Design Insights: Flipkart

Founded in October 2007, this Indian based e-commerce company is the nation’s largest online store with more than 80 million products. Flipkart is the offspring of the alumni of Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal. An impressive triumph in one of the largest market in the world for a decade young company has lured many multinational retail corporations in talking to be associated with it.

Sachin and Binny Bansal at Flipkart new office
(Left to right) Sachin Bansal, Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Binny Bansal at Flipkart’s new office

Owing to the increasing popularity of our articles on Design Insights, Varun Trivedi and Dalpat Prajapati — team members of Iconscout were given an opportunity to interact with design team members Supriyo Roy, Adit GuptaSujit Jare, Varun DhandaRahul Chakraborty and Neel Raj at the Flipkart headquarters located at Bangalore.

How much is a design important for Flipkart?

Supriyo:

For us, the design is the centre to everything – big and small. Whenever we are setting out to solve a problem, design thinking is a non-negotiable aspect of it.

Our approach is user-centric. How it works is, whenever a problem is identified, all the teams from business to product come together and scope it out in terms of planning and strategy looking into our product roadmap. This further shapes into quarterly and yearly goals. We carry on discussions and brainstorming about several significant aspects such as the product requirements, working in the competitive landscapes, feasible solutions and many more. Later on, the design takes the form of communication where we develop a vision for the product’s built and launch. Amidst this entire process, we make sure to take into consideration the desired constraints from the business and product in terms of users, technology platform, requirements etc; thereby having frequent cross-functional interactions with a purpose of not missing details. In short, design becomes the focal point of communication across teams, and that is how it flows across teams.

How many dedicated designers are associated with Flipkart?

Adit: Within the Consumer Platform, we have design teams at different levels, one being the Product design team and the other is Creative design team. Creative design teams are responsible for the majority of the visual communication challenges both on online and offline touchpoints i.e. marketing collaterals, social media, TV Spots etc.

Creative design team is about 30 members strong whereas there are about 16 members in the product design team (and growing!). At present, Supriyo acts as the lead of the Product design team.

Prior to launching any new feature or product, which perspectives are taken into consideration, how do you do your homework and research for the same?

Supriyo:

The most efficient way to direct research is to understand the fact that different problems demand a different approach and methodologies.

Hence, Design and User-Research teams work in unison to stay aligned with this philosophy. Prior to solving any problem, research is conducted simultaneously by the user research and consumer insights team where we get to access both quantitative and qualitative data pertaining to a possible problem statement.

Furthermore, the research team carries out a great deal (frequently) of customer understanding sessions on the field, at multiple locations across the nation. The main motive behind carrying out such activity is to purely understand the user’s perception towards Flipkart (as a brand and as a platform); how they use our applications, what are the types of problems they face while doing it. For instance, recently, in one of our such exercise, we discovered one of the major dilemmas among consumers is regarding storing heavy apps in the limited memory space of Smartphones. As a solution to this, our engineering team now makes sure that all of our latest app updates should be within the size of 10 MB — Flipkart Lite.

After the launch of new features, how do you map user behaviour? Also, Iconscout was wondering if you can tell us something about your testing process?

Varun: There are many ways to measure our experiential solve among consumers. One of the ways, before any novel launch, we use the approach of Dogfooding wherein we ask for timely feedback from our employees within the Flipkart ecosystem. We have a dedicated Google group for its representatives to submit their feedback in a professional and meticulous way.

After going through those responses and implementing the suggestions in sync with our product strategy, we launch our feature or product to an infinitesimal fraction of our audiences, only about a percent to be precise. Starting with a small number gives you an extra edge of control if something went rogue. Then, we start gradual scaling to a fairly decent bucket size which gives us significant data-points to look into; this way we are in a controlled possession of a relatively larger sample through which we test out A/B experiments.

Moreover, we perform a more permutative sort of A/B wherein we launch a big set of features while rejuvenating some of our old components into it. This approach is used to isolate individual impacts. Using this, along with testing small parts, one can understand its impact. At Flipkart, our rule of not launching anything without its proper AB testing is followed religiously.

