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Aug. 16, 2019

Designing for a Global Audience

Flexport

In pursuit of making global trade easy and accessible for everyone, Flexport puts user experience front and center. Knowing that one size does not fit all when it comes to user experience, Flexport built a research and design team committed to the task of understanding the needs of global audiences and translating them into effective, meaningful product experiences.

Rooted in the principles of design thinking, the Flexport research and design philosophy relies heavily on understanding user motivations through observation, developing solutions, and iterating to evolve good ideas into powerful tools that drive global trade. Flexport recently hired a new chief technology officer (CTO), James Chen, to take the helm of Flexport’s product and technology organization. “Flexport is committed to a balanced equation when it comes to form and function,” says Chen. “My team knows that the smartest feature set is nothing if it’s not something that users can easily pick up and find useful.”

Putting Observation Into Practice

To help ensure Flexport’s internal operations teams have the right tools and understanding of user needs worldwide, design, engineering, and product teams travel across North America and to Europe and Asia several times per year. Their mission: to meet on-site with internal operations users, consignees, and shippers to understand how they interact with our platform. The insights generated from these research trips, in turn, inform the user experience of Flexport’s products.

“Upfront user research is a critical part of our process at Flexport because designing for global trade requires deep domain knowledge," says Suzanne Ginsburg, Head of Design at Flexport. “Within their first two weeks at Flexport, every research and design team member is given an opportunity to engage with our users firsthand.”

For instance, Flexport Senior Product Designer Stephanie Snipes and her team traveled to Asia recently to research user experiences around booking inventory for shipments. The team learned that several Flexport users previously used printed copies of data to keep track of their inventory — something that limited visibility into how much of their inventory was available. Providing operations staff with greater visibility into inventory levels would allow them to quickly identify opportunities for inventory optimization, ultimately fulfilling customer shipments more efficiently.

The Flexport team of researchers and designers worked in close collaboration with the operations team to uncover user requirements for the digital tool. After working through prototypes, the product team was able to deliver an intuitive inventory tracking tool that saves time and allows for higher levels of customer service.

Committed to the Design Community

The Flexport team’s commitment to design isn’t limited to products, customers, and internal teams. The organization takes an active role in developing communities of design across Flexport’s global offices. Recently, the team hosted a panel conversation titled "Designing for a Global Audience" for San Francisco Design Week — a week-long festival focused on the power of design. During the conversation, moderated by Silvia Vergani, Head of Research at Flexport, researchers and designers shared what they've learned over the course of their careers. From designing products that build on familiar experiences to the importance of cultural awareness when building a company’s global footprint, the panelists shed light on the challenges product teams must take into account. Comprised of design leaders from across the Bay Area, participants included:

  • Elaine Fong, Director of Design & Innovation at Blue Bottle Coffee
  • Sindhuja Jeyabal, CTO and co-founder at Dost Education
  • Stacey Baradit, Product Manager and UX Strategist
  • Yuri Choi, User Researcher at Uber

Presented to a sold-out audience, the panel discussed anecdotes from international design projects, brand building, and bridging the gaps between familiar and digital experiences.

As Flexport continues to shape the future of global trade, the design of the tools and products that support that endeavor will continue to evolve.

Visit the careers site to learn more about opportunities to join Flexport’s growing team.

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