Lean UX in the real world

Rochelle Williams
9 min readNov 20, 2017

A break down of our latest project — an email reporting tool where one of the main requirements was the visualisation of big data, focusing on how we worked the lean UX process to our advantage.

The brief for this project was to give our clients access to higher quality reporting. Our main success criteria was for the majority of our clients to rely solely on this reporting platform, so that the company could reduce the current client management costs. More specifically, we would be successful if more than 50% of direct Tier 2–4 clients with email solutions enabled accessed the reporting within the first month, and 80% of the same cohort accessed the platform at least once within the first 3 months.

This product would also fit in seamlessly with Ve Global’s bigger picture of becoming a software lead business with the long term goal of bringing its entire client base onto our self-service platform.

I worked within the product design team and was involved in each stage of the process from low fidelity wire-framing, to user testing, to designing the final UI. The project ran for three months, with our team handing off to development in November 2017.

The value our team brought to this project included: gaining a thorough understanding of the current reporting process (particularly any pain points); discovering user jobs-to-be-done, and how we could incorporate these into the reporting platform; and working across territories to ensure this product would be successful globally.

I’ll be deep diving into a few defining moments of the project. Above is a visual overview of the project as a whole, I’ll refer back to this throughout.

1. Fact Finding

Team involved

  • Planning & Strategy Director (sales) — Rob.
    Helped us discover how clients are currently sold in on our email solutions.
  • Product Evangelist — Alastair
    Gave us a thorough understanding of the capabilities of our email solutions, and the features within them.
  • Account Manager — Tom
    Ran us through how AM’s currently structure reporting with top tier clients, and how many use the current platform, versus customised Excel spreadsheets.
  • Product Designers — Daniel & Rochelle
    Ran the sessions and compiled outcomes to inform our kick-off workshop.

After receiving the brief we conducted stakeholder interviews with our product experts in London. This gave us grounding on the project and a starting point on what to focus on.

Clients want to see the total amount of money made with Ve, or total extra sales generated, when they have Email solutions active.
Tom, Account Manager

Outcome

Base knowledge on our email products and how they are currently sold, pain points and opportunities.

Lightning demo’s in our design studio

2. Ve Dashboard Design Studio

Team involved

  • Account Managers — Mary, Freya, Tom & Gerald
    Provided a client perspective on this reporting dashboard.
  • Sales Consultant — Chris
    Ensured the dashboard was consistent with how we sell in email solutions.
  • Digital Designer — Grace
    Helped achieve the best composition and layout of information.
  • Product Designers — Rochelle & Daniel
    Facilitated the workshop, involved in sketching exercises to ensure the team stayed on track.

A design studio was a great way of bringing a few of our product experts into the creative process. We followed a fairly set process: set up the problem, introduce competitors through lightning demo’s, “Crazy 8” ideation, then several steps of refining to arrive at two low fidelity prototypes. These were then voted on by the people in the room.

Outcome

A low fidelity prototype of our reporting dashboard including high-risk elements (intended for usability testing) and an initial layout direction. This was our starting point for validating our initial design hypothesis.

User testing with Aspiga

3. UI Iteration 3.0 & User Testing 1.0

Team involved

  • Users — Aspiga, The Times, Total Digital
    Tier 1 and 2 clients with a good knowledge of our email products.
  • Account Managers — Pippa, Tom, Moneil
    Joined client tests to make the sessions more comfortable, and fill in any missing information on the specifics of the clients’ campaigns.
  • Product Designers — Rochelle & Daniel
    Facilitated user tests - asking background questions, then taking clients through test tasks.
  • Head of Product Design — Adam
    Worked with commercial team to secure test participants, and critiqued user interface design.

After three rounds of UI iteration, a round of internal testing, and preparing a well refined test script, we were ready for our first round of user testing. This involved three clients currently using our services, going through a series of tasks on our prototype. The clients were selected based on their experience level with Ve products, particularly email.

Outcome

This was the first unbiased user feedback we received, giving us valuable validations and changes we could work into our next round of UI iteration. These included several challenges our internal experts missed, such as how some clients did not know how our products work, informing us of the importance of product education. This became a major component of the product dashboard.

