How Allegion turns users into fans with its unique approach to UX design

Image of a city.

The Design at Allegion site features illustrations animated with Adobe XD. Images courtesy of Allegion plc.

by Scott Kiekbusch

posted on 08-12-2020

Creating a consistent and cohesive user experience is no easy feat for any organization, but helping a global company with 11,000+ employees and a 100-year legacy transform into a user-first design powerhouse is a completely different task altogether. Security company Allegion has a global portfolio of more than 30 brands and sells products – both software and hardware that help keep people safe – in more than 130 countries.

Our mission, as a human-centered design team, is to transform users into fans. We achieve this via a user-centric approach that requires understanding and documenting user needs. We then create software that fulfills those needs – and delights at the same time. While mobile is definitely important, our team focuses on context-first, rather than mobile-first. By analyzing the context in which a user interacts with the software, we understand the device being used. If the software is only being used on a desktop computer, we don’t need to consider the mobile experience, but when people use our app, phone in hand, while they’re inspecting a facility, the mobile experience becomes critical. It’s all about context for us.

From UI/UX to digital product design

At Allegion, the Digital Product Design team has three key objectives. The first one is to provide awareness around the various roles and responsibilities of the team. For example, when I joined, we were known as the UI/UX team, but have since rebranded as the Digital Product Design team because the term UX often causes confusion. User experience can have many different meanings from research and preparing user flows to copywriting and coding interfaces, so it’s often unclear what is expected. Each team member now has a specific role: UI designer, interaction designer, or design researcher. Let’s take a quick look at these roles:

The second objective of the Digital Product Design team is to standardize the delivery process across a variety of digital product teams. This includes making sure that the right design resources are involved at the right time – from initial discovery to delivery.

The third objective is much more tactical, the implementation of our design system, internally referred to as Phoenix. Phoenix contains a series of styles, components, and guidelines for all of our digital products. Our design system needs to take into account our 30 global brands, each with their own value proposition and product offerings, and requires us to think about multiple brand identities, platforms, and languages all at the same time – an extremely complicated endeavor.

Switching to XD and rebuilding the design system

Our design system was originally built in a non-Adobe platform. When we made the switch to Adobe XD, we decided to rebuild our component library to take advantage of those features that are unique to XD and would allow us to scale more effectively. An example of this is component states, which provided us the capability to alter the appearance of our components based on user interaction. We’re now at the point of scaling that design system to include assets from marketing – landing pages, emails, imagery, and illustrations.

The Phoenix team collaborates with developers every step of the way to ensure the design system is not just a designer’s sticker sheet, but actual code that can be shared and implemented across several applications and websites. The UI designers collaborate very closely with the front-end developers, who work across product teams, to build out specific components. They then share those components directly from XD to their development partners, responsible for the coding and final delivery of the products.

In Adobe XD, you can continue to iterate on the designs without affecting what has previously been shared, which is incredibly valuable. In previous platforms we’d used, if a designer shared a link with a development partner, then went back into the design and made adjustments, those changes would be immediately visible and often caused unnecessary confusion for our development partners. XD provides us the ability to control when we publish, so we can decide when we are at a point where we’re ready to share with our partners.

Collection of documents and guidelines included in Allegion plc's Phoenix design system.

Project Phoenix is Allegion’s first company-wide design system.

Delivering better products through close collaboration

It is very important that my design team trusts each other and that we know that the feedback we’re providing and receiving is always in good faith and focused on product improvements. Trust is not only important within the design team, but also extends to the product teams with whom we collaborate. When there is trust in that relationship, the team excels, by delivering better products, and working better together. Fostering trust within the team has become my main goal in leading a strong, highly effective team.

In the end, design is part of the three-legged stool: product, development, and design. The design leg of the stool tends to be focused on our users’ needs, which ensures the product provides value. I always encourage my team to ask questions like, “Why are we building this?” and “What are the problems we are trying to solve?” It’s important to remember that delivering a great user experience is not just the job of the designer. User experience design is a practice; all members of the team are responsible for it, and you get the best results by building trust within the team. When we work together, we deliver the best possible outcomes – not just for our clients, but for each other as teammates, working together harmoniously for a common goal. In the end, it’s about creating products that are valuable both to the business and end-users, and that meet our core objective of turning users into fans.

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