Quadient (formerly GMC Software)

November 2013 - October 2017

Quadient Inspire is the single-design customer communications management solution that lets you create, manage, automate and deliver customer communications across all channels: mobile, web, email, print, etc.

This is a story of how I would like to demonstrate the design process journey I made from scratch, to reach the final product - working and collaborating with diverse teams in a dynamic, rapid growth environment.

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information. The information and sketches in this case study are my own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Quadient.

My Role

I led the initial user research for a new Inspire product - Inspire Scaler. I partnered with 2 product stakeholders and another lead designer to explore insights and develop the initial concept.

Discovery

My task was to explore the user flow with a legacy product to learn the key users' motivations, behaviours and goals, as well as to discover their pains.

The research helped me to create a hypothesis about the future personas. I also participated in defining personas based on data collected.

Planning

I translated research insights and concepts into features that addressed user motivations and business needs.

Together with Product Owner, I helped to set priorities and negotiated necessary features.

Design Execution

I designed concepts from user scenarios, sketches to wireframes supporting the features development. When complex interactions needed to be communicated more clearly, I turned it into high-fidelity interactive prototypes in collaboration with visual designers.


Design Validation

To get feedback to drive my design decisions, each iteration and at the end of release, I validated my prototypes or real application with recruited users during moderated in-house usability sessions.

For quick feedback, I also did hallway testing or sought peer feedback within our design team.

Framework

I collaborated intensively with other platform UX and visual designers to stay focused on our ultimate goal: delivering a consistent look & feel of several products.

Collaboration

I worked extremely close with engineering to ensure a high-quality implementation and user experience, and facilitated design discussions.

Challenge

We aimed to design a new product focused on advanced and business users, that is easy to operate with little or no prior training.

We found from the research that users would expect to have the same experience across all Quadient Inspire products. Our biggest challenge was to devise an intuitive visual interface for easy production workflow design. This ultimately helped us to deliver a consistent look and user experience aligned with other Inspire™ products.

Audience

Being part of a highly secure document production environment of insurance, banks or financial companies, the typical users using the software are either system integrators building the solutions, support technicians or designers of customer communications (e.g. insurance quotes, account statements, contracts or welcome kits, etc.)

The Approach

Design Process

As we talk about the design of a new product - a research, iterative feedback and usability testing was our strategy.

During this project, I had a great chance to go through the entire user-centred design process. There was abundant user research, concept evaluation, feedback seeking and in-house usability testing sessions in each development phase.

In order to deliver an outstanding product, we needed to go one step further than just to deliver a set of features requested. To “wow” the users and customers we took an approach to solve their key problems by designing functionality, that would serve a specific purpose - always keeping their motivations and business needs in mind.

Research, validation and collaborative spirit helped us to get there. It was a true iterative design process.

Research & Discovery
Discovery

Research

This phase turned out to be very beneficial, especially when defining the foundations of a new product. The exploration process brought up a precious domain knowledge.

I frequently asked users to share their stories during our interviews - made either 1 to 1, via Skype calls, discussions with focus groups or using surveys. I acquire some excellent knowledge – such as how users work, what they expect and what their pains are.

Once I learned more about users, I organised internal design workshops to synthesise our findings into base skeletons of our future personas. This helped us to refine our personas to be as realistic as possible, so they could represent our typical users and their goals we design for.

We presented personas to the team and referred to them on daily basis when talking about user goals. This helped to communicate the high-level information and objectives to engineering teams as we gained them from the research.

Personas

The exploration process brought up a precious domain knowledge.

Staying on the Same Page

Storytelling

Learning about users during the discovery phase helped me to answer many design questions. At the beginning, I always focused on user and business goals, picturing the ideal state.

We backed up each requirement by a user scenario, which helped us to stay more abstract and at a high level, instead of getting first into UI details or solving other constraints like technology, etc.

User scenarios served as an important communication channel of the user goals for each particular feature. During development, we could easily communicate the main ideas with the key stakeholders to stay on the same page. The team could easily learn what users wanted to achieve.

The same user scenario was used to compose task scenarios for usability testing - to validate if the goal could be accomplished, how fast, etc.

Focusing on user and business goals, picturing the ideal state.

Design Execution

Visualizing Ideas

During the design phases, I started with initial sketches, mockups or wireframes to share ideas clearly.

Besides pen and paper, for most cases, Axure RP turned out to be the best companion to demonstrate flow diagrams, concepts, user interactions or hi-fidelity prototypes.

When necessary, we organised design workshops. This is where the ideation happened - being fully focused and in the context. Aside from design team members, we also invited developers - this made them part of the process and gave us different points of view. Another advantage was to strengthen the storytelling to advocate user goals and motivations. During those workshops, every member invited sketched the screens for the goal we defined. Then we picked the best of the Design Studio method and applied it to come up with the best solution.