How do you take user feedback?

Sujit: Nowadays, with the advancing technology, the users are becoming smarter, knowing what they want and vocalizing about the same. All our launches have received acknowledgements from our users through the means of emails and app ratings on varied platforms. This is just one way of monitoring their responses.

With Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites becoming an integral part of a person’s daily life, they have extended their ways of expressing by posting their reviews there; we also keep an eye on that.

While going through it what we look for is a pattern; if you are getting the same feedback from a relatively larger set of people, then obviously something is needed to be looked into. Our customer service centres receive many grievances and requests from the users, mostly to guide them to help understand that particular feature. After collecting all these data and the derived pattern, we hypothesize a common problem to be targeted which later on becomes a theory post user research validation.

What tools do you use to communicate with the team?

Rahul: We use a plethora of tools in our day-to-day activities. Google Suite products such as Gmail, Docs etc. are used for communication among teams. Whereas for internal interactions and collaborations within the design team, we use Slack and InVision. On InVision, we discuss ideas between inter-teams and intra-teams. It is an offline channel wherein people can put thoughts and engage in discussions. Our final asset delivery mostly happens through Zeplin.

How often do you have internal meetings?

Supriyo: The traditional sprint structure might not work with the design process wherein the scope and requirement are verified and updated continuously, hence we came up with our own version of a hybrid design sprint, where we start from the ideation stage to release of it, which can be pre-planned for a couple of months. Since it is a much larger dig in terms of timeframe, that’s where the sprint model fails for us. We have rapidly morphed ourselves towards quarter goals, where we have monthly checkpoints as a measuring unit of our progress throughout. Though it does not follow the exact functional aspects of the sprint, they have the common underlying format.

Product Design Team members
Product Design Team members

The techniques like Sprint have proved to be helpful in scenarios where the organization has a fixed structural plan where incremental goodness is possible. For companies like Flipkart which is evolving at a breakneck speed, we witness frequent evolution in our scopes and understanding of our users.

At Flipkart, how do designers and developers work harmoniously, contributing to the organization?

Flipkart new office in Bangalore

Adit: It is a general myth that designers and developers can never be on the same page, luckily at Flipkart, we work together (all the way to even sit on the same floor). As we have mentioned previously, we use many tools for cross-functional collaboration. In case of confusions, we are always reachable for further explanations. To bring some light on the piece of collaboration, we have final sign off sessions including the engineering team. So, when the design is being scrutinized, the engineering team can give their inputs on technical feasibility on any particular design and can also point out the technical limitations. Unless every team involved, right from business to tech to product to design are principally board, the design is not taken forward into development. This is how we collaborate with them.

In short, at Flipkart, we make sure that everyone works in unison to avoid any surprises in the end. The main purpose of this notion is to refrain from doing any overhead if something went wrong in the long run. Initially, we have an internal design review. Later, along with the product owners and designers, we reach out to the leadership of different functions and present the entire experience.

What factors do you take into consideration while making any design related decision?

Sujit: Every decision we make is collaborative as it involves consideration of genuine user problems and business factors. To make decisions efficiently, we conduct design working sessions, where we discuss the problems and think about the possible solutions. While doing so, we also weigh in a business perspective, product perspective, and the engineering perspective. Having said that, all these perspectives are complementary and at the helm of all of our design decisions, we only have one core, the user.

No design decision is right or wrong. It’s all about the context. We examine qualitative and quantitative data obtained from our user studies to inform ourselves to get out of deadlock situations.

Also, you can’t build every single version you think about and put it in the experiment. So, we narrow down on the number of experiments and make an informed guess. These insights and the data really help us in making the optimal design decision.

How is your design process during Big Billion Day and how’s the environment in the office?

