Category Archives: Design

Re-imagining Asana on the web: a design challege

Kasey Fleisher Hickey and Zöe Desroches

Asana designathon

Last week, we co-hosted our first in-house Designathon with technology VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz. Design students and interns from across the Bay Area gathered to tackle a unique design challenge: to design Asana as a platform across the web. The students were joined by Asana’s in-house designers who were on hand to offer ideas, mentorship, and guidance.

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A fresh take on mobile

Emily Kramer and Tyson Kallberg

Yesterday, we launched our new iOS app. When we set out to update our mobile apps months ago, we knew we had a big task in front of us. Despite great customer growth and our devotion to being a product-led company, our mobile apps lagged behind. Our new iOS app is just the first step towards tackling our biggest opportunity for growth, and represents a shift in both our mobile and overall product strategy and process. While it takes time to build a multi-platform product and company, we are excited that we have entered a new era for Asana. We’d like to give you an inside look at how we got to this point and where we are going with mobile.
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New project Views have arrived in Asana

Stephanie Hornung and Phips Peter

Today, we are changing the way completed tasks work and adding more project Views to Asana, as we mentioned in December. Completed tasks contain conversations, attachments, and notes that are essential to your team’s work and communication. Seeing completed tasks in-line with your upcoming work is often helpful, but sometimes you just want to see what’s left to do. Our new View options make it easy to see the tasks you want to see, when you want to see them.

Previously, completed tasks piled up at the top of your My Tasks list and Projects, completed tasks did not remain in Sections, and sorting across active, completed, and archived tasks was difficult. Now, you can customize your Views and organize your tasks (even if they have been completed) in more ways. For additional details on what’s changed and how this may affect your workflow, read our previous blog post.

Completed tasks main

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My experience as a Designer-in-Residence at Asana

Tyson Kallberg

Over the past year, we’ve partnered with the Designer Fund for Bridge, a program that connects experienced designers with top startups in San Francisco. For the most recent Bridge session, Asana welcomed Tyson Kallberg to our team as our second Designer-In-Residence.   

It was a crisp August night on a turf field in the Bayshore, and I’d just skinned my knee trying to keep a ball inbounds. I landed in San Francisco a few hours before and found myself playing offense on the Asana soccer team the night before my full day of on-site interviews at the office.

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The new collapsable left pane: Happier laptop users and a streamlined experience

Andrew Watterson and Alex Davies

Over the last few weeks, we’ve rolled out a new design for the left pane that makes always having just the right data on screen much more seamless. People using smaller screens can now focus and navigate much more easily, and now everyone has more ability to collapse the parts of the Asana interface they don’t need.
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Developing our design principles

Stephanie Hornung

A few years ago, we began creating Asana with the goal of improving the way teams work together, but exactly how this would manifest in the product design was unclear. This is how it should be — starting out and building a new product means a lot of iteration, trying new ideas, and moving quickly.

Why Now?
Since our product has grown in functionality and our vision has matured, we now feel it is appropriate to be more intentional in our design decisions. When you move fast and don’t consider every step, it can be easy to lose sight of your larger vision. And, as a company focused on teamwork and efficiency, it’s probably no surprise that we want to be as productive as possible in our design decisions. So, it’s now the right time for us to develop and implement a set of design principles.

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joining whiteboards

Bridging design worlds: My experience as a Designer-in-Residence at Asana

Vanessa Koch

As the world reimagines traditional education models, Designer Fund pioneers a new approach toward design education. Bridge connects experienced designers with top startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from an incredible community at Designer Fund while designing in residence at Asana.
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Our new blog design

Jim Renaud

As you might have noticed, earlier this month we launched a new blog design. This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Our blog is where we most directly express our personalities and values, so we wanted its design to be something we get excited about. Our other goals for the redesign were to make the blog more flexible, more readable, and better for commenting.

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The task pane, redesigned

Greg Slovacek, Rachel Miller, Cliff Chang, and Jennifer Nan

Asana’s task pane is where you go to manage the details of your tasks, and it is where most of the action in Asana happens. Today, we are happy to announce that we’ve given the task pane’s design a major upgrade.

