Case Study: SilkStart Member Importer

jordan coil
Jun 13, 2018 · 4 min read

SilkStart is a leading provider of Association Management Software. It allows administrators to integrate the components they need to run their associations on one platform, rather than piecing together multiple applications.


My role in the project was primarily UI design, translating the requirements into a simple and usable interface, and assisting front end development. The front end lead was Paul Goertzen and the back end was built by Christoper Papke. SilkStart’s onboarding representatives, Connor, Sarah, and Martin, led the effort to determine which features would be included in the new importer.

Old Importer Validation Screen

Successful User Onboarding

In order for new users to find value and success using a complex product, their onboarding experience should be seamless. Part of this process at SilkStart involves importing an association’s database into the platform. Our previous importer did not support the increasingly complex member structures that our customers required.

Who Would Use It?

The task of importing would often be the responsibility of the onboarding representative due the complexity of the previous importer. Our new importer would need to support all of this existing complex functionality, but ultimately it should be accessible enough for first time users to intuitively understand how to use it.

New Importer Sketches

The UX Process

An issue with complex behaviours is, it is easy for a user to become overwhelmed. This is multiplied by the fact that some data being imported can have hundreds of columns of data that need to be mapped to some part of the software. I addressed this issue by beginning to research how companies like Mailchimp and Salesforce solved the problem of creating importer interfaces. I found that in order to reduce friction during the importing process, these large companies included links to documentation, and had clear step by step hand holding instructions throughout this process.

Therefore, I decided to include these elements in our importer as well. Our team created documentation around the importers complex functionality, which we referenced throughout the process. Each step along the way came with importer data templates, links to documentation, and where to go for help if you got stuck.

To avoid the user being overwhelmed during the mapping of their data I designed a similar approach to how Mailchimp maps user data. Each column of the mapping step has a single action. You could go back, save, or ignore the column. Saving or ignoring the column would slide the UI over to the next column. To avoid a user having to click “Save” over and over, the importer does its best guess at what your data might map to and saves that by default, so a user could quickly scroll through to verify that everything was mapped correctly.

Testing and Iteration

The design process is largely one of taking feedback from users, and translating that feedback into a better experience. During the course of this project, we had several sessions where the team would gather in a room, and work through the steps of importing members using design mockups and prototypes. The insights gained from these sessions connected the collective knowledge of the team. Each individual had different context when it came to our customers and what they would want.

We also continued to make changes after the initial launch, releasing the new importer to some clients who has opted to beta test new features. They provided us with valuable feedback that only someone who’s day to day involves running a complex association could have provided.

Importer Hi Fidelity Mockups


By building a flexible yet easy to use front end, we are able to add new back end features and functionality to solve the ever changing complex needs of our customers. Therefore, the front end does not have to change when we add support for new data structures and fields.

We have used the new importer to import thousands of member records for numerous customers, and the number continues to grow each day. Often the work of a designer is successful when there is no feedback left to receive. Using this criteria, I would consider the new importer a huge success, in so far as the feedback we have received has been about new types of data and data formats our customers are looking for us to add.

Please reach out if you have any questions or comments, you can connect with me on twitter or by email:

Jordan Coil Portfolio

The portfolio of Jordan Coil.

jordan coil

Written by

Current Web Developer and Aspiring Data Scientist

Jordan Coil Portfolio

The portfolio of Jordan Coil.

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