Ilya Narinsky

Company Satisfaction

There is a term «customer satisfaction». This is a general name for metrics to understand the convenience and usefulness of the product: how quickly the customer copes with the task and how much he enjoys the process. It is considered as the principal aim.

But the simple ambition to satisfy a customer is something like a fight for all the good against all the bad. This is not enough; there still must be a profit for business.

When creating a feature, you can just specify what the user will get and what the company will.

10 mo  

Rebranding of Yandex Direct

Together with an amazing team, we redesigned the interface, visual style, logo and identity. Yandex.Direct has retained its functionality, but it has become simpler and closer to the user.

Why do we need rebranding?

From the very start, Yandex.Direct has been developing as a tool for specialists in digital advertising. It has always been a professional tool that is primarily valued for its functionality. Yandex.Direct was an “advertising machine” and its user couldn’t stop working because he’d been on staff. Before using the “machine”, it was necessary to undergo serious training.

Step by step, there are more representatives of small and medium-sized businesses among our users who do advertising on their own. In other words, b2b clients have appeared in the b2b product, who stumble over unclear interfaces, leave or make mistakes when advertising.

We realized that we had to update our approach to design. Instead of upgrading the machine, you need to focus on the customer satisfaction, make the interface more convenient and clear, and the logic – more transparent.

Product Changes

Product redesign is a risky process. Users get used to the layout of elements and scenarios. Changes in the usual order can cause outrage, as people need time to retrain.

We did the following. First, we drew the concept of an ideal Yandex.Direct — the way we want it to be. It is well organized and elaborated in term of all possible scenarios. After that, we tested it on our colleagues, showed it to marketers and some users. And we began to design an implementation plan.

In many companies, managers not only coordinate the final design, but also influence the design process itself: they offer solutions, ask to make several options, “toy with fonts”. This can be understood — but it doesn’t help.

If you give the designer more power, his responsibility will increase and the layouts quality will improve. Power makes the designer to be more involved, to monitor the metrics of the product and the business as a whole. From a “draftsman” he becomes a product owner.

We have separated the work of managers and designers:

  1. The manager finds an issue in the product (or a potential improvement). He checks if the issue really exists. He estimates how much it costs to be fixed, and whether it is profitable (in money or other indicators) to eleminate such an issue. As a result, the manager comes to the designer with an issue, and not with the intended solution.
  2. The designer studies the issue, looks for and offers solutions. Together with the manager, he works out solutions and tests hypotheses. He communicates closely with the development department and consults on solutions.
  3. The manager communicate the solution to the production, and is responsible for the launch.

We decided to use the current interface and implement styles from the concept directly on the layout: background, spacers, buttons, typography. At the same time, we do not change anything at all in terms of functionality, do not move elements and do not write a new text. So we wanted to understand whether the new styles (separately from the logic of work) affect user behavior or not.

After we showed the changes for a part of the audience, we saw that the new styles did not affect the main metrics in any way — we were happy, and showed it everyone. Then we took on UX and working out the details.

I advise avoiding “collective design”.

Collective design is a situation where different people in one team look at drafts (or iterations) and give advice.

The designer (and any performer) must 100% understand why a particular design decision was made. Don’t change the layout just because someone asked. We need to figure out what this change will give, and not just do it because someone thought it would be better.

In Yandex.Direct, the designer is the only one person who is responsible for all design decisions. Thus, he can’t just take someone’s advice without thoroughly understanding its benefits.

Identity Changes

Initially, we only needed a new corporate identity. Our marketing and product communications looked like isolated elements — each time they were somehow done. There was no guide and no understanding of what style should be. It was a practical challenge that would help us make our communications better.

Along with the corporate identity, we decided to update the logo. Although the logo change is more about idea than practise. But our old logo depicted a paper ad. We needed a new one: modern, technological and having something related to advertising in the metaphor. The first attempts were done by different studios and agencies. The guys brought good versions, but they were either too technological, too abstract, or did not go well with the big Yandex brand. All of them could be logos of any modern product.

As a result, we decided to create a new logo “inside” in iterative mode. We treat agencies well and work with them a lot, but this time we took a shot at doing everything on our own.

When you work with external agencies, it looks like this: you fill out a brief, discuss it with the agency, answer questions. After that, they take it and return with almost final concepts. And if these concepts aren’t really appropriate for you, you need to do more and more approaches.

Inside, we started acting like researchers. We chose several directions and began to draw options. We met weekly and discussed which concept seems to be going to a dead end, and which one is promising.

This approach works only with very good designers who not only know how to work with graphics, but most importantly they can evaluate the current result, understand which of the options is good and which is not.

