Company and team
TrackOFF was a consumer privacy company headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland (USA). Founded by Chandler Givens and Ryan Flach in early 2015, it had been rapidly developing and growing in the following four years. I joined the startup as an employee #2 (soon after our engineering lead Ganesh Choudari), and helped build the company from the very beginning. By the end of 2019, our team had 30+ beautiful people on board, many of whom I still call my friends.
I was responsible for a multitude of projects covering all the company’s needs. This wide range of work included designing UX & UI for our website and software products (desktop and mobile), developing brand identity, creating visuals for hundreds of presentations, emails and pitch decks, doing various brick & mortar designs like product packaging, in-store banners, etc.
In hindsight, it was pretty hardcore, considering I was the only designer on the team for well over a year. Once we realized that it all began to spread a bit thin, we welcomed Jon Schubbe on board to help with UX design, a guy with whom we proceeded to work closely in tandem for the next 5 years.
Having a high level of responsibility with meaningful timeframes and important deadlines, working in a really fast-paced environment, actually caring about every facet of the work you’re doing — I consider all of that a perfect bootcamp, which allowed me to grow and develop as professional in a record time.
It all started with the TrackOFF website. I was doing freelance work back in 2015, and did a small project for Chandler to update the fold section on the home page. He liked both the results and the communication we had in the process, so I began to work on the designs for rest of the site. We rapidly iterated and launched it within a month.
Over the next few years we’ve had a journey of designing and building three major versions of our website, driving forward the branding and style, as well as constantly optimizing information architecture, acquisition funnels and click-trough rates.
Our main product was called TrackOFF, sharing its name with the parent company. It was a desktop-first app that helped people hide from online tracking by utilizing a patented technology of the digital fingerprint obfuscation.
Without going into too many technical details: it scrambled the info a tracker gathered from your computer, preventing the company behind it to reliably assemble your profile. Basically, they couldn’t tell if it’s actually you, so they couldn’t sell your info to the advertisers, and the advertisers themselves couldn’t track you across multiple websites.
By 2023 the similar functionality is built in a lot of privacy-oriented tools — even Safari browser offers it out of the box. However, back in 2015 it was an innovation that disrupted the market, allowing us to capitalize on the ever-growing demand.
When I came on board, the app’s UI looked ridiculous (pictured below), so I had to roll up the sleeves and make it functional, good-looking, and usable.
Our main platform was Microsoft Windows, reaching up to millions of copies sold through all distribution channels. Over the years, we also released a version for macOS, as well as Android and iOS apps on mobile.
Marketing and promo materials
My responsibilities included creating marketing materials and presentations. We had a very sizeable need for those, especially during the rapid growth phase. However, from designing a ton of corporate newspapers and magazine layouts in the past, I had a good understanding of type hierarchy, visual design, etc., which made this part of the job one of the easiest and, perhaps, most enjoyable for me. The reason for that is probably that special feeling you have when you see a physical creation of yours, such a product box you designed on the shelf or a hand-out booklet in people’s hands at a conference.
Reseller portal and white-labelled products
Another one of the projects worth mentioning is the internal tool I designed to help our reseller partners. Resellers are companies that had been promoting our products through their channels either with a TrackOFF brand or under a white label, i.e. their own logo and color scheme. (I was providing all those white label UI designs as well.)
I designed a front end dashboard, which represented the database of all product activation keys, indicating their statuses, expiration times, renewals, etc., and allowed resellers to generate new keys in bulk for distribution (usually tens of thousands or more). We also introduced a comprehensive search functionality, providing a way to find and handle groups of keys falling under a specific category. With that we solved a big pain point of having people previously doing all that inside raw databases.
As a result, we started offering a much more appealing business model to our potential partners, and the existing resellers sent us extremely positive feedback about the new QoL of the whole process.
Communication and remote work
I used to work remotely long before it became the new norm during and after pandemic. We set up Slack as our main communication tool, which just recently had started to gain popularity, and it quickly took over emails and Skype we had in the beginning. Most of the time we worked through async text-based chats, mainly because of the time zone difference, as well as video conferencing being much less prevalent/available than it is today.
Acquisition by Avast Software
By the end of 2019, as we’ve been making a significant impact on the industry, one of our largest partners made an offer to acquire the company and employ its key people. I was one of the specialists who were transferred under Avast’s wing, and was able to continue developing privacy-oriented products on a bigger scale.
TrackOFF app evolved to become Avast (and AVG) AntiTrack, immediately taking the top 1 position of the most profitable software among all Avast products.
Working at TrackOFF was a very nice and memorable time, where I made a lot of friends, and had an amazing opportunity to tremendously grow as a generalist designer. Through this heuristic experience, I gradually realized that the product design is the specialization where I can deliver the most value, so I focused on developing my skills in that design field — making our transfer to the new, bigger software company more meaningful across the board.