Designing For Ease: The Softcom Way
May 16, 2022·
6 min read
Softcom exists to provide answers to the daily problems faced by people and businesses in three areas: money, selling and knowing. Our goal is to, through our products, provide the best solutions to these problems, and our problem-solving philosophy - the Softcom Way - is how we bring this goal to life.
In this article, Habeeb Sanni, our Product Design Lead talks about our design philosophy at Softcom and how we solve problems the Softcom Way.
Design At X
I joined Softcom about two years ago, just around the time when we were pivoting to focus on building growth tools for everyday people and businesses. It’s been quite an adventurous journey because our design processes have evolved along with us and that, in itself, has been a learning experience. We’ve evolved into a new model of delivering innovation and this has redefined how we validate our problem statements, design solutions and deliver finished products.
Today, our design philosophy rests on three things: intention, clarity & delightfulness. These are the things that define success for us when we design a product or feature alongside Softcom’s problem-solving philosophy: to understand, solve and deliver.
Intention goes hand-in-hand with the understanding phase. We ensure our people are fully aware of the problem being solved and the goal behind it. It is also at this phase that we make sure we prioritize the user, thus enabling everyone to take a more purposeful approach towards execution.
Clarity comes into play when we’re solving. Running one’s life and business can be tough, especially in these climes, so in providing solutions, it is important to us that our products are self-evident. To achieve this, we design for simplicity, ease of use and connectedness so that the user can focus on what matters: growing their business and in turn, their life.
Delightfulness is key to our project delivery. We want users to be able to interact with a Softcom product and find answers in it. Answers can be in the form of a simplified business process, knowledge or a community. Whatever it is, we want to deliver a delightful experience that is worthy of recommendation and translates to business growth.
Solving For Simplicity Through Design Overall, we have the belief that less is more. When we design, we put as few elements as possible on an interface but aim to make them so detailed that users can come away with something new from every interaction.
Messaging within our products is as important as design. We want users to know and understand that every step they make in our product has resulted in some form of progress. This is why, in Eyowo, we have “You’re one step closer to reaching your savings goal”, as opposed to “you’ve credited your safe” and “You’re X Naira richer” when a user receives money. Our core goal at Softcom is to enable growth for individuals and businesses and we want them to have a sense of this growth at every step of the way. We’re currently working on making these messages customisable, so everyone has a personalized experience using these products.
These might seem like little things but they go a long way in improving the experience for our users.
Delivering Interconnected Solutions For Growth
We’ve evolved as a company and it was important for our website to evolve with us and reflect who we are now. A huge part of the project was designing for interconnectedness.
Softcom is the umbrella company for five products that function as an ecosystem, so it was important to us to achieve that feel of an ecosystem when people travel through the products. We achieved this by ‘componentizing’ the entire design; we looked ahead and identified what components we’d need and prepared them ahead of time. It’s much easier to design when you’re not building. It’s sort of like building with Lego™: some components are key elements of every design, they just need to be redesigned to fit particular use cases.
The website is one of the channels through which we present this ecosystem we have built to our users.
I’d like to mention that the interconnectedness we promise our users starts from within. All our teams work together in a connected manner to define projects and execute them.
We begin every project with an initial gathering session, where we get all stakeholders to table their expectations and ascertain responsibilities and set timelines. After this, we have a secondary gathering session within the team where we determine our approach and distribute efforts.
The key to success in working like this is to loop stakeholders in as early as possible and share updates as often as possible. After initial work is done, we share prototypes with our collaborators to see if what we’ve done is satisfactory and determine next steps. This stage calls for a lot of flexibility and open-mindedness because many collaborators usually means there will be many iterations of a project. We continue on in this collaborative manner till we achieve delivery and every stakeholder is left satisfied and more importantly, delighted.
Finding Joy In Innovation
I’ve really enjoyed leading the design process for our products, each for a different reason. I like the fact that Useforms is simple. The interface is direct and straightforward. New users don’t require intensive onboarding because everything is right there. In terms of connectedness, my favourite would have to be Kwiksell. It’s a product that is many things at once - a payment system for retailers, an inventory management tool and an online storefront - and we were able to maintain a consistent feel across all these functionalities and that’s something I’m very proud of. Kudos to the lead designer for Kwiksell, Jeremiah Righteous, who played a huge role in ensuring that it came out the way it did.
Our goal at Softcom is to provide the best solutions to problems, and our problem-solving philosophy - to understand, solve and deliver - is how we bring them to life. This series focuses on how our people use this philosophy to guide their everyday work at Softcom.