I've always had a habit of over-communicating. In fact, I think that's why I'm a UX designer. Over my progression from marketing, to graphic design, to web design, to front end dev and landing in UX, my takeaways would be the joy of explaining things visually and really being satisfied when things are understood. Actually, you could also go far the other side of that and say one of my greatest fears is being misunderstood.
I've always worked in small teams, small for be being very small startups. I'm talking 1-20 people, and even then maybe 8 of those people I communicated with on a daily basis. 6 months ago I joined a fantastic company of 35+ wonderful individuals in the interior design industry. A young, successful business, looking for a UX/UI designer to help them on their journey to redefine their product and continue to progress as a digital first product.
I'd be working on a brand new product team, as a UX team of one. I'd be working daily with every in house department, and by being the gate keeper to everything web; my communication would need to be excellent. I'd like to add here that the company and team I work with are fantastic pioneers of working freedom. While we might be expertly following processes to meet business needs, the company also encourages heavily the freedom to use any tools or methods that work best - I'm a huge advocate for this and it's one of the reasons I took the job.
I remember Dropbox Paper releasing the timeline feature. I wasn't aware too much of the product, having been using Google Drive for file storage, I'd convinced myself not to worry to much about Dropbox as a service. I think I saw the timeline feature and 'Paper' be mentioned on Twitter first. At the time I was trying various tools to communicate a simple projects next steps and all I had at my fingertips were overcomplicated project management roadmaps that no one was ever going to glance at and I was about an hour away from thinking "Ugh, I'll just design my own in Sketch" which would have taken more time than it needed to in order to get the message across.
I looked at Dropbox Paper and realised instantly that I could put not only my timeline in here, but I could drop the whole feature release notes and share this with the team. And then oh! Look! It integrates with InVision... I'll drop the prototype in h-Oh! Look, I can also put in GIFs and oh-the tables on here are amazing and OH-You get the idea.
I shared the document with the Product Manager who didn't mention anything about the feature release notes, but instead she asked "what's this made in?". And from then onwards, what I can only explain as a 'ripple effect' happened with Paper in the entire company.
As if that wasn't enough of a backstory, here are some of my take-aways:
Paper helped me to not worry too much about the structure or layout of a communication document. If anything, it encouraged me to write naturally. I've never had that with any other tool. That's not just me, either. In fact, internally we used to have pretty set structures on how documents were laid out in .docs - We had templates.
They weren't inspirational to read or write. When the value of Paper dripped out company wide, we threw away templated docs and encouraged employees to use whatever they liked and in whatever order they wished, as long as the information was clearly communicated. Comments on documents are non-intrusive and in turn look constructive and helpful instead of intrusive and frustrating.
.docs aren't creative. And although Paper helped me and the team move away from .docs as a communicator, I never really saw it as a replacement. It's something else. Feels like an extention to inspiration. Our Brand Manager used to use PSD files with basic designs in them in order to have his documentation understood in a creative environment. He doesn't do that anymore because the same feeling can be expressed in Paper.
Built by listeners
A couple of months ago I tweeted out at the team that a coloured highlighter tool would be useful - As the only choice for highlighted text was blue. Within an hour I had a tweet back from a member of the team (let me add here, not just a @TRB Support account, but a real team member with a real heart and real fingers). They wanted to know more about my use-case and I told them that I'd love to be able to highlight levels of importance, e.g green for easy, red for hard. And right now I couldn't do that. Well... I'm pleased to say I now can. The team listened and that feature now allows me to choose from 5 colours. It's a godsend to be listened to.
Do what you want
I'm also a musician. I arrange and compose. I do this in a little book and I do it at home. I'd not used Paper outside of work but when I needed to rearrange and transpose a song of mine, which was a pain in the ass because it had all been written down physically, I thought "Paper!". I snapped photos of my book, pulled it all apart, arranged by pages and started writing out new chord structures in the document. I even used the code tool to separate my chords from everything else. It was a dream!
I'm going to wrap it up here, at the risk of going on and on. People say ‘tools’ transform how they work, if it’s a good tool. But really, I’d say it’s extended what I already and naturally wanted to do. And by that example, individuals have followed suit. When you see an example of something done well, you want to follow it, it sets the bar of what’s achievable. Paper does that in a positive way. I was at a UX conference in London last week when the person sat next to me leaned over and said “your notes are beautiful”.