Title Goes here [Project Template Page]

The Problem

Google Docs, Slides & Sheets templates were rudimentary, outdated and hard-to-find. Last updated in 2012, they lacked new docs features such as custom colors or web-fonts, used tables for formatting, weren’t mobile friendly, and could only be accessed from a separate gallery location.

I was asked to simplify and beautify the experience by allowing users to choose from a brand new set of pre-designed templates & themes right from the Docs homescreens.

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Google.

My role

I joined this project in it’s early stages to co-direct the visual design and create an array of fresh responsive templates for the editors.

In the initial stages, I worked with 3 visual designers to come up with design guidelines. Later on, I led the effort to implement designs with in Google Docs, Sheets & Slides.

Creating a vision

I joined 3 other visual designers in a week long visual design sprint to design an ideal creation experience for Docs, Sheets & Slides. By the end of the sprint, we had come up with 10 ‘beautiful-by-default’ sets of templates and created guidelines to make document creation smarter along the following lines:

  • Customization: How do users save a scheme that they created? How do they stylize all images in a theme?
  • Preview: What’s the best way to see a bird’s eye view of your template?
  • Suggestions: How can themes inspire paraphernalia? How does the system suggest grids or font pairings?

Designing down from a vision

After the sprint, I had to scale down the designs to see how they fit in the current apps. I recreated the static designs in native Docs editor to test their feasibility and responsiveness. I soon realized that I needed to make several aesthetic compromises to the design vision due to technical limitations. For example:

  1. In early 2015, Google Docs didn’t support multi-columns. I had to decide if we wanted to use tables for visual columns knowing that they don’t render well on mobile or use single columns for all templates. This was a problem for resume templates which were mostly 2 columns. So, we decided to support tabled resumes on desktop but hide them on mobile to prevent undesirable broken experiences on mobile. 
  2. I identified several easy wins and got them fixed to make our templates look better. For instance, a no-margin feature was added to support full bleed images in templates. I updated the default typography in Docs to be more hierarchal & readable. 
  3. Docs didn’t support lighter font weights. So, I changed the text contrast to make the fonts visually lighter while making sure they match an accessible contrast ratio. At the same time, I pushed for having font weights available for Docs, Sheets & Slides. I created mocks & a prototype for font selection and shared it with the team. This was launched in April 2017

With the surplus stickers I created for the projects, I started maintaining a team wide repository of my illustrations and kept adding to it. My illustrations are still used throughout the team in multiple G Suite products.

The impact

Templates were launched in Sept, 2015 as a part of Google Docs ‘Back to School’ bundle to great feedback from press & twitterati.

Business Insider: First look: Google is taking fight against Microsoft Office 365 to schools. Templates provide a pre-made setup to make eye-catching and easy-to-read papers, forms, and reports. “It’s like having a talented graphic designer just a few clicks away,” says Ranjan.

TechCrunch: Google Docs gets smart typing, templates, smart Sheets and more. They’re exactly what you’d expect, giving you templates for work, education, letters or making a resume. Super user friendly.

A month after launch, templates continued to have a positive impact on the Google Docs experience. Document creation from templates (vs blank documents) increased significantly from 1% to 14%. As a result of the templates launch, 28 day active usage for Docs increased by 40%.

For confidentiality reasons I have omitted the actual values for thes