Sketches
Framework

Universal Design Language

Inspire menu

To reach our ultimate goal: delivering a consistent look & feel across several products, we were challenged to devise a universal design language.

The main objective was to work smarter, simpler, and more coherent while easing communication across teams.

As a member of the design team, I collaborated to create a universal design language system - an UI pattern library, which is a collection of reusable UI components defined by shared principles, interactions and patterns within Inspire products.

Design Validation

Testing with Users

Usability testing was important way to get feedback from users to know if we were on track.

We did user testing during development to validate concepts, prototypes, etc. as well as to test a functional application once the feature was ready.

Our main objective was to collect feedback by observing users’ behaviour in our in-house UX lab. During formative tests, we understood what works and what doesn’t. We gained qualitative insights into what was causing users to have trouble, so we could come with better solution. After testing, we provided feedback to the team and made new iterations.

To learn how good our designs were we measured a task time (a time to complete of each user scenario defined at the very beginning), as the users' efficiency and productivity was our KPI. Additionally, we measured completion rates, satisfaction level and errors. All those measures were placed into a standardized average, using the Single Usability Metric (SUM) , developed by Jeff Sauro and Erika Kindlund.

Testing with users - SUM calculator & Discovery
Working cross-functionally

Collaboration

As a design team, we had a very good collaborative culture. This helped us to achieve consistent UX & UI across several products, which was tough task, and without good communication it would not have been possible.

Talking about how my daily collaboration looked, all depended on the sprint deliverables and the release topic. However, the key was clear, constructive communication and 100% sync with the team - either a discussion, workshop or simply using Skype or Slack, whatever suited best.

The easiest way to get updated was to join the daily stand-up meeting and chat with Product Owner to stay on track.

Workshop: Defining user roles & responsibilites…
Preparation

I was preparing all required to be ready for next sprint - research, prototypes (various levels of design fidelity), design workshops, validation, etc.

Staying Aligned

I solicited feedback from stakeholders and the team to stay aligned with business needs, validating technical complexity, etc.

Same (Design) Language

As we wanted to achieve a consistent experience across multiple products, we needed to speak the same (design) language. I collaborated to create a universal design language - an UI pattern library, where each team member shared new pattern designs with the entire design team. This helped us to receive feedback and verify if the new design met each product needs and consistency.

Clear, constructive communication and 100% sync with the team was the key.

Reflection

Lessons Learned

During the past years, I’ve learned a lot and it has moved me forward. Below I have selected the lessons I consider the most enlightening with regards to my work experience…

Style guide has limits

A big lesson during the past years showed me that style guides (as a set of pages with instructions) do not work as I thought. The initial idea was to improve communication, ensure consistency and best practices in language and visual composition, typography, etc. The problem was not that the document was written wrong, but rather how people worked with it. As a piece of paper, it can easily disappear from your daily workflow and people don’t like to read long documents repetitively.

When we were challenged to deliver a consistent look & feel experience across several products, we realized that our style guide had reached its limits. We needed a better tool - a framework. We needed to work smarter, simpler, and more coherent while easing communication across teams.

Realizing this, it transformed our way of work to create a new framework - UI Pattern library. It became our daily communication tool and part of every discussion. It improved our collaboration culture within our design team and it literally became our common (design) language. This proved to work cross-functionally as well - between the product, design and engineering teams.

Conform to users' mental models

The research also gave us insights into users' mental models - what users think, expect and believe. The same experience across all Quadient Inspire products was expected - as users worked with our products in certain way, we wanted to keep our design consistent while bearing in mind the different purpose.

I learned that following our platform conventions and conforming the system to users' mental models bear fruit.

Learning curve demonstrated that users were able to use a new product immediately without having any training. The easy adaptability had good side effects - great usability, satisfaction and productivity.

Observe and learn

Aside from all the advantages of the usability testing, I have gained the knowledge of how to learn more about users' behaviour and their mental models.

During testing sessions users surprised me by behaving in ways I did not expect. This provided valuable feedback for my next design decisions.

I learned that simply observing users can give me strong knowledge, which is a big help in my daily designs, preventing elementary mistakes and lowering my design iterations.

Voice of Users

Customer Testimonials

Research and customer feedback provided by TechValidate.

GMC Inspire Testimonials by TechValidate
GMC Inspire Testimonials by TechValidate
GMC Inspire Testimonials by TechValidate
GMC Inspire Testimonials by TechValidate
Final Product

Results

I delivered the discovery, prototyping, and early designs and concepts of Inspire Scaler, comprehensively tested, revised and re-tested. In the next stages of the product, I worked extremely close with the product, design and engineering teams to ensure high-quality implementations and to deliver the best user experience.