How to Create a Rapid Development Process for Digital Products: Lessons from PayPal

How to create a rapid development process for your digital products

Managers and efficiency experts have created several methodologies that promise to improve workflow. Some of the most popular frameworks include:

  • Agile
  • Waterfall
  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Spiral model

Each of these approaches has its pros and cons. Countless teams have benefited from Agile software development and the waterfall model.

PayPal’s design department, however, faced a problem that an existing methodology couldn’t solve. While most companies hire about one designer for every 10 developers, PayPal’s focus on improving UX meant that it had about three designers for every thousand developers. To make matters even more difficult, the designers had to work with more than 100 products.

designer to developer ratio

Erica Rider, UX design lead for developer tools at PayPal, and her team knew that they needed a better development process that would take them from initial idea to final product as quickly as possible.

Rider and her team called their new approach DesignOps 2.0. You can watch her entire presentation—which includes a UXPin demonstration from a PayPal product manager—on YouTube. The following article summarizes the most critical aspects of her rapid application development model.

Recommended reading: Agile vs. Scrum vs. Kanban: Which Project Management Methodology Is Right for Your Team?

Break down departmental silos that prevent rapid prototyping

First, PayPal’s design team knew that they needed to establish a new development methodology. This needed to break down departmental silos that added unnecessary steps to the development life cycle and prevented rapid prototyping.

The traditional product design and development approach relies on a product manager to write down ideas that designers turn into images. Developers use the images as guides to create attractive products with exceptional functionality. The process rarely works as planned, though, so the prototype delivered by the development team needs several stages of tweaking.

A new approach to rapid product development

DesignOps 2.0 takes a radically different approach by placing the product manager—or domain expert—and developer within a rapid collaboration user feedback and iterations process. Designers sit outside of that process. Instead of playing an intermediary role between domain experts and developers, they act as coaches that help domain experts reach their goals.

Once the product manager and design team members have working prototypes, they send their creations to the development teams to produce deliverables for end users. The approach uses less time because it lets the product manager build a basic prototype within a low-code design system instead of asking other people to interpret vague ideas.

Recommended reading: You Can Become a Code-Based Designer Without Learning Code

Create a code-based design system that anyone can use

No matter which development methods your teams prefer, it makes sense to create a code-based design system that serves as a single source of truth. UXPin Merge will allow you to keep components in sync with your Git repository. 

The design system and Merge technology  establish everything that project managers need to create prototypes with before sending their concepts to developers to begin the software development process.

Reduce development time by making components teams can reuse

By following the PayPal model, designers reduce development time. They do this by creating a library of everything that product managers can use. The designers create logos, buttons, color patterns, and other assets. Anyone trying to build a product can only pull from the design system.

reusable components

The key is to make components that teams and individuals can reuse. Ideally, this shouldn’t take a lot of effort because your brand probably wants common aesthetics and functionality between products. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a time-tracking app to look completely different from a ticket app. 

They should offer common environments that make users feel comfortable. Also, designers have no reason to redo work when existing components fill the need already, as well as the developers. 

Use code-based design tools that create functional prototypes

UXPin Merge works well for PayPal’s design team because they can import and keep in sync coded components and use them in the UXPin editor. Thanks to that the components they use in the designs are almost production-ready. So both designers and developers get a common language that everyone understands.

Taking a code-based approach also makes it easier to build fully functional prototypes as the imported components are fully interactive and behave just as the final product! It’s a big time-saver as developers don’t need to leave this work to designers.

 Many prototypes only offer a simulation of how software projects will work. With UXPin, PayPal’s employees can use real data and interact with components to ensure they behave as expected. Instead of using lorem ipsum of fake data, product managers can import real information from JSON, Google Sheets, or CSV.

Improve communication between designers and product managers

Designers at PayPal spend a lot of time building the components that other people will use to build products. They do not, however, sit completely outside of development projects. They serve in mentorship roles by working with product managers before finalizing software projects.

Anyone making a product at PayPal can reach the design team by scheduling time during office hours or using the design Slack channel. The design team has also made more than 3.5 hours of video tutorials that address common issues.

When a product manager comes to the design team, nearly all the work has been done. Still, designers might need to correct some small errors or use their keen observation to spot inconsistencies that the average person wouldn’t see. The result is quick iterative design that leads to a working product much faster than traditional approaches can.

Recommended reading: Design Your Own Design Process Step by Step

Request access to UXPin Merge

UXPin Merge plays a crucial role in how Rider and her team built a better approach to product prototyping and development. Request access to UXPin Merge to learn more about how the app’s code-based design and prototyping features will benefit you.

design with code merge uxpin
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