How we designed a workflow management app that fights organizational chaos
The first rule of business processes states that if anything can go wrong with business processes, it will go wrong. Hardly exists a company that has never dealt with missed deadlines, stressed colleagues and unhappy customers.
Given that most processes recur, like employee onboarding, or writing
an article, they must be polished to perfection, right?
Wrong. Because chaos slams on the brakes of your processes, making them siloed and disorganized. You know exactly what is organizational chaos if
struggled to find a key document (since it was stored on a local desktop rather than in a collaborative repository);
were waiting from vacation the only employee who knew how something is supposed to be done;
had to deal with a mistake that someone made because they guessed, and guessed wrong.
Web App design
It makes sense to identify moments of ambiguity everywhere they happen and stamp them out from business processes, mercilessly. It’s a hard job to do, but in the SaaS era, nobody has to fight ambiguity alone.
So we need an app to organize our recurring processes. What about productivity tools?
We have dozens of beautiful apps for projects & tasks, like Asana, Notion, or Basecamp. The beauty of universal tools is their flexibility. But the downfall of universal tools is, again, their flexibility.
Given that anyone can use a tool in different ways, you end up having your team members using it in all different ways. As a result, you don’t promote clarity — you actually promote ambiguity.
What if you can map up all your workflows so that there is no ambiguity about what people have to do?
What if all your processes were online, interactive, so people can click on every step of the process and pull up all the associated proms and documents relevant to that step?
What if your team could have a single source of truth about how processes are rolling in the company, complemented with an intuitive way of searching for things?
With all that questions in mind, we designed a prototype of a workflow management tool created to clear up messy processes. The name of the tool is Process Place.
Designing a new product from scratch rarely goes linear. It's like taking a long car drive and believing all lights to be green. But as you start driving, various unexpected things happen. You make unplanned stops, you loop around looking for the right path, or even turn back to get around some obstacle.
But we all here love clarity, huh? So we roughly divided our complex design process into four progressive steps, presented below.
Any good design starts with research, so does ours. To dive into the work and decide on the set of features our future app needs, we analyzed the market of process management tools. What are competitors’ weak points that we can turn into our strong points?
Here we noticed one little thing. Apps that were intended to bring ease into business processes were not so easy to use.
An intuitive user interface can be our competitive advantage.
Competitors review insights
We wanted to align our solution with the challenges customers are facing. So, we went where the users were to watch, asked questions, listened to the answers, and visualized them via customer journey maps.
We figured out all the pain caused by messy workflows. Take an onboarding process — HR people hate walking through the same instructions with every new employee. They are getting annoyed answering identical questions all the time and collecting data manually from a dozen different sources.
We want our app to heal all those pain points.
Having all research done, we rolled our sleeves up, opened Figma and put together the bare bones of the app, a.k.a. wireframes. We brought all the features together, deciding on how elements are going to look like on a page and connect with each other to deliver a stellar user experience.
Having the structure done, now we want to add a visual layer to make the app fancy and usable.
Time to design some fancy-looking interface for our bare-bones wireframes. At this step, we made decisions about fonts, color schemes, brand assets, content layout and navigation pattern styles. And we did our best to make the interface intuitive — because the app was born to fight, not spread confusion in teams.
The final move is to bring together structure and visuals, and we’re ready to present the final product.
Process template is instruction. The work with the app starts with defining your process and creating such instruction that converts a process into a step-by-step guide.
Use one of our pre-designed process templates or create your own from scratch with a visual editor. Each step you can accomplish with instruction and relevant documentation in any format, be it a link, a picture, or a video.
Created once, a template will serve as a guide every time you need to run a process.
You can make process templates smarter by adding if-then logic. It allows us to create personalized checklist paths that vary based on actions that occur within the process.
Curious if newbies now need parking spots? Use conditional logic for your onboarding process to find out who gets to the office by car — and then skip or activate a parking onboarding branch automatically.
Processes get stuck waiting for approval, and reviewers spend more time searching for the piece than they do checking it out.
With Process Place, reviewers get a request automatically as soon as the task is marked ready and don’t even need to leave their email accounts to approve or reject any details.
Create a checklist on top of a template whenever it’s time to run a new process. Thus, you have a single onboarding template, but numerous onboarding checklists, one per employee.
Contributors get assigned for specific steps of a checklist and receive a welcome hit of dopamine for checking off boxes as their steps are completed. No chaos, no ambiguity. A manager tracks activity from the dashboard and gets notified when tasks are done.
If you need even more structure in your workflow, the app enables you to line up your processes into a bundle of processes and enhance their flow with conditional branching. The branch selection is done automatically, in real-time, based on pre-defined if-then rules.
Say, you’re running an employee probation period checklist. If that probation went well, it will trigger the next checklist, made for preparing an employment contract. Otherwise, you’ll be automatically directed to an offboarding checklist.
We faced a challenge to design an application able to bring clarity into the most chaotic business corners, and we did it.
The app should have had an interface so clear that no user had to guess what to do next, and we managed to make it obvious at a glance.
We did a great job dividing the primary and the secondary elements on each screen. As a result, at every moment, your gaze is directed to the field you’re supposed to fill or the button you’re supposed to click. Once you see an icon you know its purpose, because it’s written below.
An intuitive interface is a must for apps where big remote teams work together, and we consider the intuitive experience the main success of the Process Place’s design.