When people think about designing apps and websites, they often think about the coolest, flashiest experience. But what makes designing for WhatsApp so incredible is creating something that is universal and inclusive, because so many people around the world use it, and their lives are often very different from what we, the designers, experience. Many people who use WhatsApp have limited literacy, low digital fluency or little experience using the internet. It’s a difficult design challenge to develop solutions that feel simple and predictable for everyone who uses WhatsApp, but it’s very important. One key goal for us is to make sure that we’re inclusive from a language standpoint. For example, we recently launched a language selector in Ethiopia and Nigeria that includes Amharic, Oromo and Hausa, languages that many apps don’t support. It’s very powerful to see the reaction from people when they experience a product that is designed for them. Additionally, WhatsApp is an economic lifeline for many businesses, small and large, that use it every day to talk to customers and make sales. That makes it crucial for us to be extra intentional and consistent in every experience we design. I think simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve. It’s so much easier to just tack on a new feature or create a button. It takes a lot of effort to get to a design solution that feels intuitive to all the different people who use WhatsApp, but that is what makes it really rewarding.
Empathy is the main driver for everyone across the team, and I think empathy in design is one of the strongest tools that we have to make sure that what we design is actually valuable. When we design, we ask very simple questions: “Would this flow make sense to someone with low digital literacy?” “How can we simplify more?” “How can we help people get the job done?” We use our empathy and knowledge, and we also work closely with UX research to drive insights back to the team to answer these questions. When we focus on the problems we solve for people and really hold ourselves to a high bar for simplicity, the design decisions and craft naturally follow. And we care a lot about the details. It’s incredibly inspiring to me to see how designers at WhatsApp can zoom out and drive strategy for features and systems and a minute later discuss the stroke width of an icon or the exact shade of gray we use for a divider. It shows the level of accountability every designer has for the overall experience. Billions of people rely on WhatsApp. We owe it to them to create features that are genuinely valuable, paying attention to the details and continuously looking for ways to improve our craft.