At some point we realized that the arrow should be the logo. It has the right metaphors: the cursor, the arrow from the “go” button, and the positive movement of the graph. This logo reflects the basic tasks of the service and is equal to its name, it symbolizes simplicity, growth and development. In addition, the arrow is simple, and the simpler the logo, the stronger it is. The only thing is that only popular products can use simple logos. If you are a small company, you have little chance “to stake out a simple logo”.

Then we worked on the shape and color. We made different options, discussed them in the design circle, and tested the formed shortlist on people: we showed different options to focus groups in order to identify and eliminate unnecessary associations.

How That Turned Out

As a result, we have updated not only the visual component of the product (identity, interface appearance, marketing communications), but also the functionality. We have made users closer to the service. It is important for us that businesses of any size and marketers with any level of training can easily solve their tasks in Yandex.Direct.

10 mo  

Why concepts are important

If you have a working product used by a large audience, then you can’t change anything at once. It’s difficult, expensive, and sudden redesigns break down metrics.

It’s frustrating. Why bother to draw concepts at all if the first changes can only be seen in a year (if at all). But the concept is such a big, beautiful and clear goal. It shows the team what we want to achieve.

The concept is also like a compass, all small changes in the product design can be correlated with it and evaluated: whether these changes bring you closer to the goal or not. Are they similar to how we see ourselves in the future?

10 mo  

Storytelling

Many people believe that it is easy to design landing pages and banners, while interface design is difficult. Any designer can make a landing, but only specialists can make a good product.

It is obvious that experienced ones are always better. And the weaker the team is, the more experienced the designer should be. But it is the landing pages that are very sensitive to a rare design talent: the skill to verbalize meaning and make up a story.

Landing is primarily a story, and only then a set of graphic blocks. It is probably not such a great idea to create a narrative first, coordinate it, and only then give it to the designer. You need to understand how the text will look like on the page, how it will interact with graphics, illustrations and interface elements.

It is better to compose the text right in the layout.

11 mo  

Job Security

In short, it’s when you are afraid of being fired. Not for anything in particular, but in general. Irrational imprecise fear makes your brain choosing options: I leave office too early, I don’t reply quickly enough in work chats, I wasn’t invited to some meeting and all that stuff.

It effects your work badly. Instead of doing what you want, you start worrying too much and already looking for another job subconsciously .

Today we discussed with Seryozha that a manager can help an employee cope with this irrational fear and say: «Listen, don’t worry about being fired. I can tell you frankly: if you work the way you work now, I won’t fire you. I expect that in the next year at least you will definitely be with us, and I promise that I will not even think to fire you.»

It does not mean that an employee cannot be fired at all, that a man can just not go to work. We can fire a person for objective issues, and if his quality of work drops significantly (for example, if an employee chills out), then it’s time to say goodbye.

But in this case, an employee with an anxious consciousness will be sure that everything is OK, there are no hidden problems or factors, and everything is honest and open. This will help him hand a blank check to himself; focus on work, not on worries and attempts to guess the mood of the manager.

2021  

Getting High

I also realized that getting high on work and life depends on how much you want to do what you do. You don’t do what you want. You know how to want what you are already doing, what you have planned and what, by your own choice, you need to do.

I want to do some things because they are shit-hot, it’s easy. And some are boring or difficult, but they lead to a high goal — I guess it’s worth it. But the problem is that they may not lead to the goal, and you’ve just wasted your time with no pleasure.

I think we need to do what we do with big obscure and therefore unattractive tasks – just split them. It is easy to make a small task an attractive one.

2021  

Work-life balance

I have never understood the topic about work-life balance. Why is it about working and non-working cases, why should I divide it like that? You can balance all the work in general, well, or divide them according to another principle. For example, «I need» and «I want».

Then try to shift everything important to «I want». Look at this work from a different angle; try to find a hidden interest or motivation. And if it doesn’t work out — figure out how to stop doing it at all.

2021  

Decision Making

When I tell passers-by about design (usually in the subway at the escalator), I usually start with the fact that design consists of three consecutive processes: research, finding a solution and making a decision.

Now research is at high level. Everyone is engaged in it, we have a million books, articles and people who know how to conduct research. To be honest, I would even reduce them. It is because there are significantly fewer people who can correctly interpret the results and, based on them, design something well.

But the biggest problem is the process of making the final decision. This is usually someone else job, but not the designer’s: the customer, the board of developers, a top manager or even a vice president. But making the final decision is the part of the design. The person involved in it understands better than anyone which option is best to choose in the end.

