Around April 2019 Natalie Nagele, the CEO of Wildbit, approached me with a question. “Do you think people would pay for Postmarks free DMARC tool?”

We’d been running the free DMARC monitoring tool as a labs project since 2014 without giving it much of our attention. The user base was growing rapidly though. There was clearly demand for a tool that helped people make sense of the machine-readable DMARC reports sent out by email providers.

DMARC reports give domain owners visibility into were emails sent using their domain originate from. They’re an important tool to help identify spoofing attacks and deliverability issues. Something we know a bit about from running Postmark.

Discovery

Other projects took priority over the next few months and it wasn’t until December 2019 that we freed up time to explore Natalie’s question further. I reached out to a bunch of people using our free tool and set up discovery interviews to better understand how they were using the product and what problem it was solving for them. The calls identified that while the free tool was popular, it wasn’t solving the customers main problems well:

  1. See where emails sent using their domain originate from in order to identify potential spoofing attacks.
  2. Identify deliverability issues caused by email authentication failures.

We took this research into a planning session and decided there was an opportunity to evolve the free tool into a more complete product that would better solve the these problems. At the beginning of 2020 we started work on what would become DMARC Digests with a simple mandate:

  1. The product needed to provide enough value that customers would pay for it.
  2. We had access to one designer (me), one developer, and one QA engineer (joining later in the quarter) to build the product.
  3. We needed to ship the first version to paying customers within 12 weeks.

Product Design

I got to work on rough wireframes to demonstrate how we could present the complex technical data contained in DMARC reports in a way that would be easy for people to understand. As a small team we were able to move fast, calling on our colleagues at Wildbit for feedback and tapping their knowledge about email authentication.

Wildbit is a remote-first company with the team spread across multiple time zones. We default to asynchronous communication to help everyone keep a healthier work-life balance. As I worked on the UI for DMARC Digests, I’d share designs on Basecamp to solicit feedback from the team and invite them to comment on the designs in Figma. These posts included a video walkthrough where I’d explain my design decisions in detail.

Asynchronous design reviews using Basecamp and Figma.

Conscious of the 12-week time limit, I worked in concert with the developer, prioritising the sections of the product that were needed first to avoid either of us being blocked.

Designing a page to display sources that are sending email using the customer’s domain.

Despite being the sole designer on the project, I built out a complete design system for the new product. This allowed me to quickly mockup new ideas and will help to ensure that the visual design remains consistent if we expand the team in the future.

A comprehensive design system for DMARC Digests in Figma.

We didn’t conduct any user testing during this period. We had feedback from colleagues at Wildbit who would become users of the product, but I would have liked to conduct user testing if the timescales had allowed for it.

The domains overview page in DMARC Digests.
Digging down into DMARC alignment issues originating from a specific IP address. I visually grouped emails that had problems and needed further investigation from emails that were DMARC compliant. This page included dismissible onboarding content to explain how DMARC alignment works.
Result bubbles help to visualise the two-step process for achieving DMARC alignment. Tooltips give a brief description of problems.
Problems are explained in more detail in dedicated modals along with suggested solutions. Each modal has a unique URL making it easy to share specific issues with other team members.
The free tool we currently offered didn’t have user accounts, so I designed a flow that made it easy to migrate domains into DMARC Digests without needing to update DNS. (One of the main barriers to switching.)
Weekly and monthly email reports help draw attention to potential problems.

Brand Design

DMARC can be an overwhelming topic for those who are getting started. I wanted the logo to convey that the product is simple and intuitive to use and decided to go with all lower case letters with a soft typeface to make it more approachable.

A versatile logo for DMARC Digests set in Proxima Soft.
The DMARC Digests logo on a dark background.

The ident subtly mirrors the products function, with descending horizontal lines combined with a central "V" forming a filter shape to signify how the product takes raw DMARC reports and distills them into simple, useful information. The complete ident resembles the familiar mail shape, a nod to both the purpose of DMARC and the weekly email reports the free version of the tool is currently known for.

An app icon and colour palette for DMARC Digests.

We decided to create a single-page marketing site to support the initial launch of DMARC Digests, positioning the product as a tool to protect brands from email scammers rather than a technical service for collecting DMARC reports.

The DMARC Digests home page at launch.

Launch!

The work on DMARC Digests was completed just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the initial release ready we made the tough decision to postpone the launch while we waited to see how the world would react.

In May 2020 we quietly launched while we tested our pricing and got feedback from early adopters. With validation that we were on the right track we launched DMARC Digests to the public in June 2020.

I assumed a product management role for DMARC Digests after the launch while continuing to work on product design. This has involved leading product discovery workshops and further user research sessions to ensure we’re working on the most important enhancements for both customers and our business.

Matt West