My name is Julien, I work as a Senior Product Designer for GoCompare, and I’m the product of my own experiences. Here is one of them.
When I first decided that moving to the UK was the right thing to do I didn’t really have an idea of how I was going to make it work.
There was no job waiting for me in London, my savings were only enough to live on for a few months, my parents were more than sceptical about this crazy idea, and after fifteen years of being taught English at school I was nowhere confident in my capacity at speaking another language than French.
Somehow I trusted something to guarantee me that it was going to be just fine, and so I made a move that made a dramatically positive impact on my life.
But I could have easily stayed home and never live this experience. If I had told myself that in order to succeed my expatriation project I should first, get a job as a web developer in a creative agency just before I ran out of savings, a few years later separate from my girl-friend I was doing the move with, to then become a freelance digital designer and illustrator, which freed up time for me to travel to Greece where I would meet my future wife, then move with her to Wales, get married and have a little girl together.
These are pretty high expectations, and there would have freaked me out, and probably freaked out my girlfriend who would have then left me. And I needed her badly, as she was the one speaking English, and I couldn’t face doing such a move by myself. Then I had a university friend who after spending a year working of small jobs in London with his girlfriend, gave me a reassuring example that it was possible and not that crazy at all.
So we kept it simple. I sold my car, we sold most of our furnitures, I quit my job, I freaked out my family on the way, and we jumped in an Eurostar from Avignon to London St Pancras in September 2006. The rest just happened.
So we kept it simple” is all that matters here. Unfortunately, many great ideas, intentions, dreams, fall into the trap of raising the expectations too quickly. The problem is that when we really believe in an idea, we’re also eager for it to be great, get the best possible execution, and receive the most praise, quickly. And in my experience that’s a recipe not for failure, but worst, for doing nothing.
Lately a large part of my role as a senior product designer at GoCompare has been dedicated to put together a design system to speed up the implementation of anything that needs to be engineered, so the product vision could be achieved, in time. In a nutshell a design system is the one source of truth to provide reusable UI components for all your applications, with both design and engineering feeding into it.
Last year GoCompare went through a rebranding exercise and I was responsible to ensure that by the 24th of July 2017, the GoCompare website and the multiple product journeys would reflect the new brand. One key part of this was to swap the old logo for the new one. This was a pretty easy technical task, of swapping a logo asset for another with some styling update. But because the codebase for the logo was spread out across the website and multiple products, we had to multiply the effort required, and instead of doing it once, do it as many times as necessary, with simultaneous releases. It took a total of around 30 man days to perform this simple task globally.
The logo would have been integrated within a design system, and used as a global reusable component across the website and multiple GoCompare products, performing the change would have required one single code change, testing and deployment — which would have taken around 3 man days, or a 90% reduction of engineering time.
I was convinced it was a good idea, a no-brainer to implement a design system at GoCompare. Likewise I was convinced it was a good idea, a no-brainer for my personal development to move to the UK.
In both case, there was no textbook or method to guarantee it will succeed, but I followed a similar approach to focus first on building up the simplest process of an emerging system, rather than the fully featured vision. With the aim that this system will then grow iteratively through relationships and interconnections, enabling the more complicated features to take place.
I’ve iterated this same approach to a variety of things I’ve achieved over the last twelve years. Expatriation, freelancing, creating daily illustrations, and embedding UX within digital products. All those achievements required disruption of traditional models, habits, to enable new ideas to happen.
I’m going to share how I’ve consolidated my approach to these experiences into a simple system that anyone could apply to anything to make ideas simply happen.
But before I dive into my simple system, here is how I turned a dream into reality.