Intercom’s fundamentals of fine interplay design

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The design group is not speaking about having to show the worth of design to get a seat on the desk. Designers have demonstrated that design is usually a central pillar of enterprise success. However they’ve additionally misplaced one thing alongside the way in which.

Designers have stepped off their island the place slick, but ineffective and impractical design is made. They’ve embraced cross-functional relationships and work intently with companions all throughout the group. Greater than ever, they perceive who their clients are and what they care about. They design methods, not locations. And as an alternative of primarily enthusiastic about interfaces, they consider the product technique. They design for enterprise outcomes.

However if you’re deep in all of those extra layers of constructing merchandise, it’s simple to overlook concerning the significance of additionally nailing the factor designers are consultants at – interplay design.

Once we acknowledged this challenge in our personal design workforce, we established the basics of fine interplay design. They’re a reminder concerning the issues which can be deeply vital to us, but typically forgotten.

It’s certainly not an exhaustive listing and since they incorporate our product design rules, they don’t seem to be common to each firm. They’re fundamentals that we at Intercom care about. However hopefully they’ll function a reminder for you as properly and possibly even get you enthusiastic about what are the basics of interplay design which can be vital for you.

1. Current the identical object in a well-recognized approach all over the place

Intercom, with it’s huge breadth and depth, can really feel overwhelming. We are able to make it simpler for our clients by making the core objects within the system (e.g. conversations, customers, messages, and so forth.) simply recognizable and make them behave the identical approach all over the place. Recognising is less complicated than recalling.

Default to displaying an object the identical approach all over the place. If you do have a robust rationale to deviate, make it really feel acquainted and take into account if the article must be displayed otherwise elsewhere within the product.

Don’t make native optimizations that aren’t mirrored or are inconsistent with different contexts. Don’t create a number of comparable but totally different variations of the identical object.


  • How is that this object proven elsewhere within the product?
  • Can we reuse the identical element right here?
  • If not, how can we make it really feel acquainted?
  • Do we have to replace its elsewhere within the product?

2. Set up hierarchy in your interface

By establishing a transparent visible hierarchy we may help our clients perceive how the product works, what are the relationships between totally different components of it, what’s vital and what isn’t.

Use house, typography, grouping, and indentation to obviously talk the hierarchy and relationships between totally different components of the interface.

Don’t blur the strains between totally different hierarchy ranges by not having distinguishable teams. Don’t create too many containers inside containers.


  • Is content material specified by clear, distinguishable teams?
  • Is there sufficient house between these teams?
  • Is expounded data grouped collectively?
  • Are the right textual content types used to determine data hierarchy?

three. Create visible rhythm and stability

Make your interface simply scannable with a view to assist our clients perceive it shortly. By making it aesthetically pleasing, you may enhance their notion of how usable it’s.

Anchor an important a part of your interface, use various types and layouts to stability your design and make it simpler to scan. Use a grid system and pay shut consideration to alignment.

Don’t simply lay all the pieces out in a flat listing. Don’t use lengthy line-lengths.


  • Is it simple to scan the design and know what an important a part of it’s?
  • Does it really feel visually balanced?
  • Is the interface aligned to a grid system?

four. Use generally accepted patterns and interactions

We may help our clients be taught and use Intercom extra effectively by limiting the quantity of interplay patterns that they should be taught.

Use current patterns from our design system. Favor widespread interplay design patterns over intelligent bespoke optimizations. Observe business commonplace interplay design rules.

Don’t introduce comparable, but totally different variations of our current design system patterns. Don’t create customized patterns when there’s a longtime business commonplace. Don’t misuse an current sample.


  • Can an current design system sample be used right here?
  • If not, how does the business commonplace sample for this appear like?
  • Should you assume you want a brand new sample, have you ever talked to the design methods workforce and different designers? Can this sample be fed again into the design system for different designers to make use of?
  • Are there clear affordances that the sample may be interacted with?
  • Is there clear suggestions when customers work together with it?

5. Use progressive disclosure

Through the use of progressive disclosure we are able to make Intercom easy for almost all of our clients whereas additionally enabling extra flexibility for our extra superior clients.

Begin with easy defaults and regularly reveal flexibility. Optimize for the commonest use-case.

Don’t overwhelm by displaying full flexibility immediately. Don’t compromise the commonest use-case for edge instances.


  • What’s the most typical use-case?
  • What ought to the defaults be so most individuals don’t have to vary them?
  • How can we reveal data progressively?
  • Are we compromising the commonest use-case for an edge case?

6. Be clear and concise

Language is the important thing to serving to our clients perceive how Intercom works. Nevertheless, an excessive amount of content material can have the alternative impact the place they simply scan the web page with out studying it and due to this fact aren’t profitable at what they purpose to do.

Be clear and concise and when essential progressively reveal extra data by utilizing tooltips and hyperlinks to assist docs for studying extra. Use illustrations to clarify concepts. Edit ruthlessly.

Keep away from utilizing lengthy, detailed content material to clarify how one thing works, as an alternative take into account what’s making it difficult and repair the underlying downside. Keep away from falling within the entice of being technically appropriate, however obscure.


  • Is it simple to scan and perceive what it’s with out having to learn all the content material from starting to finish?
  • What should you needed to minimize half of the content material? Are you able to do it with out dropping which means?
  • Is the worth proposition clear?
  • Is it clear what the person must do?
  • Will this be clear to somebody who has no earlier information?
  • What can we illustrate visually as an alternative of explaining with content material?

7. Take into account responsiveness and velocity

Efficiency is a characteristic that must be rigorously thought-about. When ignored or mismanaged it creates a janky person expertise and uncertainty.

Give customers immediate suggestions once they work together with the product and set expectations on wait occasions.

Don’t overlook concerning the loading states.


  • What occurs proper after interacting with the interface?
  • Is it clear that the motion was acquired and is at the moment processing?
  • Is it clear when the processing will probably be full?

eight. Information customers to what they need to do subsequent

We normally begin by designing for the completely happy path, however that’s not how most clients will first expertise it. With out clear steerage they may not attain the completely happy path in any respect.

Make it clear what customers ought to do subsequent and make it simple to do. Particularly, take into account empty states, error messages, and end-states.

Don’t create dead-ends the place customers have to determine what to do subsequent themselves.


  • What occurs when you’ve got no information to point out?
  • What occurs when there’s an error?
  • Is it clear what the person ought to do subsequent?

9. Be conscious of accessibility

Though we haven’t but established requirements for accessibility there are issues you are able to do to make your design extra accessible.

Use current design system elements since they’re made to be accessible. Use textual content sizes and styles which can be simply legible. Add sufficient colour distinction. Don’t use colour alone to convey which means.

Don’t introduce new colours or textual content types with out speaking to the design methods workforce. Keep away from introducing customized elements as a result of they may not be accessible.


  • Is there an current design system element, colour, or textual content model that you need to use?
  • Is textual content legible sufficient?
  • Is there sufficient distinction?
  • Is there extra than simply colour used to convey which means?

Give attention to our core craft

Whereas the product design self-discipline has matured loads over time, it’s vital that we don’t overlook or de-prioritize our core craft. Elevated give attention to buyer and enterprise wants shouldn’t be an excuse for unhealthy interplay design. Design fundamentals like these assist set a baseline for interplay design high quality, assist keep away from egregious errors, and in the end act as a basis on which to construct wonderful customer-focused software program.

This was initially written as an inside doc for our design workforce. Should you’re inquisitive about extra content material like this, try for extra content material and our open roles.

Careers at Intercom – 2019 updated images

Gustavs Cirulis


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