The new design makes the task pane simpler, more elegant, and more delightful to use, without adding or removing any features. We’ll be rolling out the new design slowly, so you will see it in your Asana account sometime over the next few weeks.

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We are a product-led company

Andrew Watterson

I learned early in my career that on a healthy startup team, everyone needs to pull for all the many elements that make a company successful. Sort of.

On a small team, everyone works with everyone else: you have to care about and be able to communicate with every part of the business. So everyone: PMs, engineers, designers, the sales team, and marketing folks have to care about everything: shipping the product, maintainable code, a great user experience, and honing the business model. But each role has the one thing they’re more responsible for than anything else, so when push comes to shove, what are they quickest to compromise on? Sales people often care about a great user experience until it gets in the way of making deals quickly, and designers are sympathetic to the engineers’ architectural concerns until it threatens to delay their pet interaction.

How this plays out on a macro level across the organization can be a result of who’s in charge, or it can be a conscious decision about what the organization should value, appealing to the part of every startupper that values each of these things.

This leads to five different types of companies:

The Engineering-led Company
Above all, engineering might (even above a coherent product strategy.)
In this type, engineers are given free reign to work on whatever is fun for them, both because great code is ultimately what the company wants to produce, and because that kind of culture attracts other great engineers. Early Google was most famously this type of company: although they made a number of compelling products, many were engineered without central oversight, making it difficult to do things like standardize a design, integrate different products with each other, or roll out global features like multiple sign-on.

The Design-led Company
Great ideas know no constraints.
These teams value great design brainstorms over shipped, maintainable code. You most often see this type of thinking at design agencies: they have to prove their value to the companies that hire them by presenting radical, completely new ideas. They pursue questions like “what product would be most compelling?” blind to whether the necessary engineering cost and timeline would be as compelling.

The Ideology-led Company
Live free, or don’t ship.
This is the type of organization that characterizes the Free Software Movement. Companies like The Mozilla Foundation make product decisions based not on what is most pragmatic for their users, but rather what fits their immutable values. Firefox still doesn’t support playing the most popular format of web video (H.264) because of a philosophical aversion to the licensing conditions of that format.

The Sales-led Company
The customer is always right.
Strong sales are important to any business, but this type of company skews their product and strategy decisions based on feedback from their sales team. The sales team primarily communicates with executive customers making purchasing decisions rather than daily users of the product. Salesforce is this type of company – they have well-selling products with feature sets and complexity (in the name of customizability) that appeal to those making buying decisions, but not the ultimate users.

The Product-led Company
Balance in all things.
I started this post talking about this type of company: where the rubric for decisions is based on people in every role stepping back and understanding how to best make a product that makes their users happy and productive, generates revenue, and ships.

Where does Asana land?

At Asana, we seek to balance our roles to create a superlative product for our friends, collaborators, and the world. It’s not that we don’t value fun engineering problems – our Luna framework performs tremendous feats behind the scenes to make development of user-facing features both faster and more consistently polished.

It’s not that we don’t value our business, but investing in a large sales team is only a Plan B for us. We believe that a great product aided by just the right amount of compelling marketing and sales touch can gain the financial momentum we need to keep growing.

It’s not that we don’t value our values – we go out of our way to articulate these on our jobs page, our blog, and on Quora. Our first principle, however, is pragmatism – the understanding that we must be sure to reflect on how well our most cherished processes have stood up to time: do they still support our goal of growing a superlative product that makes our customers more productive?

And it’s certainly not that we don’t value great design ideas – we’ve been devoting more resources than ever to growing our design team and thinking critically about our major design directives: Are we the command center for your work life? Are we accessible to those without a Master’s degree in task management? Do we reflect the humanity of your teammates as well as a tech product should?

We write code, design new UIs, grow our business, and hold to our principles for the purpose of enabling people to do great things. And that doesn’t happen without shipping. You won’t find our engineering team going off in a thousand different directions, our design team digging its heels in for something beautiful but infeasible, or our business team telling us to rewrite the entire product to make a mid-sized deal happen. Each of us does different work here at Asana, but no matter the role it’s in service of shipping a great product.