Sync Strategy
After I was promoted to Design Lead for Sync, I took the opportunity to engage in a more thorough design process. My primary objectives were to engage the whole team in a discussion about who our users were and what they needed. It resulted in a product that takes into account more of the users' perceptions and expectations in guiding them to understand what the product is and how it can be used.
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To get started engaging the team, we had to address the Board's mandate: get tens of millions of users onboard. What the board didn't tell us: who are those users who want to use Sync? So we kicked off a discussion with management to identify the right personas, and ended up focusing primarily on Jake, and supporting Melissa where it didn't interfere with Jake's needs.
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Then, a corresponding question presented itself: what is the product that's going to appeal to millions of Jake and Melissa users? To give some perspective to which technological and business problems were important to the sync team, we developed a more in-depth look at who Jake and Melissa are, and what that means for their file syncing and sharing needs:

Jake is a music producer - he's laying down tracks all day long. Melissa is his publicist - she helps him reach the right audiences. They both love Sync because they want to be in control of their data.

Jake is a little more techie and feels comfortable using an FTP server and setting up hardware. Melissa is more focused on people - she doesnít have much experience with technical solutions, but she knows who to reach out to for help when she has a particular question.

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But it's not just about moving data to other people - Jake and Melissa are also moving a lot of data between their own devices.

Jake is more of an android/windows guy, and has a workstation at his studio in addition to a laptop that he carries with him. For him, many devices is about functionality - a desktop workstation for heavy computation, a laptop for lighter tasks, and mobile devices for consumption.

Melissa is a Mac user, and thinks of her devices in terms of convenience - she likes the ease of typing on her MacBook, the smoothness of watching movies on her iPad, and the instant gratification of using her iPhone.

They both feel like all of their data should be accessible from any of these devices.

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Jake and Melissa primarily think of Sync as a way to get lots of data to and from other people. Jake shares source files with artists and collaborators, and sometimes shares finished work with fans.

Melissa shares with a larger range of people, from privileged files like contracts with her coworkers and clients, to sending press releases and samples to the public, to sending large media files to publishers and other intermediaries.

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Files get renamed, they get lost, they get overwritten... Jake had a hard drive fail, and Melissa has lost a phone, so they both get nervous when their data is not backed up - but they both feel too busy to stop to make backups. They move files to new people, copy them, convert them into different formats, track who gets which version, know which is the latest file. They are involved in this level of detail because they value control of their files - they understand what's happening at every step because they created their own workflows.
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Jake and Melissa have tried out our competitors for sharing.
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They like that it's easy to set up, easy to share, and always on. Dreamy, right?
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But there are a lot of problems with the cloud, too. It's one more copy of the files that have to reside in somebody's "Magic folder" on your desktop - forcing Jake to alter his workflow in getting files from one app to another. It's not very fast, and file size is often capped. Your data might get hacked, and even if it doesn't, who knows what system admin or government has access? This is Sync's opportunity space.
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Based on this vision, along with other observations of user behaviors and market opportunities, we proposed a few new products and features. The first one I can share because it has been implemented already.

As we think about what it means for Sync to provide a meaningful alternative to the cloud, we should keep in mind some key factors that affect how Jake and Melissa choose software. The first of these is that downloading software is fast and cheap, so they don't spend a lot of time evaluating it before trying it out.

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These key differentiators are the things that will make users choose us. If we can't make them tangible within a few seconds of the user getting to our site or our product, then most users will never know they exist.
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As of 1.4, Sync wasn't visually interesting. We didn't want to differentiate Sync just to be different - the problem was that Jake and Melissa needed to understand why and how Sync is different.

Sync (the one in the bottom left corner) in 2014 looks the same as our competitors. We"re using a similar blue, and with a similar visual approach.

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For this and other reasons, I started a discussion with the other group with a significant investment in our brand - the marketing department. They had spent significant time and effort developing a brand identity that was very edgy and positioned BitTorrent as the underground alternative.
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I initially thought that developing a shared moodboard would be a fun, 2-hour working session. However, after 2 or 3 such meetings we realized there was a disconnect between the unrelentingly contrarian attitude of the corporate brand and the more utilitarian leanings of the product. We tackled this by first aligning around a few key words. After a few discussions, we coalesced around these three terms.

This is Sync in 2015: Bold, Sophisticated, and Empowering.

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With a shared understanding of the meaning and connotations behind our key terms, we quickly made progress toward a single, unified style.
Sync Strategy Deck 10
the fact that Sync is a different kind of technology from the cloud - with different strengths and different social mores - can be made apparent with a new visual language. Aggressive angles, edgy type, and intense colors let Jake and Melissa know we're not Microsoft.
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The resulting document, and the discussions it raised, helped management understand what a clear product vision could look like.
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