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Smallpdf Switzerland Rethink a document-based platform for its 30+ million monthly users Design Lead UX Research Concept design Interface design

Established in Switzerland in 2013, Smallpdf has emerged as a leading PDF software worldwide, boasting over 16 PDF tools and catering to more than 200 million users across 100,000 diverse companies. The overhaul of the "Edit tool" marks a pivotal transition for Smallpdf, shifting from a tool-centered platform to a document-based platform, serving its extensive user base of 30+ million monthly users.

In late 2019, Smallpdf introduced a new iteration of its Edit tool, incorporating OCR technology, a revamped software development kit, and a fresh interface. Surprisingly, analytics indicated that the previous, more rudimentary interface was performing better. Our objectives were twofold: rectify usability issues and unravel the interdependencies with the new SDK solution. Additionally, we faced the challenge of optimizing for various touchpoints and screen sizes, all while synchronizing efforts with teams concurrently developing desktop and mobile apps.

Initially engaged to enhance a single digital tool, our evaluation and research unveiled a spectrum of new opportunities. Through numerous interviews, usability tests, and comprehensive data analysis, coupled with an in-depth analysis of competitors, we focused on Smallpdf's standing in the software market, emphasizing collaboration levels, tool offerings, interface hierarchy, view types, and simplicity. Our research highlighted that “PDF to Word (Convert)” and “Edit” were the most utilized tools, while users aged 25 to 34 comprised 43.07% of the user base. Notably, “Add text” and “Annotations (Highlight)” accounted for 88% of usage.

Understanding that Smallpdf users prefer creating visible annotations over comments, we streamlined the interface by grouping tools. We optimized for two primary scenarios: initiating edits through content selection and tool choice, as well as editing after tool selection. Leveraging thumbnail view mode, we facilitated document structure editing by enabling seamless user flows across multiple tools or integrating them without leaving the page. Consciously extending the brand presence across touchpoints and enhancing visual hierarchy by redesigning components, we supported the team by formulating guidelines and a design system. Our meticulous efforts aimed to ensure a consistent and elevated user experience throughout the Smallpdf ecosystem.