Women in UX: Miriam Isaac about designing for complex SaaS products
Women in UX

Published on April 27, 2022

Women in UX: Miriam Isaac about designing for complex SaaS products

Today we are talking to amazing Miriam Isaac, a Product Designer at Salto and a UX mentor for young women within the religious community. Read along this article where she shares her go-to tips for creating complex SaaS products that are also easy to use!

Starting off in graphic/web design, after a couple of years, Miriam transitioned into what we now refer to as UX Design. She has a particular interest in mentoring and empowering young women within the religious community, who are looking to enter UX design.

When Miriam isn’t busy solving UX problems, she loves spending time with her family and her 4 children on the beach or you can find her listening to the latest debunking podcasts or on Amazon browsing for her next read 🙂 

women in ux: Miriam Isaac

What is your favorite part about being a product designer? 

I, honestly, love all parts of being a product designer. I love how versatile the work can be. On the one hand, you get to work with others, interview users, collaborate and brainstorm with other stakeholders. On the other hand, you get a lot of time to do deep solo work. Like creating UI screens, working on design-system components or drawing up wireframes. I would say it’s a great blend for those who like working with others but also need some downtime.

What is your best advice for successfully managing a big team of people?

I haven’t managed people for some time, but I would say, delegate. This can be really difficult for designers going from IC (Individual Contributor) to manager. An example could be, when giving feedback to a team member it can be so easy to think ‘Oh, if only I could design this myself…’ However, the key to effectively building a great design team, is to delegate, empower and trust your team 🙂

What podcast are you currently listening to? Are there any UX/design podcasts that you can recommend to our readers?

Maintenance Phase. It’s not a UX podcast, it’s about debunking the science behind health fads. The hosts are just hilarious and I look forward to it every week!

In terms of UX/Design podcasts, I would recommend the UX podcast, yes that’s the title 🙂 UI breakfast and the Crazy One by Stephen Gates. I know it’s a little bit older now but High Resolution (its a podcast and youtube series) was excellent. 

On your LinkedIn profile you mention using a special formula for your workflow, can you tell us a bit more about that? What are the main steps you take to deliver effective results?

Oh that’s so funny! I wrote that quite a few years ago, when I felt my design process was so unique! But, yes, it’s the now winning combination of taking the time to interview users and reviewing other qualitative data like, customer service tickets, survey answers, social media posts, etc. Plus, conducting quantitative data research like, viewing heatmaps, google analytics and website metrics. Lastly doing stakeholder interviews before doing any actual design work.

I always found doing this process leads to a far better product. 

Mentorship

women in ux: Miriam Isaac

What brought you into mentoring? When did you discover it to be your passion?

I first started mentoring, in a professional role, as a design manager. At the time, you could not find UX designers at all, as it was all so new! So I would hire regular graphic designers with web design skills and train them into UX designers on the job.

After I left that role, I started creating UX content online and would receive messages from designers all over the world. I found it very enjoyable to meet such a lovely group of like-minded people, and helping the ones with less experience as I could.

It really is an honor to give back to such a special community. I feel very grateful that my experience allows me to help many others. 

You mention that you are particularly mentoring women within the religious community, how did you decide on that specific target group?

So, I didn’t! I really feel like I fell into it!

The story goes like this. Religious Jewish Women from all over the world would find my Instagram and would be pleasantly surprised to see a religious woman ‘rocking’ the UX world! (Their words not mine 🙂 Then they would reach out and their questions were, let’s say, niche specific, to the challenges a religious woman faces in hi-tech. These women would continue to come to me with questions or for advice. Also sending other religious women who were interested in UX to speak to me too. 

Happy to say that some of these relationships turned into great friendships along the way and I couldn’t be prouder of what these strong women had achieved!

What does the process of your mentorship look like? What do you usually start with?

So there are two ways for someone to become a mentee of mine.

Either it’s my students who take my UX course, specially designed for Religious Jewish Women. Once they’ve graduated, our relationship will naturally transition into a mentorship as she starts working in the field.