A designer can be trusted to coordinate his own design if he has an answer to the question: «how to understand that this design solves the problem better than others?»

2021  

Mono

In order to do something well, it is not necessary to spend a lot of time, but it is necessary to pay a lot of attention.

It seems that the ability to concentrate is some kind of innate talent. But I’ve understood that it’s possible if you stop multitasking.

One thing at a time.

2021  

Maturity

The designer makes a level-up to the presenter when he ceases to associate himself with his designs. You can criticize his layout, and he thinks it refers to the layout only, and he doesn’t take it personally. If you can separate it — you’re mature.

And if you want to become a design director, you must go through some disappointments first.

2021  

33 Words about Design

Russian designers discuss Russian design in the film “33 Words about Design”. And I left home to watch it, because I could watch it only in the cinema.

The film consists of thirty-three episodes, in each of which a separate designer tells about Russian design. Someone is sitting at a table, someone is lying in the woods, someone is going to throw out garbage, someone is walking around the store, someone is reading the manifesto very pretentiously. As I understand, everyone shot the videos independently — it is this detail that makes the film interesting. I recommend it.

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And the best part of the film is Anton Schneider’s part, in which he talks extremely charismatic about the differences between good and bad designs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLafkzWDIr8

A good design is aesthetic and functional one, without any stylization. It’s not trying to entertain you or pretending to be anything else. Rush.

2020  

What happens if you do nothing?

Before creating any feature, many product managers ask themselves two questions:

  1. What should happen after we launch it?
  2. What happens if we don’t launch it?

It makes sense to ask yourself these questions when planning everything in life in general.

2020  

Sberbank’s New Logo

Good and bad logos exactly exist in my world as well as brilliant and disgusting ones. There are successful and unsuccessful rebrandings. There are also techniques that I’m just not familiar with, for example, open grotesques and various kinds of Art Nouveau. But this is the designer’s world, in which logos generally owe a lot.

And there is a real world in which logos need to do only two things:

  1. Please founders
  2. Not confuse the customers
2020  

Postpone/Cancel

Every time I want to postpone a planned task, I remember Egor Rudy’s advice — don’t make a decision now. Trust yourself from the past and do what is written in the calendar.

The temptation to postpone the work arises when something more important appears. For example, on Sunday I planned to go to a climbing wall, and I wanted to finish things that I didn’t have time for a week — they seemed more important. Previously, I would have reflected on whether to skip the workout or not, but now I don’t, if there is a task on the calendar, then it is necessary to do it or stop adding anything to the calendar at all.

Well, what about super-important, sudden things? When these things happen, you just don’t remember about the calendar.

2020  

Hedonism

In the Hogan test, there is a parameter responsible for pleasure-seeking. People with high obsession seem relaxed even working hard, and those with low obsession look like workaholics. But this parameter, of course, does not affect the actual efficiency. It is possible to achieve cosmic results in a relaxed way, and you can also fuckup, working 12 hours a day.

I know about a study which shows that if you’re satisfied with your job, you can be dissatisfied with life in general. Especially if the job is easy. And it seems to look logical from the point of evolution – complex tasks lead to development, they create new things and complicate the world.

But unfortunately, evolution is not going to make me happy. So-so.

2020  

How to Hire

Six months ago, Kostya Gorsky wrote that Intercom refused to trial product designers. So did I.

The fact is that the test assignment is not actually a test. Unlike a trial period, it does not show the designer in action, at most it confirms UI skills. And product work is, first of all, immersion in the context and team work. Test assignment can’t check these skills at all.

Instead of the test, you can invite a candidate to tell in detail about one of the latest projects. What the task was, why the final solution was exactly the way it was, what the difficulties were, and what turned out easy. And one of the most important questions: what has happened after the launch?

2020  

How to Fire

Six months ago, I fired a person for the first time. I want to reflect on how it was. What I have done right and wrong.

Dismissal is a win-win. No one wants to give up a good life, but if you are unhappy with each other, then stopping working together is a great way to change your life and the life of the company for the better.

You can fire quickly — as soon as the first problems arise, you can wait until the fuckup. I think it depends on the situation: sometimes a weak person can seriously harm the project, so it’s better to say goodbye as soon as possible. And sometimes you can give a second chance and help grow, what will ultimately lead to benefits.

In my case, I was shuffling. From time to time, the designer and I discussed the problem, something improved a little, but sluggishly. One day I realized that it was more harm than good and made a decision. My mistake was that before that I had never told him directly that if he did not change, we would have to leave. So he was shocked, the process was tense and our relations were harmed.

