Simon Alovisi is a Principal Content Designer at Intuit, where he drives the content experience for the QuickBooks product. His London-based team includes a mixture of interaction/product designers, content designers, a researcher, and visual designers.
Tell me about your team at Intuit.
I joined Intuit about two years ago as the fourth design hire in the UK. The design team was only just beginning. Before then, the organization was sales and marketing-led. And the UK QuickBooks user experience was pretty much the same as the one you’d find in our US product. When Intuit began seeing the UK as a growth market, the company started thinking about introducing UK-centric features.
Right now, there’s a new government initiative here to make all tax filing digital. It’s a massive undertaking and, as you can expect, is driving a lot of prospects to us.
My team is tasked with building a bespoke, end-to-end experience for the UK market.
What is your role on the team?
I’m the Principal Content Designer. There’s one of “us” in each key geo (including the UK, France, Australia, Canada, and India). For each region, the Principal Content Designer is responsible for ensuring that we are talking in the right voice and tone for our particular region. As you can imagine, culturally, there are differences. In the UK, you can be a little more light-hearted and conversational, particularly in the onboarding experience.
At the hands-on level, my work also includes crafting content for the core product experience, including first time use, setup flows, in-product guidance and error messaging.
Traditionally, our team was very small. But now we’re up to 13 people, including four interaction/product designers, three content designers, one researcher, visual designers, and a group manager.
Intuit is pretty flat, so there’s a strong culture of collaboration and feedback. But we are now introducing a management structure, so we have an international design director, as opposed to reporting to HQ in Mountain View. There’s also a group manager based in London, and one for each of the other key regions.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as your team has grown?
As you bring more people onboard, you really start to realize the need for establishing improved workflows and consistency. When I joined, the product content was geared more toward a US audience. One example of this is that Americans are happy to celebrate the small things. There’s a natural optimism in the U.S. But if you bring that approach to the UK market, it’s not as well-received and can come across as false or insincere.
Our voice and tone guide is one way we create consistency, while surfacing areas for flexing our creative sensibilities. So of course, you introduce the need to create systems, but also introduce flexibility. This way, you give people creative freedom while making sure it doesn’t get taken to the extremes. You have to build those muscles in people and designers.
How did Abstract come into your organization?
It was a consequence of a growing team and working more cross-functionally. We have a much bigger design function in the Bay Area than we do here in the UK. All the tooling comes out of that group.
When I joined, everything was managed in Box. But as regions were scaling, our design teams looked at various options for how we could introduce version control. Abstract came across as an option for teams who wanted to work collaboratively. We didn’t want to overwrite each other’s changes and trying Abstract was a bit of a no-brainer.
When the interaction designer and I worked as a pair, it was relatively easy to manage our files. But as soon as we added one extra person into the mix, we started to feel the pain and we began using Abstract to collaborate.
What does Abstract enable you to do that you weren’t able to do before?
Abstract offers a single source of the truth for our design files. Having a Master file that we can all simultaneously branch off was a big step forward in managing our design files. If we need to roll back or understand how we got from A to B, we can do so in an elegant manner. The ability to annotate files and add comments also helps us iterate quickly.
Content design is also referred to as content strategy and UX. How do you describe what you do?
Well, of course, words are involved. But I don’t see what I do as writing per se. If you think about writing in isolation, you’re never going to create the best user experience. For me, the magic is in figuring out how to bring together all elements (visual, animation) with words; that’s really what “designing” a product experience is all about.
Can you share 4 practices to help level up your content design practice?
- Bond closely with your design partners. Bringing a product experience to life is a team game, and delightful design happens when all the elements work in perfect harmony.
- Know your customer inside out, back to front. You can only craft great content that resonates strongly when you understand their world.
- Test your content with customers. Iterate. And test it again.
- Don’t struggle with clunky, manual content workflows. Losing work (yours or others) is a sickening feeling. Tools and productivity apps exist for a reason; use them 🙂