Reconstructing the Project Set-up Process
A UX case study with Riskcast, a construction logistics company.
UX Team: Brandon Cherry, Erica Krivda, Amelia Warren
One of the hardest parts of any project is getting started and the construction industry is no exception. This is an insight that my group and I discovered in our two-week design sprint in working with Riskcast, a web-based productivity tool for project managers and foremen to track a variety of construction logistics. We were tasked with improving the online user experience of the Riskcast platform and execute in a responsive design.
What are the challenges of project managers in construction?
To understand the process and pain points of managing construction projects, we interviewed 4 project managers (2 current users of Riskcast and 2 potential clients) and asked them some questions regarding their workflow:
- Can you tell us about your typical daily routine?
- How do you assess the productivity of each project?
- Are there any aspects of your current productivity software that frustrate you?
- What are some recurring issues you frequently struggle with?
Some of the trends that we identified in our affinity map include: struggling to set-up projects, pain points with tracking the many variables of a construction project (budget, crew, costs, etc.) and the need for a simple reporting system.
To say we learned a lot about construction is an understatement! And it was interesting to hear how difficult it can be to manage a construction project due to all the variables that come into play. It really put into perspective the importance of productivity systems such as Riskcast to make the workflow for those in the construction field easier.
Utilizing our affinity map findings, we proceeded to create a user persona for Riskcast that demonstrates the needs and pain points of a Project Manager. In order for a PM to complete their job successfully they need to:
- Save time/money when possible.
- Minimize mistakes when tracking project information.
- Communicate project metrics to stakeholders.
We created a journey map for our persona’s project-tracking process, which we divided into three main sections: Project Start, Project Progress, and Project Complete. Overall, there is a lot of tracking that takes place throughout a construction project and the opportunities for improvement were made clear in the lowest points of the map. We defined these opportunities as the following:
- An easy, intuitive project set-up process.
- Consolidation of information from different software & resources.
- A simple but flexible reporting system for easy share-out.
Area of Focus
In the time that we were allotted for this design sprint and keeping in mind the information that we were privy to at the time, we needed to act on a problem that was achievable. We chose to focus on the project set-up process—we figured if we could simplify the project creation process, it would eliminate a barrier to entry to the rest of the Riskcast platform. If users cannot successfully start a project, this might prevent them from utilizing the product in the most efficient way possible.
From there, we developed our problem statement:
Bob has difficulty creating new projects due to the complicated and time-consuming set-up process.
How might we simplify the project creation process to help him save time and minimize mistakes?
Testing the existing platform
To understand how we were going to optimize the project set-up process, we first needed to test the current project set-up experience. In setting up a simple scenario and task, we asked users to create a new project and enter all of the necessary information.
4/5 users did not successfully create a project. Many users thought there were too many fields to complete and did not understand what some of the fields meant. Also, three of those users did not recognize the other steps in project creation process such as Budget, Team & Options. They clicked “Save” after filling out the information on the Product Information page and considered the task complete.
Improving the workflow
To ensure that our redesign was going to help the user and to save ourselves from reinventing the wheel, we performed a competitive analysis within the project management space and aligned those findings to existing UX design & psychology principles. We evaluated the project set-up processes within busybusy, backlog & monday.com.
The insights and feedback gathered in our research, initial usability test & competitive analysis informed the below wireframes and design decisions:
- Reduce amount of field inputs for users.
Hick’s law states that the more choices a user is presented with, the longer they will take to make a decision or complete a task. This psychology principle combined with the feedback from testing the existing set-up process led to the decision of reducing the project information fields to the ones that were absolutely necessary. We narrowed the fields to the required inputs which were provided by the client.
- Provide context to inputs when users aren’t clear.
In Riskcast’s current set-up, users are able to hover over fields to reveal descriptions, however, many weren’t aware of this function in testing. Implementing a clear visual cue by using a question mark icon will allow users to learn more about a particular field if they are uncertain as to what information to provide.
- Indicate a multi-step process.
When expecting information from our users, it’s important to inform them of how long tasks are going to take to complete or the amount of steps/pages included in the process. Displaying pagination indicators lets the user know how many pages there are in total and which page they are on at a given time.
- Allow users to import information.
Knowing that many project managers use Excel to keep track of crew member information, why force them to enter that information again manually? Allowing for a file import helps reduce time and prevents having to repeat tasks.
- Cluster information and break into separate steps.
In the original project set-up, budget & timecard settings are on one page, with each option displayed as a toggle. By chunking and separating these settings into two pages and changing them from toggles to checkboxes, we’re managing the user’s cognitive load and allowing them to complete the task more intuitively.
- Allow users to skip steps when they don’t have all of the information available or need to reduce time.
Sometimes, people don’t have all the answers on hand or project variables change later on. To accommodate these scenarios, but still get the task done, we’ve provided a skip option so users can still create the project but be flexible with the information needed.
So how did these screens perform?
In testing the paper prototype screens, 2/4 users completed the task of creating a new project. Where some of those users struggled was in relation to the ‘Save’ button — they had wanted to tap ‘Save’ to proceed to the next screen, although this button actually serves as a save for later function. In moving to mid-fidelity, the solution was to change this CTA from a button to a text link and reword to ‘Save for later’ to be more explicit in the action it performs.
To check or not to check…
In Riskcast’s original project creation process, the Budget & Timecard settings are listed as toggles. To reduce the amount of extraneous visuals for the user and keep them focused on the task at hand, we transformed these options into checkboxes for the new design.
3/3 users completed the task of creating a new project in the mid-fidelity usability tests. When users landed on the Budget Settings screen, they noticed that upon checking “Allow Quantity Item Breakdown,” two additional settings were revealed underneath. This mimics the original design, displayed below, in which two additional toggles are activated once the second toggle is switched on. Users were questioning whether or not further action was required when the other settings were uncovered.
In transitioning to high-fidelity, we decided to ditch the click-and-reveal approach and make these additional settings visible from the start, but instead display them as inactive until the second checkbox is selected.
The Final Touches
In transition to high-fidelity, the design remains simple and Riskcast’s primary brand color was applied to buttons, progress circles and other visual elements & cues that draw the user’s attention to the task at hand.
8/8 users succeeded in creating a new project with the high-fidelity prototype! Some minor feedback included visual design and verbiage updates, but overall, users felt the process was simple and straightforward. In simplifying the process, prioritizing fields, and breaking down the steps that makes the process more digestible, we went from a 20% completion rate to 100% completion when comparing usability test results.
“This was very simple. It wasn’t difficult at all!” — User
This simple, one-column design allowed for an easy upscale to desktop. The gain in real-estate within the larger viewport allowed for the introduction of illustrations and other brand visuals.
By simplifying this process, we aim to reduce time and error for Riskcast users and keep them focused on the information that matters to get the work done. They already spend a lot of time obtaining and tracking a variety of construction metrics, we don’t want to frustrate them from the start by demanding so much of them! Our team’s design and the results of our usability test have demonstrated that less is more.
Take a look at our clickable prototype!