Design Systems & UX: Samba Insights Platform

Olivier Wellmann / Marc Bourget / Chris Squire / Roseda Lo
User Research / User Interaction / Design Systems / Usability
Tools used
FIgma ProtoPie Marvel
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The Platform was the company’s opportunity to transform its entire operation:

On the revenue side, move the company from punctual to recurring revenue.
On the product side, transform a service business into a self-serve business.
On the service side, transform client relations into full-fledged partnerships.
On the design side, it meant rethinking the entire customer journey and creating the first self-serve interface between our clients, our data, and our services.

After spending months on the field doing generative research, interviewing executives, directors, account managers and data analysts in the media and advertising industries, from agencies, DTC brands and Fortune 500 companies, the core group of product, design and client success established a vision for a self-serve platform manned by our clients and supported by our client success teams. To be successful and adopted by our clients, we needed the platform to hit these pain points:

  • Inserting itself into people's current workflows instead of replacing them.
  • Surfacing the most important insights and removing ambiguity in the data
  • Being flexible and adaptable to the needs of users across different levels of the company
  • Making our teams easily available to help collaborate and harness the power and complexity of the apps
  • Making the insights easy to share and actionable

On the technical side, this meant building from the ground up an entire platform dedicated to data visualization and manipulation on the design and the engineering side and doing so under heavy time constraints. To do so, we knew from the get-go we needed to align our design vision with engineering constraints and capabilities: making sure both sides work in lockstep, understanding their respective challenges, processes, and opportunities.

To help design and engineering speak the same language and move as fast as possible, we came together to build the first company-wide design system. Based on React, on the Ant framework, and customized to the company brand, the design system comprises 2000+ components and 90+ data visualization, all documented in Figma and built on React.

The conscious choice of moving design builds to Figma helped us break the barriers between design and engineering. Figma gave designers the tools to think like engineers: variant components, auto layouts, responsive grids, and components helped designers think about their output through the lens of engineering, meanwhile, for engineers, the prototyping, inspect tools, and design libraries enabled them to build the screens faster with lesser design input.

Most importantly, the universal design system allowed us to quickly present prototypes that felt as close to reality as possible, making them feel real to our clients, to leadership. Prototypes that felt like the real thing allowed us to gain sharper feedback and stronger excitement about the direction of the products.

The goal of the Platform and its apps is to provide users with the means to make important decisions confidently. We built that confidence on five levels:

  • The familiarity and ease of use
  • The clarity of the data and insights
  • The flexibility and adaptability of the Platform
  • The fostering of collaboration and discussions on the Platform itself
  • The ability to make these insights actionable

 In addition to the rolling out of the design system, we templatized and standardized layouts that we reused on all apps and dashboards to ensure that users could easily handle new apps. Menus, filters, actions, context options follow the same layout across the apps to help curb the users’ learning curve. 

Design Systems & UX: Samba Insights Platform

One of our takeaways from our research is that the advertising industry cares about the same ideas - deduplicated reach, frequency, and conversion at a high level. However, how they want it delivered, displayed, and visualized varies wildly, depending on your role, industry, and company.

Instead of trying to figure out elusive one-size-fit-all layouts, we designed the Platform to accommodate the flexibility: users can add specific visualization they need, switch between charts and data tables, change the hierarchy of visualization, and build the experience they need themselves instead of shoehorning their needs into a fixed dashboard.

The Platform is designed to fit into the user's workflow rather than the opposite:  information surfaces when the user needs it, via live feeds and alerts, or when he requests it by diving into dashboards. In either case, we make sure that the information is as clear as possible, through standardized data representation, tooltips and help tools, and and we make it directly actionable.

Ultimately, decisions are never made alone, and we designed the Platform to foster collaboration. Instead of going through threads of emails, we are building the Platform to make conversations happen:

  • Users can comment on charts.
  • Projects have conversations attached to them.
  • Communication with their account manager is built on every screen.

Moving these conversations from disparate email threads to the platform improved the service and the user experience in so many ways: 

  • Transparency and information symmetry between users.
  • Shared clarity between users.
  • Improved communication between clients and account managers with reduced response time.
  • Built-in engagement within the platform.

The brightest designer I've ever worked with. Julien is a master in user experience, visual design, understands product management, roadmaps, vision: he has improved every part of the client journey better, from the moment they have heard about us to the moment they are using our products. I always enjoyed working with Julien: he is very easy to work with, makes sure everyone is aligned, tries his best to understand everyone's point of view, and takes feedback without ego. I've been lucky to work with him for the past seven years, and I can't wait to see what comes next for him.
Chris Squire
Senior Vice-president, Data Products, Samba TV