A designer’s desk with a notebook and pen.

What in the World? An Enterprise Software Company That Cares About Design?

Design should never be an afterthought. We talk about how we keep design culture alive at SigSci.

We know how it goes at traditional enterprise software product companies. Uncreative, unexciting, and worst of all, built without the user in mind.

Why does enterprise software have such crappy design?

It seems like common sense for all products to invest in user-centered design, right? It might be surprising (or not surprising at all) to know that these companies are able to get by on inertia because that’s how they’ve always operated. Here’s why they drag down UX:

  • Dependent users = $$$. If users can’t figure out a complicated product, they become dependent on the enterprise software company to figure it out for them. This usually leads to hiring a full time employee from the enterprise software company just to manage the product.
  • People who buy the product often aren’t users. It doesn’t matter to buyers if the product is user friendly since they won’t be using the product.
  • Good design doesn’t increase sales. Consumer-based products have to impress their users with flashy design to convince them to make a purchase. Enterprise software companies don’t have to convince users to use their products. Users have to use it because it’s part of their job.
  • Straightforward capabilities > delightful UX. During the sales process, customers are asked to give feedback on how the product can be improved. They usually provide solutions against some sort of feature matrix, which makes the software sales process too hyper-focused only on capabilities. This almost always takes priority over creating delightful and intuitive UX.

Since we know how easy it is to get away with crappy design in our industry, why do we at Signal Sciences care and invest in great design in spite of this?

You can’t build a great product on technology alone

Our founders were so frustrated with the pain of using complicated legacy security technology that they created Signal Sciences to be the opposite experience. In the beginning, our main focus was on creating a product with superior technology. Now, 5 years later, we’ve grown to a point where we focus equally on technology and design because technology alone isn’t enough to have a strong competitive advantage.

We also believe that having bad design goes against our ethics as a company. Our VP of Technology, Hala Al-Adwan, believes our product should be accessible to everybody.

The problem with security is that it feels like an obscure, complicated thing. We built the product so that anybody can use it. You don’t have to be a security expert.

Since it’s part of our DNA, everyone from our leadership to our engineers to our product managers advocates for user-centered design. It’s a huge relief for our design team to work with an entire organization that supports design, instead of it being a constant source of friction between departments.

Signal Sciences has built a strong industry reputation largely through word of mouth, which couldn’t have happened without an entire company that cares about building a well-designed product.

Our design culture translates into our product

Right now we’re a small, tight-knit design team of 6 people. We believe in having a broad range of design perspectives represented, and that includes having designers on our team without “designer” in their titles (We have a UX engineer and a content strategist in our team).

All of us are unique and have different tastes, and that gets reflected in the different opinions and angles all of us bring to the table. We take our work seriously, but aren’t afraid to be our unfiltered selves. There’s a sense of playfulness on our team whether it’s letting loose through design exercises on Creative Mondays, or taking time to get to know each other through outings. We’re also encouraged to explore our creativity through all types of design inspiration from architecture to music.

sigsci design birdcall
Summoning the design gods at the LA Design Festival

Our design culture directly translates into our product. We’re able to ship design work we’re proud of because we think the best ideas are made in a space where everyone feels like their voice is heard. We check our egos at the door and approach problems with humility. We’re given the rare ability to iterate quickly and fail fast, and it requires a high level of trust to be able to do that. None of us would tolerate crappy design.

Our designers are equals with engineers and product management

Many designers assume that design will be overshadowed at tech companies made up of mostly engineers. It’s true that our company has more engineers than designers (you can’t avoid that at a cybersecurity company), but that doesn’t affect our team’s ability to stay creative and solve tough product problems.

Here’s what our design team says about working with engineers and product management at Signal Sciences:

  • “Being around engineers doesn’t make me feel less creative. If anything, I’m inspired to design great things because I know we have amazing engineers who can pull off the crazy things I dream up.”
  • “In previous jobs I felt like a black sheep within the larger technology organization. I don’t feel that here. Designers are treated equally alongside engineers and product managers.”
  • “I worked somewhere where product design teams were definitely second class citizens. The big thing SigSci has that my last job didn’t was a mutual respect between departments.”
  • “I’ve worked on teams before where the engineers just took the designs and coded it literally without understanding how the design system worked. In theory that sounds nice, but in reality we ended up having some really messy CSS, visual inconsistencies on all the pages, and one-off changes. Working at Signal Sciences is amazing because the engineers are really inclusive and I feel like there is a healthy amount of back and forth.”

What we’re proud of

We could have built Signal Sciences with crappy design and still make money, but we didn’t do that. We’re invested in great design because we are humans building a product for humans, and that means having empathy for our users even if they only use our product at work. We want our sales team to get excited about showing off a product that is both powerful and easy to use—we don’t want them to have to do a lot of convincing.

We also found that thoughtful design doesn’t just benefit users—it benefits other departments at Signal Sciences. We created a design system called Cosmo that has earned support from product managers, sales, and executives for helping ship high quality features faster.

As we grow, we want to continue to raise the bar for design quality at Signal Sciences. We’re ready for what’s next.

Also, 👋 we’re hiring! If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our job openings.