How did you get to Gilt?
I grew up in the Bay Area, and for the majority of my career I’ve worked in Silicon Valley. Upon reflection–because I don’t think it was a conscious or deliberate choice–my career has followed a thread: technology, fashion, and ecommerce.
Three years ago, I moved from the Bay Area to NYC. In considering places where I might work, I focused on ecommerce because I knew it was something I was passionate about.
Tell us how you got into user experience.
Years ago, I basically got into what was then called Information Architecture. A lot of people see IA as the genesis of what eventually became User Experience. At the time, the company I was working for began to embrace the Internet–first for employee communications, then for commerce. I taught myself a little HTML, a little graphic design, and invented the Web Designer position at the bricks-and-mortar retailer where I was working. That experience became my first exposure to ecommerce, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
It was at an agency where I got to truly specialize in IA as a discipline, and that catapulted me into UX design.
Gilt represented the best of what the NYC tech scene had to offer, and even today people consider us to be the leader in the flash sales space, with great leadership and talent. It’s a very attractive place to work, and I have since come to learn that it’s the people that make working at Gilt so special. We’ve attracted the best and brightest from the area and beyond because of the strength of the brand and our leadership position. We’re a great place for super-smart, motivated people to work.
What was your first role here?
I joined the company in 2011 as a Principal UX Designer. In addition to leading UX strategy and design for my project team, I served as a team mentor and an evangelist for UX to the rest of organization.
In your two years here, how has UX at Gilt evolved?
Because of our heritage–flash, a sense of urgency, curation, the gamification of shopping, the thrill of the hunt–we traditionally emphasized simplicity, speed, and fun. If you think about trying to replicate an offline sample sale, I think we delivered on those tenets. We created an experience that allowed the products we offer to take center stage and be the stars. In addition to making it super easy and quick to shop, the UX has evolved to make the Gilt experience enjoyable and engaging, to strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics, and to help you find what you love while having a good time.
One of the biggest initiatives your team has worked on this year is Gilt Insider. Tell us about that.
From a customer experience standpoint, our high-level goals centered on a few basic questions: How can we attract, entice and engage customers? How can we incentivize them to spend more time on our site? And how can we inspire them to consider us over the competition, and differentiate ourselves from the competition? With these questions in mind, we created Gilt Insider, which made us the first flash sale site to offer a true points-based loyalty program.
Gilt Insider rewards our customers for all the ways they interact with the brand. Customers can earn points for purchasing items, referring friends, and even for just visiting the site. They can redeem their points to shop sales early, gain access to discounts and free shipping, attend exclusive events, and more.
What were some of the UX considerations that came into play when creating Insider?
Senior UX Designer David Park, who led the UX planning for Gilt Insider, thought a lot about all of our different customer touch points and where in the experience Insider fit best. He also considered how to bring the perks and benefits to life, which led to a beautifully designed Insider dashboard.
How does the UX team make decisions?
We rely on a combination of quantitative and qualitative information to help inform our design decisions: user research, data and analytics, along with our experience and instincts.
One of the things I love about UX design is that it isn’t an exact science, and that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer–just different, and perhaps better, ways to lead your user on the customer experience journey.
How do initiatives like Gilt Insider come to fruition?
As the product manager responsible for overseeing an initiative starts to flesh out the “Why,” he or she will lean on the UX team to determine the “How”: what it means for the customer experience, and what it might look like. The most successful Product Manager/UX Designer relationships are highly collaborative partnerships where each party has a strong sense of ownership.
What do you enjoy most about UX at Gilt?
I’ve definitely enjoyed the willingness to try things and take risks. Removing constraints, at least initially, frees up your thinking and lets you experiment. It’s also been a pleasure working alongside the caliber of developer talent that we have. Our engineers have the ability to deliver the fit and finish to the product that, while sometimes small in detail, matter greatly to the overall experience. Because our engineers are using the latest technologies, we’re able to bring to life ideas and experiences that might not otherwise be possible.
Does Gilt UX follow a particular set of guiding principles?
Yes–it’s something that I’ve been working on, though they’re more internally focused. We’ve discussed how these UX principles might roll up into larger experience pillars that perhaps could be public-facing–something akin to Google’s “Ten Things We Know To Be True,” or Facebook’s “Design Principles.”
Your team is looking for a senior-level UX designer. What sort of person would flourish here?
The kind of UX Designer who will be successful at Gilt is someone who isn’t content to just be told what to do. They’re very much about contributing ideas, suggesting new things, and pointing out the possibilities. It’s very much a partnership, because UX isn’t just about me drawing something up and telling the rest of the team to go do it. We feed off each other’s creativity to come up with the best ideas.
We’re looking to add someone who will help us continue to evangelize for and drive a customer-centric approach to design. We really see ourselves as the voice of the customer from an experience point of view.