bedrock Data, InsureSign, and Webmerge
In 2019, Formstack acquired multiple companies and over the span of a few months, I was responsible for rebranding and refactoring each of them to match the UI design system that powers the Forms product, Phoenix. As part of the rebrand, we also implemented a number of improvements that aligned with what Formstack customers have come to expect when it comes to usability and table-stakes functionality.
The Problem we aimed to solve
Ensure each acquired product matches Formstack’s look and feel, pulling in a shared service header to create consistent navigation from product to product. I performed a heuristic evaluation to identify opportunities to improve the usability of each acquired product to match customer expectations around usability and functionality.
For each rebranded product, I was responsible for all product design work including taking an inventory, performing a heuristic evaluation, using devtools to adjust and document all color, typography, margin/padding, and stylistic changes necessary through CSS/HTML, and ensuring the development changes were implemented correctly and were usable.
|Click the screenshots to see each product after the rebrand|
The best projects begin with having a thorough and deep understanding of a particular problem space. It’s not enough to understand the issue on the surface, you need to gain insight into the full problem and the opportunity that exists around it. Growing up, I frequently annoyed adults by asking questions (a LOT of questions). In my professional life, however, it has always served me well. If I don’t understand something, I ask about it. This genuine curiosity about people, why they do what they do, and the world around me is one of my best skills as a designer/researcher. During the discovery phase, I employ several human-centered research methodologies to fully understand something, gain insight and intel along the way, and to begin to build empathy with users; actual people who are to use something.
A both deep and broad understanding of a problem allows me to fully appreciate what a user goes through and to put myself in their shoes. It sets the stage for the rest of the design process.
One of the earliest meetings for a project where the entire cross-functional team rallies around a particular problem space. It’s the time when all ideas are on the table, preliminary user stories are crafted, designers gain a bit of an understanding on what is possible (technically and within a reasonable scope), and the entire team gets to work together to solve problems for real people. All of the intel captured during Discovery is shared with the team ahead of time. During the kickoff we dig into that research to, again, put ourselves in the users’ shoes and begin to ideate on all of the possibilities that exist.
It’s one of my favorite parts of being a designer because there are not yet any clearcut answers or approaches. It can be messy and complex. The kickoff is filled with the opportunity to determine ‘what could be’ which makes being a designer such a rewarding experience.
Some of the things discussed in the kickoff:
- Clarity and buy-in on the problem space
- Discovery findings
- Preliminary user stories
- Known constraints
- Discussion on what currently exists (if anything)
- Solution ideas from everyone on the team
- Success metrics, goals for the project
This is the phase where I get to the hard work of translating user, product, and business requirements into increasingly tangible, visual, and interactive solutions. I do this by working with and through other people; using the team around me and customers to identify any needed information that keeps the work progressing.
The fidelity of the work increases as new information is learned; as ideas are shared, combined, vetted, and critiqued by others. The end goal is to arrive at a testable design that solves the original problems that were identified (or any new problems that arise that the team agrees we should solve). The work is ready to validate when, based on sound designer judgment, it meets the needs and goals of the people who will use it.
It’s not enough to design beautiful solutions that appear to be perfectly usable to designers. Usability testing allows us to understand and observe how real people interact with the things we are designing. Usability testing doesn’t need to be expensive, time-consuming, or tedious. Without it, however, we are designing blind and assuming the decisions we made throughout the process are the right ones; that we fully understood all of the nuances that go into using technology and the various contexts in which our work will be used. Humans aren’t monolithic; so testing helps to ensure actual, diverse human beings can use the things we are releasing into the world.
During validation, I employ various user testing methodologies and tools, decided upon based on the specific project, timing and budget, and most importantly, the type of information I need to move forward.
I take the findings from user testing and return to Step 3 (Design, iterate). I can then improve upon the design and take into account how users responded; improving the usability based on moments when confusion or missed requirements were observed and discussed.
Upon completion of any project, I like to measure how we did in comparison to the original goals set forth during the design kickoff. Team retrospectives are always something that helps hold the team accountable and create an opportunity for reflection and growth. I like to use the 4L’s technique where each team member shares, typically ahead of time and oftentimes in a Trello board, what aspects of the project they:
- lacked, and
- longed for.
From this, action items are identified and the team can achieve even greater results on the next project.
This is also a great opportunity to seek out critical feedback on my performance and contribution from those around me, paired with a healthy amount of self-reflection.
I created this site and all contents using WordPress, CSS3, Sketch, and Illustrator. The photo was taken by me – I need an actual headshot once Covid calms down. ☺
Resume and additional references available upon request.
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