Alternatively, others will reach out for a portfolio review. (These I do for free) Or for a client project (these I charge for) and then the relationship will continue from thereon after. 

SaaS design

women in ux: Miriam Isaac

Photo credit – Lisa Rich.

Are there any common design issues that you notice in modern SaaS products?

What I do find interesting in SaaS, is how nowadays, customers expect these applications to perform with the same ease as mobile apps. As simple as say, ordering a taxi on Uber. Or as sending a message on Whatsapp. The main issue is that SaaS platforms are created to deliver far higher value and solve far more complex problems.

To expound, the main challenge a designer faces is that users want power, features, and enough options to handle all of their needs. On the other hand, users also want simplicity. They don’t have time, or simply don’t want, to learn non-intuitive software or have to refer to a manual to achieve the results they want. 

This is a very interesting challenge and I really enjoy the problem of how to reduce complexity yet deliver incredibly high value. 

What are some current SaaS design trends that you are most excited about?

There aren’t that many trends in the SaaS world!

I see design trends explored more on marketing landing pages of a SaaS startup or company. I think this is because a SaaS platform can be so overwhelming in terms of all the different features, options and components that can exist on one single screen. Therefore applying, let’s say a mesh gradient on a SaaS platform, would be far too distracting for the user. The goal is to create a platform that looks and feels like modern-day software.

So less Windows 7 and more MacOS 12 🙂 

Considering that every single SaaS product is unique, does the design process vary greatly every time or is it pretty much the same?

The design process itself does not differ. The solutions to the problem at hand, though, will.

Design Systems

design system

What tool do you prefer for creating the design systems for your projects?

Figma, hands down! 

Except for the basic elements and components, what else should be included in the design systems?

The most important part of a design system is to create a consistent language across all applications. We still haven’t achieved standardization across the UX industry. This can create confusion within a product development team.

At the very least, we need to ensure on our own micro-levels, we create consistent naming and terms for components used across an application.

What are your favorite examples of great design systems?

Definitely Google material design. I think the breadth and depth of it is amazing. I will always refer to it when creating a design-system.

What I would like to add is that I do think it’s far more beneficial for designers to look at more technical design systems, like Ant-Design, Tailwind and Chakra UI, as opposed to looking at other company’s design systems, like Adobe Spectrum or IBM’s Carbon. This is because sometimes these systems can be bloated and too specific to the company’s needs. 

How to ensure the maintenance of the design system? Is there a special person who takes care of all the updates?

This is a great question. I was working as the only designer in Salto for quite some time (Don’t worry, we recently hired 2 more designers!). I saw first-hand how difficult it can be to maintain a design system and build out new features with only one designer on a team.

I would advise, once a platform begins to gain traction and the company begins to enter the cycle of creating user-feedback driven updates and features, you need to have someone who dedicates a good amount of time each month to upkeep a design system. 

Do you think a design system is an important part of every project or is it a step you can skip for example, as a small startup?

For any start up that is creating a SaaS platform, and wants to scale, it’s undeniably vital. 

Do you have a go-to advice on creating a design system? How to make sure it really represents the brand and it’s voice? Are there any important things to keep in mind?

My main go-to is to get started as soon as possible. As soon as you have an agreed upon UI style, that is the time to begin building out the design system. Also, partner with a developer from day 1, that is non-negotiable!

What is your message to other people in the UX industry?

My message to others in the UX industry is that I think you are all super amazing and doing incredibly well! Anyone in the industry should not be doubting themselves or their skill set.

We’ve established this new industry in such an incredibly short time and not only that but we are the first art and design vertical with the foundations of a user-centric approach! This is huge if we look back on how other verticals or subjects are taught traditionally in art school.

We are doing a fabulous job in decentralizing and democratizing the field of User Experience Design, with all our mentorship programs, low-cost courses and consistently sharing our knowledge with the wider community on social media.

Keep going and Keep UXing! 

UXtweak Team
April 27, 2022
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