Designing Digital Workflow Solutions

The Client

An independent publishing house, dealing with trade publishing for emerging authors. The company’s publishing formats very from more conventional hardcopy books, to digital reading experiences.

My role: Product Designer

Timescale: 3-months

The Challenge

To simplify the editorial pipeline, increasing efficiency and productivity, by creating a plugin that can capture changes on the state of a project, directly from the email client; and present information via a read-only dashboard, which can be viewed by the editorial team and stakeholders. As well as this to devise a list of ideas that can improve the editorial workflow.

The Solution

Automating the administrative duties of the editorial pipeline via the email client. Allowing Editors to take advantage of using email to communicate, coordinate and allocate tasks, to enable the team to manage their workflow strategically.

Discovering pain points through mapping current workflow

I carefully mapped out the company’s current editorial process. My aim with this was to find difficulties, gaps, and opportunities for development within their process, by making stages, branches, and tasks, in the editorial pipeline transparent; and to illustrate how users interact with the existing system.

The company currently relied on email (an email client) for communicating and coordinating work between multiple people, and capturing critical information.

The issue with this approach is that it can lead to several issues affecting the company’s workflow, including making it difficult to track work to maintain a strategic and efficient editorial system.

Defining the research

The client was following a “branch-for-several users” approach, instead of one “branch-per-user”.

This workflow style is considered a less productive approach because of its increasing difficulty to manage and keep track of the number of projects happening simultaneously.

In particular, this method also makes workflows more complex as communication over task and/or phase completion was executed via email.

Relying on generic tools, principally email, for coordinating work between multiple people and capturing critical information can lead to several issues affecting the company’s workflow: 

  • Editors are swamped with emails, and spend a large amount of time reading and writing messages.
  • Critical information is stored in the email client, an approach that lacks documentation, it cannot be updated, and makes it difficult to track work in order to maintain a strategic workflow system.
  • Emails do nothing more than notify other employees about changes to the status of cases in a process, or, to coordinate task assignments and handovers.


  • What is the root of the problem for the users?
  • Who will be using it (which personas)?
  • What are the technical abilities of the users?
  • How do the users attempt to solve the problem today?
  • How does the company want this project to affect the health of their company, as a business? (Increase revenues, Decrease costs, Increase profit, Increase retention)
  • What devices and operating systems is the company using?
  • What are the most popular email clients that can have customisable addons or plugins?

I conducted research with users by organising and planning one-to-one, and group interviews. By talking to the editorial team and asking them open-ended and semi-structured questions I was able to understand their day-to-day workflow and editorial responsibilities better.

  • Can you tell me a bit about your role at your company?
  • Can you tell me a bit about the problem you’re trying to solve by taking strategic editorial decisions?
  • Who are you trying to solve this problem for?
  • What work have you already done to solve this problem?
  • Tell me a bit about your team. What are their different roles?
  • Who else do you plan to collaborate with outside of your team?
  • Could you walk me through your daily workflow?

My process included interview transcription, labeling the important lines with tags, such as ‘pain points’, keywords for what users were talking about, motivations, or suggestions. Then, when I looked across my notes written during the interview process, I could compare common threads and patterns.

For each interview session, I wrote a brief research summary, and with this proceeded to complete empathy maps; also transforming these into personas.

This practice helped solidify what was discussed and better enabled me to connect the dots between participants. Research summaries also highlighted the most important trends or themes from sessions, giving the different teams work with an accessible way to digest research.

After completing several research sessions, I made sense of data and looked for patterns using the affinity diagram approach. I analysed contextual inquiries by data clustering user attributes into profiles, and/or requirements, problem-framing, and idea generation.

Ideating & Prototyping


An AI-powered plugin that scans, reads, and analyses keywords related to the overall editorial pipeline (Received, Reviewed, Accepted, Contract Signed, Edited, Copyedited, Typeset, In Print).

Each stage in the pipeline acts as a keyword that the system recognises through predictive text algorithms linked to the main database. 


Outlook and Microsoft 365 could provide a useful platform to implement this solution, because of the features and developer opportunities, offering custom-built work-management tools.

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are also advantageous for this proposed solution as data structures for the plugin can be stored there. 

When confirmation is given by the user, a pop-window appears to capture further information that will be used to generate task cards and notifications presented on a dashboard. 

The information is collected, directed from the user and it is then presented on a dashboard accessible by the team.