UI/UX Design | Merge Internship

Merge is the leading startup in the unified API (application programming interface) space, offering integrations for HR, payroll, and recruiting systems. During my 10-week internship, I worked on a range of larger projects (such as the new CMS portal) and smaller features on our landing page, documentation page, web app interface, and administrative portal. Here, I will highlight a select portion of my work, including:

For an in-depth summary of my Merge experience, check out my Medium article!

*Due to my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted any confidential information.*

Case Study: CMS Administrative Portal

At a Glance

*Please note that Merge’s CMS is confidential. As such, I will not be displaying actual interfaces in this case study.*

As a rapidly growing tech startup, Merge is seeking to hire an integrations-focused team. Previously, the only way to add integrations was through Merge’s Django CMS (content management system), which required users to possess a deep technical understanding of APIs. However, in order to scale as quickly as possible, Merge needed to create a new CMS that would allow even non-technical users to easily add integrations.

My Role

Product Design

Team

Simeon Lee | Founding Designer at Merge

Tara Pichumani | Platform (formerly Growth and Product)

Henry Baer | Founding Engineer at Merge

Prannoiy Chandran | Growth and Product

Date

June – August 2021

10 weeks

THE APPROACH

Understanding our Users

Because this was an internal tool intended for Merge employees, I interviewed members of our Engineering and Platform (formerly Growth and Product) teams to better grasp the shortcomings of our existing Django CMS.

THE INSIGHTS

Confusion

For one, the existing CMS was UGLY.

More importantly, it was inaccessible for users who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of APIs. 

The existing CMS was essentially a convoluted collection of input fields that offered little explanation for less technical users. The helper text that did exist was difficult to understand because of the technical jargon (for example, users may be unfamiliar with various methods of API pagination). 

In light of this, we strived to address these goals:

  • Clear, concise helper text
  • Simpler interface with easy navigation
  • Visually on-brand with Merge

THE PRODUCT

A New React CMS

I created configuration pages for general integration information, marketing content, API authentication and pagination settings, API endpoints, linked accounts, and billing information. After much back-and-forth feedback from the engineers and platform team, we settled on a final design.

THE FUTURE

Scale and Sale

When the new CMS is completely implemented, we hope to significantly expedite the process of adding integrations, continue maintaining the quality of our product, and generate more sales.

REFLECTIONS

What I’ve Learned

*This is an excerpt from my Medium article.*

First of all, I have become much faster with Figma hotkeys! While I still aspire to achieve Simeon’s level of dexterity with Figma (I always thought of Simeon as a “Figma wizard”), my design process in Figma feels much more fluid now. Furthermore, I’ve taken these design lessons to heart:

 

  • The devil is in the details

If I thought that I was a perfectionist before this internship, then I was mistaken; designers are next-level perfectionists. Margins, padding, and line spacing must be consistent. Text sizing and information hierarchy are key. Black is not black, it’s #080808. And heaven forbid you don’t mess up the grays (#F8FAFC really does look like white to an untrained eye). Of course, I say this in a joking tone, but being detail-oriented is a critical aspect of being a good designer. 


  • Design is a constantly evolving process (that seemingly never ends)

This internship was an exercise in patience and flexibility. Design projects aren’t always guaranteed—you might work on one task … only to have it scrapped. You might think you’re done with a project, only to go back and make dozens of more changes. And I’m totally ok with that. As a matter of fact, I expect that now. My new mindset is that most designs are only “done for now.”

Part of the joy of iterative design is the knowledge that there is always more opportunity for improvement. 


  • Designers must ask the right questions

When I first began working with the engineers, I was tempted to ask them, “what features do you want? Should there be a dropdown for this and a form for that?” 

Then, Simeon told me that engineers don’t always know what they want (sorry, engineers! It’s not just you though). Although users may know their end goal, they often do not know how exactly to achieve that goal from a design perspective. 

Instead of directly asking users what they want to see in a design, it is more worthwhile to ask about how they currently experience the product and where they struggle the most.

From there, it is up to us as designers to elucidate users’ frustrations, pinpoint their ultimate goal, and synthesize these details to craft a solution through design.

Other Projects

3D Illustration Work

One of my final tasks was creating a 3D isometric illustration to symbolize how our product functions: Merge’s unified API powers integrations for our clients, who only need to integrate once with us. I created this using Adobe Illustrator.

Documentation Page and Footer

Landing Page Dropdown Menus

404 Error Page

Merge Marketing Graphics

Finally, the Merge Slackmoji GIF 🙂