What if financial advisers could easily get the information they need?

Ross Chapman
May 18, 2018 · Unlisted

This is a story about a how we ran a Design Sprint 2.0. If you’ve never heard of that, you can learn more here or read the book —I highly recommend it!

The challenge

Long-term partners of Etch, Quilter (previously Old Mutual Wealth), contacted us to work on iterating their UK consumer and financial adviser website. If you didn’t already know, Quilter is a leader in long-term investments, offering flexible and tax-efficient solutions through its investment platform.

“This was actually my first project with Quilter, but knowing that we had worked on a number of successful projects before, gave me the confidence that we would do another great job” - Ross Chapman, product designer at Etch

Quilter knew the four key areas that they wanted to improve and requested page templates and a sitemap, as well as a prioritised backlog of design improvements to make.

We knew we could deliver more, so we looked at the key tasks that people came to the site to complete and identified areas to improve.

They had two key areas they wanted to improve:

  • Customers needed reassurance that Quilter are the right company to invest their money with
    Advisors needed a tangible web presence that improved how they managed their relationship with clients

Can we use a Design Sprint to answer this?

We weren’t sure. This was a longer engagement with eight weeks to complete, so putting eight Design Sprints back to back would likely bring up repeated effort. What we decided to do was use the sprint exercises and pick a target each week, derived from a key task a user would need to complete.

Can we communicate that Quilter doesn’t actually provide advice?

This was a common existing misconception. We learnt early on that Quilter had previous feedback telling them that users coming to the site saw the business as a financial advice site, which it isn’t. Quilter’s key business is in providing an investment platform. We were motivated to start improving that within the content and some of the navigation.

Making decisions early

We set a clear long term goal

Determining the long term goal is a challenge in itself. We discussed communicating that Quilter was a good place to put your money and that the products were simple and easy to understand, but we had to decide on a target that was more tangible and achievable.

In the end, we had a sprint goal for each week and a longer term goal to aim towards:

“To help financial advisers get the right tools and support and for customers to learn about Quilter’s reputation.”

Sure, it contained two sets of customers with two different objectives, but because we had individual sprint goals to tackle it, we felt confident enough to proceed.

The approach

Design Sprints were a new way of working for most of us and Quilter wanted the confidence that we would achieve what was set within the given time. To help, we ran a workshop to make some of those up-front decisions and challenge the brief a little further.

Kickoff workshop

Once we worked out what to focus on each week and Quilter were confident, we started Sprint 1 in earnest. Our weeks looked like this:

Each week followed the same structure

To inform our decisions and designs, we asked experts within the business. It’s called ‘Ask the experts’ in the book and we found it vital in filling in the gaps in our understanding.

Ask the experts

Storyboarding helped us define what to prototype

Tuesday activities consisted of storyboarding and sketching the experience before designing the prototype on the Wednesday.

Laying it out on paper helped us understand what experience we needed to design, enabling us to prototype quickly.

We did a light version of the storyboard
Each stage mapped out

One thing to mention was that the Design Sprint encourages teams to design two or more options to test and learn from. For this project, we only built one version of a solution and I think next time it would be great to investigate other solutions to prototype, test and learn.

Sketching the storyboard

Prototyping creates tangible outputs

On Wednesday, we prototyped what we were to test the following day. We used our familiar Sketch + Craft + InVision setup which allows a rapid design and setup.

To keep focussed and use the time as best we could, we started deciding the scenarios we wanted users to follow first. That way, every piece of design we created would correspond with the question we wanted answering. If, for example, we wanted to understand how users would contact the support team at Quilter and the journey they would take, we would explicitly ask “where would you find further support?”

Tim completing prototypes to test with real people

We tested our thinking with users every week

Depending on the focus for that week, we would either be testing with staff, with financial advisers or with potential customers.

Finding and securing people to test with was a big effort. We would start on the Monday and would often start booking people in weeks in advance as they were quite a specialised group and had limited time to help us validate our decisions.

Content design

At some times, we had to ensure that the words used met the task the user was conducting. At these times, we suggested content design improvements where necessary.

Writing content for the end of week test

The user tests themselves were either conducted at Quilter in Southampton or online through a number of advisers across the country.

Testing with users on Thursdays. We thought fast and filmed with a phone in the first week, but found screen recording software for the remaining sprints

We knew we had to share the learnings within the business. Some of the team were able to be present through the user tests, but for everyone else we collected the results in a document listing the sprint questions and answers, including any further insights that could be investigated.

Taking down learnings from user testing consistently each Sprint

The outcomes

Each week we delivered value. That value came in many forms:

  • learnings
  • decisions made
  • a human-tested prototype
  • user feedback

Within each week, we were able to move from a list of problems, to a number of solutions, to a decision, prototype and user test. It was focussed, fast and tangible.

We demonstrated the value of working in one week efforts

We found a cadence to how we were working together with each week have an expected outcome — the user test. This was a good way of explaining how the design sprint works.

We learnt that finding users to test with is hard

It was often on the part of the partner to find users, as more than half of our intended users were financial advisers. It can be exhausting, but we found opportunities to give more notice to potential candidates, talking to them in Week Two, and booking them in for, say Week Five.

We discovered that there’s a reason why design sprints should be one or two weeks

Heading into our fifth week, we could get the sense that people were starting to disengage. There were less people present in the steering group meetings on a Monday and I was personally becoming exhausted. Were we to do this again, could we get to the same outcome in two weeks? Possibly.

We had good feedback from Quilter

Recognising the effort, the learnings and the outcomes, Quilter recognised that it was hard work, but it was worth it. Change is hard, and working this way was new for many members of the team. What it did create was an example of how challenges can be solved in a number of ways and the design sprit is just one.

We created a backlog for other teams

Aside from the human-tested clickable prototype and the learning throughout, Quilter now have a product backlog to work through to action the decisions made within the project with their development partners.

“We did a bunch of hard work within a short time, delivering real value in making decisions, learning from real users and great to try working in a new way with long-term partners Quilter“— Ross Chapman, product designer at Etch

What’s next?

With evidence from the human-tested prototypes, the learnings and decisions made, the teams at Quilter can work through a backlog of work to execute the plan with confidence.

Want to see our how our Design Sprints look? There’s more on this awesome website!


Ross Chapman

Written by

Product designer and facilitator at Etch Sprints

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