Varun: Designing for BBD has always been challenging and inspiring at the same time. If it happens during Oct or Nov, our work starts at least 6 months prior to it. The design team figures out the ways to surface different product and business constructs, anticipating the full flow journey the user takes. Our creative team takes care of marketing content, there are thousands of marketing artefacts created for our online properties, which demands a lot of work and dedication. As you can understand, it is a huge task involving creative thinking, developing and collaborating, so nothing can be left to be done at last minute.

Flipkart new office in Bangalore

A week before the inauguration of BBD, the entire floor is engulfed in mattresses and pillows, with many fun activities going around. People, in those days, keep track of every minute of their day. The floor bustles with the energy of all the Flipkart members, merging days and night into one to achieve the results.

How do you manage assets in the organization? Is there any channel where you upload all these things?

Rahul: To store out sketch files and master files containing most of the needed components, we use Dropbox. We have a defined file system, where everybody has access to different components. This has proved to be helpful for newcomers and interns for reference. Normally, it contains Interface sections with use cases, it also has many categories.

How does Flipkart hire designers?

Varun: Initially, we have had conducted campus recruitment drives for college graduates. But since last year, it has been transformed into a more specialized process. We are collaborating with design advocates who evangelize our Flipkart design culture in the tight-knit community.

Flipkart new officein Bangalore

Currently, in the market, there is a widely spread notion about e-commerce that it has reached to a dead end with the generation of the solutions of all the possible problems, but that is clearly not the case. So, we try to create awareness about our impact and aspirations in smaller niche communities, and from there we select potential candidates who show promise. Before starting the hiring process, our entire team carefully studies every candidate’s portfolio. During the recruitment process, we ask them to provide solutions for relevant design problems which challenge them beyond the current state-of-the-art. While doing so, our design team also interacts with them to help them understand the problem thoroughly. This is followed by portfolio round, product thinking round and culture fit round.

How much is the demand for good designers in big organizations like Flipkart?

Sujit: We have observed that the demand for good designers is increasing, though there is not enough supply for that. The right talent is getting rarer and the bar keeps getting higher:).

Flipkart new office in Bangalore

As an alternative to this situation, we have started our design internship program this year, wherein we find talented individuals who show promise and mentor them closely.

They work on the projects making a significant impact and associate themselves with a team with lead designers who have the responsibility to give them regular feedbacks to facilitate and assist them in growing as better designers. We engage our interns in all directions from ideation to validation. And being a vital part of the project team, the individual will also get as much visibility as others.

What are the new trends in design coming nowadays?

Supriyo: I think there are certainly new things in terms of trends and tendencies emerging if we talk about Indian ecosystem. In the e-commerce context, with the advent of all the new technical changes and mobile devices emerging as the medium of choice, you’ll find that more new Indian consumers are using online shopping now. We need to solve problems for this new set of consumers who are experiencing Internet at a very new level and adopting the technology very fast.

Flipkart Product Design Team members

I think design trends and especially UI interactions and usability, depends a lot on your target audience and when you’re working with such a big organization like Flipkart, you’ve vast pool of audience and you probably can’t make the perfect solution for everyone out there but you need to make sure that it would affect most of them in a positive way. That is how you walk on the path of inclusive design. And I believe with this in mind, your audience themselves set the trends in your design.

Any piece of advice for emerging designers?

Adit:

Don’t design for other designers and try to be a good problem solver. The output of Design is not vibrant visuals without purpose. It should be an experience which has a soul and a meaning to it. Focus on real-world problems where your solutions can genuinely make an impact.

And people who want to work in Flipkart, I would just say it’s a really exciting place to be because you have access to such a massive audience and you get to work with such magnitude of data. We are looking forward to passionate problem solvers for the real India and for them Flipkart is the best place to be.

#OneFlipkart – Better Together

Take a look at Flipkart’s new Headquarter in Bangalore.

We are grateful to Flipkart Product Design team for managing time for us in their busy schedule and answering our questions. It had been a great experience interacting with them. We wish them great luck in all their future endeavors. Do you guys have any questions? Do write them below in the comment!

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Also published on Medium.