Case Study: SEEK Choice Architecture

Research + Design + Delivery (2018)

Cheryl Paulsen
Dec 12, 2018 · Unlisted

The challenge

The way options are displayed can have a huge impact on the choices people make. When it comes to your product offering, it’s imperative you design a choice architecture that will serve your business objectives while still providing a clear, honest experience that’s easy for your users to navigate.

In late 2018 I lead the redesign of our product choice architecture at SEEK, an enterprise B2B in the employment sector.

The existing design

Known internally as “ad selection”, employers posting a job ad on SEEK would see the following 3 ad type options:

The existing ad selection design

A little further down the page, employers would have the option to upgrade their ad type to Premium:

Premium “boost” option

Business objectives

The goals of the business were simple in theory, but challenging in practice; they wanted to increase adoption of Premium ads. There was pressure from the business to make a short-term, tactical play by placing our new preferred product (Premium) in the middle slot.

Additional complications

  • The UI sat within the primary revenue conversion funnel and was highly sensitive. As such, it was imperative any new design protect the existing revenue
  • The business was very wedded to the existing “3-choice” paradigm and had virtually no appetite to consider alternative approaches
  • Due to the strategic importance to the business, many senior stakeholders were involved
  • Legacy technology made the UI difficult and time consuming to work with (quick experiments and A/B test were not an option)

Research

I kicked things off by reviewing any previous internal research I could find on ad selection. Given the sensitivity of the UI, there were many failed experiments and A/B tests to look over.

I was not content to consider only the tactical options — I wanted to explore longer term, strategic options in parallel. I completed a landscape review to explore what alternative approaches were being used by a variety of digital products and services. I socialised these with the cross-functional team and broader stakeholder group (samples below).

Netflix also employed a 3-choice table design
InVision’s 4-choice model

A previous team had already tested out a “4-choice” option for SEEK, but this had performed poorly in an A/B test.

Carsales’ card layout

Likewise, the same team had also tested an updated card design, which was more modern than the existing table view, but this too had performed poorly.

LinkedIn’s budget model
MixCloud’s “boost” slider concept

Additional design considerations

  • Previous research showed employers didn’t like the “Recommended” label. Consideration would need to be given around how we could remove this but still highlight our preferred product.
  • Historically SEEK relied on “forced-choice” approach at ad selection–Employers were required to make a choice to proceed. But was there an opportunity to increase overall conversion by employing a “default-effect” approach? (Pre-selecting an ad product by default)

Process

Designing was highly collaborative and iterative. I ran sketch-ups with our cross-functional team and selective stakeholders, and socialised concepts in our design team pin-ups. To maintain transparency throughout the process, I created a UX wall within our team space and held informal weekly showcases. I provided design updates to the broader stakeholder group in our fortnightly steer co check-ins.

I created a tactical, 3-choice design as explicitly requested by the business.

In addition to the tactical play, I also designed a comprehensive strategic option, taking inspiration from Apple’s “add-on” (shown below).

Apple
Strategic “Add-ons” concept for SEEK

I was keen to run a usability study on both designs to capture qualitative feedback. I was met with some resistance from stakeholders, who wanted to release the tactical design immediately with a pilot group and monitor the results. I was able to explain that the study would compliment the release, and that we should do both. I facilitated and analysed the usability study in our lab with customers, and recruited a number of stakeholders to observe and take notes. Insights from the research informed further design iterations.

Decision from the business

Ultimately, the short-term tactical play was given priority. It could be rolled out and potentially scaled within a couple of months, whereas the strategic play would require a year (or more) to release. Disappointing as it was at the time, I could understand the rationale. It’s important to be pragmatic about design. What we need to watch out for is when a business consistently chooses tactical design plays over strategic, leading to a degraded overall experience. We can’t win every time, but we absolutely need to win sometimes.

Outcomes + Value Delivered

The tactical design was released to a small pilot in market for monitoring. I worked closely with our customer service team to monitor feedback. Strategic product adoption doubled and the new design was scaled to 100% of users.

Lessons Learned

Whenever you have many stakeholders involved, design by committee is a risk (or worse, the dreaded HiPPO effect). A great way to work through this challenge is by booking regular, recurring research with users to drive the design decisions.

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