THE COMPANY. Biddle Consulting Group is a leading provider of expert services and software in Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action Planning, and Employee Selection.
THE ROLE. UX Designer.
THE GOAL. To provide users with a simplified file sharing experience in order to enhance the ecosystem of the Portal, BCG's web application.
THE CHALLENGE. Meeting the needs of advanced users without over-complicating the user flow for basic users.
THE RESULT. By the end of this project we were able to implement more intuitive designs and significantly reduce steps in the user flow to help internal and external users avoid error and meet their goals more efficiently.
The first step is understanding the people and the product. I met with several users to learn more about their behaviors and goals as well as to gain insight about their experience with the product. I also got the chance to hear about the concerns and priorities of the stakeholders to understand the goals of the business.
The common goal that our users had was the need to quickly and effectively share files through the Portal because the current unintuitive design negatively impacted the user experience and hindered business growth.
From there, we were able to put users into two different categories: internal and external. Internal users were the consultants who interact with the Portal regularly, so they are familiar with the hiccups and workarounds in the system. External users are the clients who use the Portal primarily for file sharing, and only a few times a year.
When we spoke to our users, they were generally dissatisfied with the Portal's files module, so we asked them which applications they preferred or used more frequently. This helped us identify our direct competitors and take a look at what they offered that the Portal lacked. The companies we focused on were Sharefile, Dropbox, and Box.
To see how these applications stood up, we used a feature comparison matrix and found that there were many similarities between the features and ease of use of our competitors, but substantial differences in the Portal files module.
While there are many parts to the files module, we began with the most basic and important function of uploading files. The upload process is often the first interaction users have with the Portal, so it is important that their initial experience is positive. Additionally, proper uploading is crucial for the consultants to create reports for the client.
Many of the consultants we talked to complained that a lot of time is wasted troubleshooting issues with clients because the upload process is so complicated. We created a storyboard to illustrate what was happening. From there we were able to see that external user confusion was an issue we would need to eliminate in order to speed up the process of creating AAPs.
In order to see exactly what we were working with, we also outlined the user flow. Looking at the diagram below, it is evident that there are many conditional steps and pathways that could lead to an unsuccessful upload. With a big picture of this process, it was clear that successfully simplifying the file sharing system would be seen in by reducing steps in the user flow and removing the possibility for error.
For the first phase of the design process, I kept the screens and layouts very similar to the original design to see how small changes might make a positive impact. I added more clear directions and changed some minor indicators that I thought users would understand more intuitively. When we tested the prototype, the biggest piece of feedback we received is that users are generally displeased with the whole process of "mapped" and "unmapped" files. Additionally, we learned that a priority among internal users was for external users to understand how the submodules worked.
The slides below include the feedback received from the testing as well as a before-and-after of the user flow to show how steps were reduced.
With the knowledge that our users wanted something new, we proceeded into a completely new design. First, we turned the submodules into tabs so that their relationship would be more clear. Then we moved the action bar to the top and widened the file box to display longer file names. We also reoriented the upload box to appear as a row under the file box rather than a column beside it.
We received positive feedback on the wider file box and the redesign of the submodules. However, there was mixed feedback about having the upload window appear below because some users preferred to see more folders at once. We also heard some users mention their preference for breadcrumbs as opposed to the file tree.
While there were reasons for certain aspects of the original design, many of them purposed the consultants more than the clients, causing over-complication of simple tasks. Since the main goal of the redesign was to make the Portal more intuitive for external users, we decided that the first roll out of this project would prioritize their behaviors and needs.
We made several final changes. The first was to switch over to a breadcrumb view rather than the file tree since that proved to be successful for our competitors and more familiar for our users. With the new breadcrumb view, we also simplified the upload process even further. Keeping in mind not to neglect the needs of internal users, advanced functions were now made optional for users who need it.
The main outcome of my work was being able to eliminate cumbersome steps in the upload process and to create a more conveniently and intuitively designed workflow.
This opportunity taught me the steps required for taking a platform from development to execution. Through trial and error, I learned the value and necessity of testing often throughout the design process because time can be wasted trying to perfect iterations that don't meet the users needs as well as was assumed. Additionally, this gave me a chance to discuss design decisions with a team and ensure my choices were thoughtfully made.