Setting up for our mid-way stakeholder presentation

4. Mid-way Stakeholder Presentation

Team involved

  • Chief Operating Officer — David
    Ensured alignment with business strategy and long term goals.
  • Head of Product — JB
    Checked-in on positioning within full Ve product suite.
  • Creative Director — Adam H
    Confirmed UI was on-brand, and provided 3rd party feedback on UX choices.
  • Head of Product Design — Adam B
    Supported our process to stakeholders, participated in high level product strategy discussions.
  • Product Manager — Borja (international call in)
    Rationalised key decisions, aligned design, development and stakeholders, participated in high level product strategy discussions.
  • Head Developer — Asier (international call in)
    Answered any questions on development feasibility and timeline.
  • Front-End Developer — Nerea (international call in)
    Participated in discussions on front end functionality.
  • Product Designers — Daniel & Rochelle (presenters)
    Presented our process so far, including the mid-fidelity prototype, and ran discussion on current direction of the project.

As well as using lean UX for running projects, we also used it to iterate our design process. One change from our previous project was the addition of this mid-way stakeholder presentation. We wanted to bring key stakeholders such as the COO into the process earlier to increase their investment in the project, and ensure we were aligning to the business goals agreed with our product manager.

Outcome

One particular aspect of the project was very well received—our automated commentary feature (which was a key step towards reducing the need for account managers). Before going into the presentation we had already received very positive feedback from user tests, but the stakeholders’ validation gave us the impetus to make it a star player in the platform. We were also given a general green light to continue with the project on our current trajectory.

UI critique session with the head of product design

5. UI Iteration 5.0 & User Testing 3.0

Team involved

  • Users — Sunrise (Switzerland), Lebara (UK/Global)
    Including an international client test was important to ensure the platform would be a success across territories. Testing with a global client was helpful for our larger scale features (for example reporting data by location).
  • Account Managers — Jennifer, Tom
    AM’s made the clients more comfortable in our sessions, particularly in the Sunrise test where some translation was required.
  • Product Designers — Rochelle & Daniel
    Working on UI designs, facilitating user tests.
  • Head of Product Design — Adam
    Critiquing UI design.

By our fifth iteration, we were all feeling good about the UI of the platform. The final round of client tests were primarily to confirm the design, including the addition of data visualisation and our final version of the “Insight Feed” (our automated commentary feature).

When I go to the new platform, it’s more structured. Its still very clean, very bright — it motivates me to dig deeper.

Often we get reports with just the numbers, but it has so much value if someone says — hey, look at this specific comparison, it’s converting so much better, maybe you should focus on that. I really like it — and I think everybody else here would really appreciate it if we got much more advice on what we should do, how we could optimise our campaigns.

Judith, Sunrise

Outcome

These tests validated the MVP product: we answered our brief of giving clients a higher quality reporting platform, and achieved our success criteria of integrating intelligent features that would reduce the reliance on account managers, and allow clients to make proactive optimisations. This approval meant we could continue on to our final UI for the MVP.

Serendipitous development and design alignment.

6. UI Iteration 6.0 & Development Hand-off

Team involved

  • Head of Product Design — Adam (UK)
    Input on final UI, including interaction and responsive design elements.
  • Product Manager — Borja (Spain)
    Managing hand-off to development, ensuring a smooth transition.
  • Product Designers — Rochelle & Daniel (UK)
    Preparing final UI assets, and conversing with development over any ongoing queries.
  • Developers — Dorkaitz, Asier, Nerea, Ruben (Spain)
    Working on front-end and back-end development of the product.

We have unified agreement on the MVP UI from the head of product design and the product manager, the only thing left is to hand off to the development team. This (so far at least) has been a fairly painless process. This is because we ran the project “Lean” — we heavily involved the dev team from the start of the product design process. We were sure to include them in several steps along the journey, including a functionality check in and the mid-way stakeholder presentation, this ensured there were no (or at least fewer) surprises.

Hand-off had some lovely moments such as the image above: when discussing the responsive version of the funnel analysis the developers code-pen mirrored our mock-up in Sketch. Those are the magic moments we live for as a product team working across territories.

Outcome

There’s not much to say on this one yet, the output will be proven in our product release in early 2018. Stay tuned.

Conclusion

Our six rounds of UI iteration, three rounds of user testing, two rounds of internal testing, and involvement of cross functional teams was a test for pushing lean UX to its limit within our current environment.

From my perspective, it worked a treat. The UI is exactly what our clients want — they get intelligent insights on their campaigns through just logging onto the platform (without needing to involve an account manager), the dev’s can almost read our minds and the stakeholders couldn’t be happier. I think I can safely say we’ll be sticking to this process (with a few further iterations, of course) for our next project.

Further reading
Lean UX, by Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seden — Amazon

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