In 2016, Gojek was not a decacorn, but on its way to becoming one. They were growing too fast, but too soon
Back then, the consumer app was crashing 11% of the time — 11 Mn times out of 100 Mn sessions in a day
The engineering team was already struggling to deliver features on time and a redesign would only delay timelines
In its busiest hour, Gojek services nearly 200K orders with 2 Mn driver partners. Across 4 countries, 190 Mn users use Gojek for daily needs like ordering food, booking a cab and paying bills.
In 2016, Gojek was not a decacorn, but on its way to becoming one. They were growing too fast, but too soon.
Back then, the consumer app was crashing 11% of the time — 11 Mn times out of 100 Mn sessions in a day. That same year, Abhinit Tiwari, Gojek’s Head of Design, was asked to redesign all 16 services in just 8 months. The engineering team was already struggling to deliver features on time and a redesign would only delay timelines.
Tiwari knew that the only way to fix the crash rate and ship features faster was to build a design system. Tiwari teamed up with Mayank Sagar, Design Systems Lead at Gojek, to build Asphalt, and it has forever changed the way products are designed at Gojek.
But the untold story of Asphalt is this: It has done much more than make designs consistent.
“Our design system added more value to the engineering and business team, than to the design team,” said Tiwari.
Asphalt was responsible for the speed with which Gojek went international. In 2018, they launched in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. It is why Gojek’s marketing team can run innovative campaigns and why their analytics team reports accurate data. We spoke to Tiwari at length about Asphalt’s impact. Here are the five outcomes that mattered most at Gojek.
3 Million More Orders, Every Single Day
App crashes are bad for business. That’s a no-brainer. At Gojek’s scale, 11 Mn more app sessions meant 11 Mn more potential orders. That’s millions of dollars in revenue. They needed to make their app more stable.
But that wasn’t possible if every button, every icon and every screen on the app needed a fresh line of code. Every time a new line of code is added to an app, the chances of it crashing increase. That’s just software development 101.
After Asphalt, the same components were reused to design and build all 18 services on the app. With just 20% of the components, designers and engineers built 80% of the flows. The quantum of unique code reduced significantly and the crash rate reduced from 11% to less than 3%. Daily orders increased significantly, bringing in millions more in revenue.
7,200 Developer Hours Saved
Pre-Asphalt, a small change in Gojek’s consumer app required a time-consuming development cycle.
With Asphalt, Gojek’s engineers didn’t have to write the same code repeatedly. That saved over 7,200 developer hours across Android and iOS teams since 2017.
“We’ve been tracking developer productivity and we’ve saved more than $5 Mn dollars in engineering costs,” said Sagar.
Pre-Asphalt, launching a new service typically took 6 months. With reusable components and code, it took just 4 weeks!
Launching In 3 Countries In Just 4 Months
Launching Gojek in Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand was not as simple as creating a replica of the app. Services like GoFood and GoSend worked in the same way on the app, but there were minor differences. The brand colour is red in Vietnam and lime green in Thailand. Text in the app needed to be localised for all three countries. In addition, Gojek was launching a selected few of the 20 services internationally.
Instead of creating three new apps, the design and engineering team used the same screens (and therefore the same code) but changed the brand colour and the language by using tokens in the design system.
The three launches happened within 4 months — Gojek launched in Vietnam in August 2018, in Singapore in November 2018 and in Thailand in December 2018. And on launch day, nothing broke.
Marketing Beyond Instagram Campaigns
Marketing a super-app is no easy feat. Part of the job is to attract new users. But there is also an opportunity to engage existing users, 190 Mn in Gojek’s case, and drive more sales. Thanks to Asphalt, the marketing team can easily utilise the real estate available in the app to run campaigns.
In 2022, Gojek partnered with the South Korean band BTS and introduced BTS-themed brand collaterals in the app. This deep partnership resulted in an 85% increase in traffic and an 89% increase in orders. Every year around Chinese New Year, the marketing team changes all illustrations to appeal to Indonesia’s Chinese population.
These changes are possible because illustrations, icons and images in the app live in a centralised design system. As a result, changes requested by the marketing team require little development effort.
Accurate Analytics, Not Guesswork
How easy is it for a user to order groceries on Gojek? If they’re dropping off in the middle of an order, why? Data and the insights from that data are valuable for business teams to understand what a user is struggling with.
Just relying on the start and end events could report that the average time taken to complete a transaction is 20 minutes. But that misses a lot of what the user does in the middle of the flow — like going back and forth a few times or even closing the app. With a design system, user behaviour can be tracked closely and reporting can be more accurate.
Every click on a component can be recorded, thus improving the accuracy of product metrics.
Five Birds With One Design System
“Design system is a bit of a misnomer. It actually helps functions like business and engineering,” reflected Tiwari.
At Gojek, Asphalt’s impact was felt across design, engineering, analytics, marketing and business. By saving engineering costs, by increasing daily orders and with successful marketing campaigns, Asphalt’s impact was most acutely felt on the bottom line.
Talk about a high return on investment, right?