How BIO overhauled a leading UK company's digital everything
The remote design team used Abstract to streamline file management without fear of losing iterations of their work.
The BIO Agency is a digital agency that specializes in customer experience–led innovation and transformation. In July 2017, BIO undertook a major challenge: a full-scale service redesign encompassing all aspects of the digital design process for one of the UK’s leading companies. The goal of the project was to reimagine every digital touchpoint across the customer journey: the responsive web experience, the app experience, and the in-store customer service system.
We had experimented with Abstract in the past, but this project seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what it was really capable of.
Amelia Marriott | Design Director
BIO selected Abstract to manage the design workflow
With an aggressive timeframe, 16 user interface designers, and 16 customer experience designers, managing the workflow of this large production team while ensuring a consistent style across the project was of vital importance.
Modern file management streamlines collaboration between designers and stakeholders
Allowing product managers, developers, designers, and other stakeholders to collaborate was key to keeping this project on schedule. To do so, BIO would need a way for all stakeholders to easily view and provide feedback on the latest design files.
BIO historically struggled with the daunting task of file management. Designers found themselves sacrificing precious project time sending Sketch files back and forth in order to try to keep elements in sync while designs and standards evolved. There was fear of overwriting each others’ work or duplicating efforts while ensuring the latest designs were propagated out to all team members. In addition, the BIO Agency had a distributed team and often found designers saving files locally to minimize time spent digging through shared folders. They needed a more efficient process.
Abstract’s version and source control features provided designers with a single location for storing and updating all work that was easily browsable by stakeholders, without fear of ever losing any iteration of their work.
"I was impressed by the dynamic capability Abstract provides to control large, multi-layered, and complex projects," says Raymond Manookian, a BIO Creative Director. "Abstract offers the ability to ensure the right level of rigour and diligence to ensure quality and control across the scope of the program, regardless of scale."
In addition to sharing work among designers, BIO needed a way to easily share work in progress with other stakeholders and their client. With Abstract, customer experience (CX) and developers were able open files untracked to lift elements into the CX work stream — all without having to worry about overwriting files, losing work, or disturbing designers’ workflows. Project managers were able to lead effective, collaborative working sessions with the client and collect feedback and annotations directly within Abstract. In doing so, they were able to share the results of the sessions with the team quickly, allowing the teams to iterate faster.
Using Abstract for file management was exceptionally helpful and made crossover work more efficient and streamlined.
Painless design process onboarding
With a staggered project timeline and new designers joining the project each week in the early phases, BIO needed a way to onboard new team members quickly. Fortunately, the learning curve for Abstract was painless and designers had confidence that they could request help from Abstract directly and receive an immediate response.
To streamline the onboarding, BIO developed in-house training that included how-to guides and mentoring by experienced team members to ensure new team members understood the new workflow concepts of Branches, Commits, and Merges before jumping in. Each designer was given ample time and was encouraged to experiment with the new workflow process prior to onboarding themselves to the project.
"On the rare occasion we were stuck with a glitch that we couldn't solve from within, we could get quick support from the Abstract customer service team," says Tom Driver, Design Lead on the project. "This included new plugin betas or support suggestions to get to the bottom of the problem."
Full support of Sketch Libraries within Abstract was crucial
Midway through the project, Sketch released Libraries, which enabled designers to create reusable components and keep them together in files that could be shared across multiple projects, ensuring a consistent set of up-to-date assets for all designers. Libraries fit nicely with the Atomic Design Methodology, already being used by BIO, which consists of creating a system of reusable components.
The fact that Abstract had full support for Sketch Libraries on the day they were launched was crucial in allowing the team to immediately take advantage of this new feature, linking each Project to a common Library and ensuring all assets were as up-to-date as that Library file.
BIO was able to quickly consolidate shared Library files, which consisted of complex nested symbols for atoms, molecules, organisms, and icons (developed as part of the Atomic Design Methodology), into a Project that could be used across all other Projects. This was an essential part of the design workflow as the need for comprehensive UI consistency increased with each team working in separate streams with different deadlines.
It’s crazy to see how rapidly the arsenal of tools available to designers has changed in just the last couple of years. Abstract has truly revolutionized the way we work
Amelia Marriott | Design Director
Design workflow provides continuity, visibility, and collaboration for future projects
Using Abstract on this large project enabled BIO to develop a standard and secure workflow to ensure better design continuity, visibility, and collaboration for future projects. This will be particularly useful as BIO continues to expand internationally. In addition to adopting Abstract in-house, the team at BIO is encouraging their clients to incorporate Abstract into their own workflows.
Abstract has become an integral piece of the BIO toolkit, ensuring best practices for the Atomic Design Methodology.