Last month, we launched a complete redesign of the Glassdoor Employer Center. The case for redesigning an enterprise app is often a tough sell. Here’s the story of how we made it happen…
First some background, the Employer Center is the web app where employers manage their Glassdoor presence. They update their company profile and jobs, respond to reviews, and monitor their performance with job seekers via analytics. Our Employer Center is a core touchpoint for our business audience.
This launch brings both the design and the tech stack of the Employer Center up-to-date, giving our users a far better experience. The project was a significant milestone for Glassdoor. The launch was almost two years in the making — a significant commitment for a company accustomed to 2 week sprints and a rapid release cycle. It was also the first large, design lead project with an objective focused solely on improving user experience with an existing product.
The idea for a new, improved Employer Center had been bouncing around in my brain for a while. I won’t claim to be the first or only person to raise the idea, just the one who held on to it longest. I was the lead designer for our legacy Employer Center platform, so perhaps I was most motivated. Any time I got frustrated trying to fit new functionality in an already crowded menu, or talking to a user that struggled with the platform, I would want to scrap what I saw as a broken system and start anew. But that’s a big ask for a young company. Complaining got me sympathy, but no traction. I had to build a case for why this was mission critical — not just for our users, but for Glassdoor.
Building the Case
While the user experience of your product may be a big problem, the reality is that companies tend to have a lot of big problems to solve., and not enough resources to solve all of them. They have to make tradeoffs on which problems to prioritize. Like most of us, business leaders look for data that can make those decisions easier, and that’s where I had to start. And like most businesses, Glassdoor had to consider the impact to the bottom line — if the potential return on the investment isn’t tangible, then a redesign would not just be a waste of resources, but could genuinely impact our viability as a business. You don’t worry about replacing the curtains when the house is on fire. I had to show that a redesign wasn’t about updating the curtains, but about fireproofing the house.
So, how did I do this? While my path was a bit haphazard, I’ve identified 3 key things on which were fundamental to making my case:
Yes, our employer experience was bad, but let’s be honest, a lot of enterprise software has a less than stellar experience. Besides, Glassdoor has Customer Success Managers (CSMs) that would help our clients with any problems or even do the work for them, so why make the investment?
But CSMs are an expensive way to solve for software usability and this solution only works for large enterprise accounts. It doesn’t scale down market. We landed the big fish, but we had ignored the 80% of the market that is made up of very small employers. We couldn’t afford to ignore those small employers if we wanted to grow. In order to gain their business, our tool had to be easy to use. Vulnerability #1.
Our legacy architecture also had two flaws that, while not necessarily a problem yet, were major limiting factors — smoldering embers that could become that house fire. First, the site was not remotely mobile-friendly. As more and more business happens on the go, this was starting to become a problem. Not a big problem yet, but a problem for the future. Vulnerability #2.
Second, the architecture was not extensible. We had 40+ pages organized in a way that made sense, but it took time to find things. The navigation was at its limit and didn’t provide clear homes for new content we hoped to add. We often found ourselves stuck when trying to fit new features into an already bloated menu. If users couldn’t find anything, any added value of new features would be lost. Vulnerability #3.
While it was great that I had my talking points, it isn’t necessarily enough to have one part of the business see the benefit in a project. If multiple teams can align their needs or goals, then the value of a project expands. I didn’t discover this in any formal way, but I found allies on our engineering team by simply asking them for their thoughts and sharing my ideas. If we wanted to do X, what would that mean for the system architecture? Were the problems I saw on the surface only skin deep or were these issues impacting them too? Through discussion, I learned some of the limitations they felt with our site architecture and found alignment. A redesign would also allow them to refresh the tech stack and create a more flexible technical architecture. This would allow them to more easily maintain and expand our codebase.
Once I had my talking points, and allies that would be in favor of the work, the last piece of the puzzle was finding the right opportunity. Because I was armed with this information I could assess whether my case had a shot before I took it to the judge of product leadership. I knew when to lay all my chips down.
In November of 2017 leadership announced that it was setting down the challenge to grow our self service business by 10x. Here was the opportunity. This audience was particularly impacted by our vulnerabilities. They were also a very small portion of our current user base — so the risk to current business was very contained. The downside was limited, the potential upside was huge.
I created some rough concepts and met with our VP of product. I listed out all the vulnerabilities in our current product and how they might sink our self service initiative. I shared what I knew of my allies’ problems as well. I stated how the new concept could solve each one.
I won my case.
Fundamentally redesigning our employer product became the first initiative in our self service market push. I was allowed to focus my entire design team on the redesign. Their hard work took a rough concept and made it a robust and flexible design, built with a cohesive design system that would work for all our users. Our team of designers and engineers spent 5 months building out the new design. In June of 2018, the new self service employer portal launched in an A/B test and we waited for the data to come back.
The new site — which contained no new features or options, only the new user experience, and improved site performance — converted free trial users to paying customers at a rate that was 12% higher than the old site. In our product space, a 1% improvement is considered good. 12% was almost unheard of. Quantified proof that design and the user experience mattered, even for a business platform.
One year after we launched the redesigned product for our self service clients, we relaunched our enterprise product for all B2B users. All our customers now have a new cleaner experience. Do we expect to see the same results? Not exactly — it’s a different ball game. There are still sales contracts and Customer Success Managers, and all the other interactions that make up this audience’s experience with Glassdoor. Defining the impact will be harder. But I’m looking forward to the data.