- iOS Design
What does a mobile product designer do at Canva?
The role has changed a fair bit over time, and it’s still changing. That’s the great and challenging thing about joining such a fast growing company. Before we launched the iPhone app for example, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to condense Canva into a mobile device and which features would make it into the MVP.
The chapter we’re in now is about gathering as much data as we can about how people are using the app, then identifying areas where we can better fulfil their needs. The basic features are built and now we’re optimising them and working towards feature parity with the web app. We’re working more and more with other teams, whether that’s our internal Experiments team running mobile growth experiments or building a Canva-wide design system together with our web and Android teams.
My role is incredibly diverse and I work closely with our mobile product manager to prioritise the tasks that are most important. I love the variety of the role, but it will also be interesting to specialise more as the team grows. Currently I’m doing everything from UX Research to UI and visual design – one day I might be building a prototype, and the next I’ll be interviewing customers.
Customer feedback is very important for us in the iOS team. We look at customer reviews, in-app feedback and gather plenty of other data. Sometimes what users ask for isn’t always the best solution though, of course. It’s like the famous analogy of someone asking for a faster horse because the car hasn’t been invented yet. If you want to innovate, you have to look more deeply at the root causes for user frustrations, because otherwise you’re just being reactive. So the projects we decide undertake come from a combination of user feedback and our own business goals.
I work very closely with the engineers on the iOS team and try to get them involved as early as I can, sharing very lo-fi sketches and user research and getting their feedback and suggestions. At the end of the day they will be the ones building it, so I need inspire them and get buy-in from them.
What technologies do you use as a mobile product designer at Canva?
The tools we’re using are fairly standard, and a lot of designers have their own preferences for tools. We’re all encouraged to use pen and paper in the early stages of any project. Starting at a low fidelity keeps you focused on the problem you’re solving, and allows you to explore a range of different ideas very quickly. When it comes to software, it’s predominantly Sketch. I started using Sketch about 6 months before I joined Canva, then did a small workshop when I got here and now the whole design team is using it. Some designers will prototype in code if they have that experience, others use tools like InVision and Principle. The tools we use vary depending on the project. Quick and dirty prototypes are almost always best in my opinion – do just enough to validate, test and communicate your ideas, then move on.
What do you find most interesting about your job? What do you find most challenging?
Canva is already very simple to use, but on mobile we’re making it even simpler. The inner minimalist in me loves that. I get just as excited about taking features out as putting them in. One of our design principles at Canva is “great defaults” – we want our customers to achieve amazing results out of the box, without having to use too many settings or tools. On the other hand, we want that creative freedom to be there for people who are excited to customise their designs more.
In terms of challenges, the role is very diverse so you have to be good with context switching and juggling multiple things at once. Of course we’re constantly improving the app, so you have to be OK with the fact that your work is never done! By the time you’ve passed a feature on to an engineer and it’s shipping, you’ve often already planned the next version. We have ambitious goals and every time we hit them we expand the set. As we build out features that are in the web app, we have to think inventively and translate patterns into a mobile optimised experience.
How would you describe the culture of the iOS team and the product design team at Canva?
The iOS team is very fun and social, we have regular team events like escape rooms, bowling, laser tag, dinners and breakfasts. I think we’re very open and inclusive as a group.
I do work a lot with the product design team and other designers, but that’s often proactively organised – the main part of my day is spent with the iOS team. That said, it’s important to be part of the larger design ecosystem at Canva, because a lot of product innovations will start with other teams, especially the web app. So I like to be involved in the larger design discussions and ideation happening in the company, as well as our regular ‘Design Salon’ meetings .
Why is Canva a good place to be a product designer?
We’re growing quickly but the team is still relatively small, so as a designer you’ll be able to have an instant impact on the product that you’re working on. You’re encouraged to work hard, but the job description and office hours are very flexible. If I’m ever feeling a bit cloudy for example I’ll just get up and have a run. Then there’s the overall cultural benefits of Canva of course – the meals, the office atmosphere and everything the Vibe team does for us from events to amenities.
There are so many cool projects coming up and increasingly there may be opportunities to lead innovation from within the mobile team. So far there’s been a lot of catching up to the web app, but mobile has a lot of unique features which could lead to some very interesting directions for Canva.
What skills or attributes are you looking for when hiring mobile product designers at Canva?
We’re definitely looking for people who are passionate about their craft. On the one hand you have to strive for perfection, but on the other hand you can’t be a perfectionist. You have to keep the big picture in mind, create a great overall product and know when to let go of perfecting individual features first time. Ship quality, ship quickly, and be OK with design as a constant process of reinvention and iteration!
To be effective at Canva you need to be quite proactive, you can’t sit around and wait for things to get done. You need to be able to manage your time well so you can juggle multiple things effectively. Clear communication within the team and between teams is very important, so someone who speaks up, is collaborative and open to new suggestions is going to get more done. You have to be open and eager to learn, there’s always so much happening that you can never sit back and believe you’ve mastered your game. There’s always a better way or a better tool, and there’s no template for what we’re doing. The vision for the product is very ambitious.
I’d love to work with someone who has a real passion for mobile, and is very in touch with the mobile space – also someone who understands Canva’s mission and is eager to get in and get their hands dirty.