What have I done right? I was prepared: formulated the reason, remembered specific cases. I started the meeting with something like: «we need to part with you, let’s think about how to make it as comfortable as possible». I also admitted that this was the first time for me and apologized for being worried — after which, by the way, the excitement greatly decreased.

Peace.

2020  

Comparison

I used to worry when I saw someone’s cool work or someone very talented. I’m not sure there was an envy element, but rather reflection about my place in the top of all people.

Now I think there is no top-list. And although people compete with each other, there is no competition in reality. When you achieve success, you don’t deprive others. Or if a competitor presented a cool feature before you, he did not limit your ability to do the same or better.

Don’t compete, don’t compare. Do cool stuff just because it’s much more interesting.

2020  

Suffering

Working on a product and suffering always go hand in hand.

If a designer does not suffer in the process, then the user suffers instead of him later. And if the user does not suffer, then the business suffers. The life of the product is arranged in such a way that someone has to suffer.

2020  

Work from Home

I’ve entered to the Internet and read all the articles about the difficulties of remote work. Everything is wrong. The authors write that the most difficult thing is self-control. But if you have such problems, the office can’t solve them, but simply mask them.

The feature of remote work is that no one sees your efforts; all attention is only paid to the result. And working for results is not a particularly common skill.

It is also interesting that at home we fix the moment when we switch to rest more easily. And if you count the working hours, then they turn out to be more honest. In this case, all the time spent in the office is considered as working one — with rest and procrastination.

2020  

What to do with the subjectivity?

When life forces you to evaluate design layouts and make decisions, the question arises what to do with your own subjectivity. In our society, it is not accepted to show it — it is considered bad manners or even unprofessionalism. Seniors respect each other’s expertise, and disagreements are checked in A/ B tests.

However, suppressing subjectivity is harmful not only for yourself, but also for the project. A design solution may have problems that are difficult to formulate or that may seem subjective. I usually follow the scenario:

  1. If I like the layout it doesn’t mean it solves the task perfectly. But you can launch it and look at rates.
  2. When you don’t like the layout, you need to look for a problem that may be in the mission statement itself.
2020  

Number of clicks

If you have worked before, then remember how managers estimated the design in clicks. The fewer clicks the user makes the better. Arguments like «well, this is an extra click» were discussed absolutely seriously (immediately after the proposal to place everything on the first screen).

In fact, it was not because of stupidity, but because of the slow Internet. Users tried not to make unnecessary clicks, fearing a long and expensive download.

Now the Internet has become fast and cheap, but people still don’t want to delve into loaded pages. Don’t be afraid to shorten and hide all nonessentials behind links.

2020  

Cognitive Ease

I wanted to write a note about the cognitive ease of interfaces, but I realized that such a term is out of the question.
In short.

The interface must be not just clear, but very very quickly clear. This means: no onboarding, hints or explanations — if your interface needs them, then you have already lost. A person should instantly understand where he is and what is wanted from him.

But how to manage without onboarding? Probably, in some products they are essential. Somewhere the user is ready to spend his time learning the interface, and somewhere the product is driven by other things.

2020  

LOT2046

Funny thing has happened recently. I’m subscribed to LOT2046 — I don’t know how to better explain what it is: the guys produce things (clothes, accessories, and household items) and sell them for $100/month by subscription.

Every month I get a package with black things that I never know beforehand. Actually, I suppose what they produce, but what exactly they will send me this time is unknown. The last package contained two pairs of socks and underpants, a T-shirt, a baseball cap, a backpack, an iPhone charger, cream, cotton swabs and some kind of hair powder. In the previous one, there were also socks and underpants, a T-shirt, a hoodie, sneakers, a toothbrush, deodorant and powder, here it is:

I used it a couple of times and was satisfied with the result: the hair was fixed, but it was not very comfortable to use and I stopped. Yesterday I went to my personal account to add this item to the stop list and saw that it was not hair powder (does this even happen?), but tooth one.

2019  

Designer and Text

Passers-by often ask me whether a designer should write texts or not. I always say in depends on the agreements.

Design is a composite process, and writing text is not only a part of it, but also a basic skill of a designer (provided that you actually have a designer). When the whole process is handled by one person, the product turns out to be more harmonized. But for the sake of efficiency or because of the complexity of the product, the roles are often separated: the texts are written by the editor. It’s great if he discuss it with the designer in the process.

How to learn to write? I don’t know.

It’s not enough to read “Write, Shorten”, as it’s not enough to just learn a Sketch or Photoshop. It is necessary to develop a broad-mindedness and visual experience.

2019