In 2017, I spent four months as a product design intern Workday. As an intern on the Payroll, Time Tracking and Absence team, I redesigned a core part of the “request time off” flow. With the support of my team, I was able to take lead on the project from research to tested prototype. The end result was three feature proposals that were informed by customer research – some of it ended up being built into the product.
During early research sessions we learned that recent graduates had difficulty finding information that would allow them to confidently request time off from work. The current flow on mobile solved the core goal (requesting time off from work), but lacked the utility that the desktop version had. On desktop, people could see total available hours broken down by plan. They could also see which teammates were planning to take time off. Besides these parity issues, mobile users had trouble –
- Finding the approval status of their time off request.
- Understanding the difference between their time off plans.
My design process started by communicating with the Product Manager, Designers, and Researchers on my team to understand the what, why, and who of this project. At a macro level, the end goal was to create parity across web and mobile surfaces, while introducing patterns from Workday’s revamped design system, Canvas. My immediate project focused on a specific part of the “request time off” flow, which was improving the available balances page. We chose to design for mobile because our target audience was recent graduates who typically do things on their phone while on the go.
Outside of this, I conducted a product audit, competitive analysis and customer interviews to further understand the nature of taking time off from work. This helped me generate a user workflow for my team to reference in the future.
After a collaborative ideation session with my team, I was able to hone in on designing the following components – Pending Request View, Time Off Plans View, Team Time Off Status.
We broke down the problem into specific user stories and I started exploring design decisions.
“As an employee, I need to know if my request has been approved, so that I can confidently take the time off from work.”
Essentially, we were designing for reassurance. In the current mobile experience, there was no persistent way to check the status of a submitted request. The main method of notification was through a Workday Inbox message or verbal confirmation, however, the system needed a non-ephemeral way of displaying pending requests. After multiple iterations, the final design utilized the card component from the Canvas design system. It surfaced the date of submitted request, approval status, plan used, and hours taken. A clear signifier allowed people to trigger the edit request flow. If multiple requests were submitted at once, then the user could simply swipe between them.
“As a first time requester, I need to know how my time off plans work, so I can use the appropriate one to request time off.”
The web version of time off showed available hours by plan, but the mobile version lacked this functionality. During research sessions, we noticed people frequently requested time off using the wrong plan. Knowing that you have 48 hours available is not useful if half of those hours can only be approved for medical emergencies.
The challenge designing this component centered around visualizing hours according to plan details. Some plans accrued hours over time, while others were static balances. Early designs featured progress bars; however, this design pattern was not scalable across the various use cases. We ultimately decided on two potential design treatments – a simple list and cards with icons. Additionally, we added microcopy to highlight use cases for each plan.
“As an employee considering taking time off from work, I need to know when my teammates will be out of office.”
The underlying user need here centered around awareness. During research, we learned that people who worked in teams valued knowing when teammates would be out of office because they could plan engagements around those absences. Additionally, people voiced they would take days off that were less popular because they were easier to get manager approval.
My original design centered around a calendar-like component that provided an at-a-glance look at people who would be taking time off. I prototyped it at a higher fidelity to better communicate the idea. Ultimately, we ended up scrapping this concept because people thought they could choose days to take off from this component. The final design was much simpler – when choosing dates to take off a lightweight list of people out office would appear.
My time at Workday taught me how to incorporate a user-centered design approach within the context of an agile product development process. In school, we’re taught a linear design process that focuses heavily on research and discovery; however, I quickly had to learn how to operate when resources are more limited. One of the most challenging parts of this project was understanding how to make tradeoffs between Desktop and Mobile versions of the product. Due to the limited screen real estate on Mobile, we had to ruthlessly prioritize the most important features to introduce. In conjunction, I also had to learn how to create and leverage existing design patterns from Workday’s design system, Canvas. Thanks to Kenny, Teresa, Sahar, and the risktakers for making my internship experience so great!