Sometimes, All it Takes is One Critical Decision

It might be considered strange to feel like your down 28–3 in the Superbowl during a UX group project against nothing. Yet that is precisely what it felt like, going into the 4 on 3 crits with the stakeholders. We found ourselves in quite a predicament, and brought it up with the stakeholders several times. No other group had TWO apps to deal with — we did. But, no other group continuously made excuses — we did. And it felt wrong.

But there we were, the Wednesday before presenting our case study. To be fair, I don’t think everybody else felt down 28–3. But I did. At this point, we had decided not to redesign a poorly designed app, because it wasn’t a part of the “scope”. At this point, we had decided that we had done enough, that we “got the gist of it”, that we were “just students,” and that they can’t possibly expect us to “fix it”. Somehow, it seemed like everyone was ok with doing the bare minimum. And truthfully, I kept quiet. Partially due to group think; I almost felt bad for us. We had such a harder project than everyone else, surely we’ve done enough. But after talking with the stakeholders, and realizing just how little we had done, I hit the tipping point. And here is what I said to the group, with under 48 hours left, after spending almost two weeks on the current solutions we had come up with:

“I’ve got to say, I think we missed the mark big time on this. In the very beginning we were told we have two problems to solve — the business goals, and the user goals. Before we got the prompt, we were focusing on both. Ultimately, the prompt caused us to pivot — that was their goal, if I remember correctly. However, I think we pivoted way too hard. We completely neglected the user goals. All of us understand that the seller app, as it is, is complete garbage. As UX designers, it is our job to fix it, or propose a fix for it in the least. I agree about the implementation time, but ultimately I think we made a lot of excuses as a group. In regards to the seller app in particular, we should have been more open to making changes to the existing structure. And it clearly showed in the usability tests; everybody was critiquing the current way the app works. We can’t just call that “not our problem”, because it ultimately is our problem. Do I think it means we go off the walls with ‘featuritis’? No. But we should probably think of a better way to sell on this app, because we all know it’s s***… Hopefully you agree with this direction; personally, I feel bad about the quality of work that we have produced as a group and that I have contributed to it as an individual. It’s not about the grade, but it’s about being proud of what you’ve done, and I am not. I hope you understand where I’m coming from.”

And that’s when we decided, instead of giving a bad app good features, we would rework the bad app into a good app, and then add good features to it.

Had we decided earlier, we probably would have been more successful. The app itself looked and functioned great, especially compared to our first attempt. It went from this to this, within 48 hours, and we still had to create an entire presentation around our process too.

Leaving this long, drawn out, confusing process untouched was somehow the right thing to do as a group for 1.5 weeks, and is still somehow passable on the live app.
After a lot of deliberation as a group, and close to 7 straight hours of work myself, we managed to fix it.

Unfortunately due to refocusing too late, there are a lot of next steps to take down the road that could improve both the app and the website, specifically in regards to listing items and choosing item options, for sellers and buyers respectively. Giving sellers an “options kit” would automate the listing process, and reduce back-and-forth communication between a buyer and a seller. By allowing them to create their own drop down menus, buttons, and color swatches (to name a few examples), it would reduce the amount of content needed for sellers to type in the description box and would allow buyers to select the various options for products, rather than having to message the seller directly. Though it would be a lot to implement, this ultimately could reduce the time it takes to list products, and help streamline the entire buying process.

As a sign-off note, this was the first group project I participated in under the umbrella of UX, and under the umbrella of “not school related” collaboration. Needless to say, I learned more about professional skills and people skills than I did about UX. Despite all the bumps in the road — and there were many — I still eagerly await the next one.