PCS contacted Danforth with the broad goal of improving the user experience of their main carton tracking application, PCSTrac. PCSTrac is a logistics software service that tracks millions of inventory cartons as they move from freight trailers, to distribution centers, to the local retail store delivery for the online retailers. They wanted to start with improvements to PCSTrac with the hopes that transferable design patterns could be found for their retail products.
Initial consultations with the client product team uncovered that while they were very familiar with customer needs (i.e. buyers) and the behaviors of a handful of “super users,” they were not as clear about the behaviors of day-to-day warehouse users, their largest user group.
The initial engagement consisted of a series of workshops with the team where we co-developed “provisional” user personas based on the teams individual experiences with clients. This helped mine as much existing information about users as possible, while allowing team members to express their opinions and ideas in a structured way. This preliminary user segmentation work was followed by onsite “contextual inquiries” with warehouse users. Onsite interviews were followed by formal user testing (remote, moderated, think aloud) of the current product with more diverse user types to deep dive into the system’s usability issues and workflow complexities.
The project’s user research was conducted as part of a broader “immersion” process that included a review of the competitive space, mining customer support data, researching user demographics, and conducting a heuristic evaluation of the current product.
Armed with new user insights and deeper understanding of the product, a cohesive set of evidence-based user persona was refined in follow-up workshops with the product team. It was vital that the team embraced these personas, so there was ample time in meetings for discussion and collaboration within the constraints of our field findings.
The overarching theme gleaned from the immersion process was that—in the product team’s effort to provide for every conceivable use case and respond to customer’s individual requests—the product had become too dense and complex for their average user. It had many feature and information redundancies that, along with weak information architecture, made it difficult for users to complete key tasks and find common data points.
The team then worked to prioritize tasks and develop user scenarios (task mapping) for each persona. This collaborative process allowed us to significantly streamline a number of complex workflows that would provide productivity improvements for the majority of day to day users. User scenarios were translated into system workflows and key screens were isolated from the workflows. This allowed us to create a clear set of high priority task-based functional requirements for each screen.
PCS reports success with the improvements they have been rolling out over time as they upgrade their platform to be able to support many of the broader proposed changes. I have worked with them ongoing to help transfer some of the more successful layouts and interactions into patterns for their retail products. In addition, Danforth has been engaged to work with PCS to help further guide the product team on user centered design best practices so they can be more independent in making good design decisions. We are currently helping this client with micro-interactions for one of their retail products.
Concorde offers a software service that manages truck driver qualification files and tracks drug and alcohol testing compliance. Concorde contacted my agency partner who brought me in as the strategist to structure and lead the engagement. Concorde, while very successful in their space, wanted to investigate how to integrate their three top products into a single cohesive platform. They wanted an “integrated dashboard’ through which all users would pass with the hopes of up-selling different product options. In addition, they wanted to explore ways to streamline and generally improve the user experience for all their products.
Like the PCS project, I began this engagement with a deep immersion into the product and its surrounding ecosystem. I conducted stakeholder interviews, user interviews, reviewed third party research and worked with the client to develop clear user segmentation. While initially the client was asking for a one-size-fits-all “dashboard,” the research and discovery quickly revealed a clear need for a highly-personalized experience both individually and by user group.
In an effort to best support the client in making informed decisions (particularly in light of findings I knew they did not expect) I pulled together the research and supporting data, along with real-world examples from successful products to make a strong case for why I was recommending a personalized experience over a single dashboard screen. Because this new direction would greatly impact the level of time and investment needed for product improvements, it was important that the concepts were introduced incrementally over a series of meetings working closely with the product team. I provided opportunities for team discussion and actively encouraged them to challenge my methods and conclusions. By the final “recommendations” presentation, the product team and executive leadership was on board and very excited about the new direction. In addition to a more personalized experience for users, our research uncovered clear opportunity areas for the business if they could provide more robust and meaningful reports and data visualizations.
Once we had the client’s blessing on the new direction, I moved forward developing the information architecture and screen wire-frame designs based on priority tasks per user segment. As in all projects, I referenced a wide range of other successful products and micro-interaction trends. The approved wire-frames were then developed into a non-functional, interactive prototype for user testing.
User testing of the prototype was conducted in two phases; an initial group of participants followed by a subsequent group after design refinements. The new unified product tested well with representative users and was successful from both from a usability/workflow perspective, and in meeting one of the initial key business requirements of promoting more cross-sell activity.
After design approvals, I worked with the client to define a high-level product road-map for rolling out the proposed platform changes over the next 2-3 years. We uncovered that the development of a single sign-on process was a prerequisite to moving forward with the platform changes. The client is currently working on launching the single sign-on functionality.