Bloomberg’s customer-centric design ethos | Tech at Bloomberg

ALI: I think one of the things I’m the most proud of working on is the framework of our system. We are creating the building blocks for the rest of the company to design their software. We’re working on making the underlying toolkit that the applications rely on more user-friendly.

MIKE: My role is to implement the designs that the UX team comes up within our applications. A big piece of that is figuring out how we can be reactive to new designs. One of the most interesting things we do is bring users into our User Experience Lab and try new things out with them and then react to their feedback. Then, the thing that we actually release will be something that is really useful to actual clients who have tested it out.

FAHD: That extreme focus on customer needs is what drives our design language or design process. For that matter, we start each conversation with our business managers, for example, who are often subject matter experts. So each conversation about a design problem starts with, “What is it that we’re trying to solve?”

How is Bloomberg design different from how some other companies might view or articulate design?

FAHD: At Bloomberg, we don’t spend a lot of time looking at what other people do. We know what our goal is. We have customers that we need to satisfy. The one big difference I hear from other people is how much we cultivate our relationship with our clients and how willing our clients are to come in and help us improve our products. It’s non-trivial for a portfolio manager or trader who has different time commitments to give us an hour-and-a-half or two hours of their day and to come to our office and sit in the lab. We’re lucky that, as an organization, we have cultivated that amount of loyalty among our customers and that sense of shared mission.

MIKE: With our focus on efficiency, it’s not just what looks pretty on the screen, which is what a lot of companies use to define good design. That is, they open it up and ask “Is it aesthetically pleasing?” or “Is it pretty?”

Our whole philosophy is about showing all the functionality to the user – that is, making it very accessible, very easy for them to use. This may sometimes lead to screens that look complicated at first glance, and someone might say, “Wow, there’s a lot here.” But what we’re actually doing is putting all of that at the user’s fingertips right away.

How do Bloomberg’s customers influence design?

MIKE: Well, they’re part of the process. We try new things on a bunch of employees first, but then we always bring customers in to try it out before we actually build something and turn it into a product. This way, we actually know that what we’re building is valuable to them.

FAHD: We take whatever our hypothesis is, we talk to the subject matter experts and we express our findings as early designs. But we try and validate them with our customers, because our end goal is being purposeful in our designs and providing value to our customers.

A big part of the design process is all working towards a single understanding – talking to our customers, understanding their needs and then designing to them. Since our sales force is constantly in touch with them, we get a lot of feedback. This has caused us to really evolve our product. We have an underlying technology infrastructure that allows us to push new software out to our clients very quickly, so we’re able to react to any of their needs. It’s actually really beneficial for our clients.

Bloomberg was founded on bringing transparency to financial markets, how is that principle reflected in Bloomberg’s design?

ALI: We really never design for design’s sake. It’s always meant to address our customer’s needs. We’re trying to create a clear hierarchy. We’re trying to make sure that they can find and parse information as quickly as possible.

MIKE: I think transparency is very important in how we do design. One way we show transparency is by showing clients ahead of time what it is we’re going to build.

Another way that we’re very transparent is we try to release our designs across the whole Terminal. So, all customers get access to the same designs. They all get access to the same types of things. And we’re very transparent in that we’re releasing these different features to all our clients at the same time. Everyone gets the same benefit. And we keep them in the loop on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

FAHD: Today, there is such a wealth of data that people are drowning in it. The important part is not having access to data, necessarily, but paying attention to the right amount of data or the right kind of data. And that’s what I personally see as the definition of transparency today: surfacing what you need to know, when you need to know it, and why this is relevant to you.

The goal of our design process has to be to make our customers more efficient and more productive. If we keep doing that, we will continue to bring value to them and be useful to them. And that’s where we will continue to be successful.

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