Task: A module for traders to match their borrows and loans and create profitable deals. My Role: Lead UX Designer- User Research, Information Architecture, Wireframes, Prototypes, Documentation, Visual Style Guidance. Tools: Interviews with User Proxies, User Journeys, Light weight personas, Conceptual Modals, Axure.
Project Overview The project was an enhancement module to an existing product. The current system let the users add one borrow against one loan. For years the process involved looking through multiple emails, excel sheets, IM's and more to complete the transaction. The information was available in distributed pieces that the user was required to keep track of and match to find the most profitable deal. This required a lot of effort from the user, took a lot of time and there was no way for the user to track his progress and profitability at the end of the day. The new module was created to provide a consolidated presentation of the borrows and loans, to compare and match borrows and loans to create more profitable deals, to track the various deals made in a day and to easily track the user's metrics throughout the day to determine profitability. Process Domain Discovery and User Research The project was kicked off with multiple discussions with the Stakeholders focusing on the inspiration behind the project and understanding the business goals and motivations and the vision for the project. Later discussions were mostly between the Product Owner/ Business Analyst and me. I prepared questions prior to the meetings to help keep the discussions focused. These in-depth discussions were focused on exploring the user needs, motivations, goals and user journey. After each discussion I would try and create drafts of the user journey and lightweight person, which helped me craft the next set of questions to fill in the blanks. The UX team is relatively new and hence creating the awareness around user research is an ongoing effort; Our team is working on creating proper process around user research and getting access to end users. Hence I had to entirely depend on user proxies such as our Product Owner for my user research efforts, creating the user journey, the lightweight person, task analysis and map the pain points the user is experiencing.
Information Architecture and Sketches Once we developed an understanding of the domain and the user we started with dividing the multiple functions of the user and estimating the different screens the user would need to complete the various different tasks and figuring out the metrics and data points that would be important to the different personas to accomplish their goals. Early sketches were created to communicate our vision with the Product Owner and to create a common understanding between us. These sketches were refined with each discussion.
Wireframes As we started getting into more depth regarding the various functionality I progressed to making wireframes to provide a more realistic schematic to the Product Owner. On my insistence we had a representative from the development team join the conversation to discuss the framework and the technical feasibility; this helped us understand the limitations of the framework and reuse existing functionality. When an initial set of wireframes were created, we were introduced to the complete development team and plugged into their Agile Sprints, this was a couple of sprints prior to them starting development on the module. From this point onwards I started writing UX specs and conducting periodic design reviews with the complete team to maintain transparency and to get their feedback.
Note: This is one of the early wireframes which was rejected.
High-Fidelity Interactive Prototype The wireframes were converted into high fidelity Interactive prototypes (where required) in Axure to demonstrate the interactions to the development teams. This helped the team estimate the work and effort that will go into creating the next functionality. This process was followed throughout the rest of the development cycle.
Challenges Working on this project was an interesting and educational experience. This project presented a few new challenges. One of the biggest challenges was the lack of access to actual end users being in a FinTech services company comes with levels of bureaucracy and getting access to end users means going through levels of managers within multiple divisions, which meant that it couldn't be done in the limited time available. The solution was to use user proxies which we found in our Product Owner and Business Analysts, conducting our user research with them gave us insights into some of the bigger pain points and workflow of our end users for the purpose of this project. Another challenge faced was to maintain a consistent experience in the new module being designed. The application in place was developed over years and has been worked on at different times by different developers and product owner. Maintaining consistency with the rest of the application was a big challenge, Working with the development team closely and making sure the new module re-used existing patterns and that the module being developed wasn't a single standing the styling was inspired by existing screens and the interaction patterns weren't completely new but rather were a hybrid between the old system in place and the new framework that the product is moving towards. The product team was distributed over two timezones and four cities and they had never worked with a UX Designer before so having a remote UX designer made for an even bigger challenge. Communication was key, making sure that the documentation was consistent and easily accessible, holding frequent and multiple reviews and having an open forum for team members to ask questions, and add comments and suggestions greatly helped the process.
Takeaways The experience with this project has been and educational and humbling. After the issues I faced with trying to conduct User Research with this project I spear headed a campaign to establish User Research as an important part of the process educating the different members of the team and higher level management on the importance of user research. And slowly slowly bit by bit we are getting closer to our goal. Simultaneously we are also establish a process for User Research for everyone to follow, teaching the different methods of user research and creating a toolkit to enable the community of designers, project managers, product owners, etc in the company to start and embed the practice in every project. Working with a new team is always a challenge and if the team works remotely, and has never been exposed to a UX designer it adds a lot of problems for team members. I learned it the hard way that not everyone understand UX design practices and explaining what a UX designer does and why it is important is crucial in the early stages of the project. Another challenge is to extract feedback from the development team in such cultures. It took a few months for the team to warm up and start participating in review sessions actively and to voice their opinions. I had to go through various ice breaker activities and I made sure I presented the designs multiple times to ensure a proper dialogue between member of the team regarding the design reducing issues and inconsistencies in the development stages.