1. Planning and content strategy at ACCA
ACCA had a highly-fragmented online service with multiple websites owned by different business areas and a complicated, out of date corporate website.
With three other consultants from Quorum I planned a Discovery project which would lead to radical change. For three months we ran workshops with the Digital team and different business units to audit the websites and create a set of standards for a new service.
A new content strategy – stop firefighting, start building
I worked closely with ACCA’s Content Strategists to understand their current research, publishing and governance process and what could be done to improve it. At the time they were cast in a passive role where they worked through webmaster queries rather than having the time and the authority to run the websites properly.
I used analytics to create a high-level map of the current online service.
I then performed an heuristic review where I identified themes:
- neglected content
- broken user journeys
- lack of intuitive navigation (global, not local)
Finally I ran a workshop with a multi-disciplinary group from the Digital team to capture their ideas for a new sitemap. At the same time, Quorum’s service designer created a set of personas and user stories for ACCA customers and business users.
I turned these into a provisional taxonomy for a new global website and secure service. I created a series of sitemaps for ACCA to validate with research. This left ACCA with a template for relaunching the service. Finally I wrote up a 1-2 year roadmap for moving to a Digital Delivery model – starting with user research and content strategy.
Front-end standards with developer workshops
Pairing up with a technical architect from Quorum, I ran a programme of workshops where we captured ideas from the Solution Designers, developers and testers about improving the delivery process. We captured details about ACCA’s previous attempts to relaunch their online services and what had prevented them from launching better products.
We added our own ideas based on our experience of deliving online services with Agile methods. We turned these findings into an AEM standards document which we passed to ACCA’s Centre of Excellence. The document covered Agile delivery, planning and estimation and finally quality assurance and release management. At the end of Discovery we presented these to the head of IT and the Centre of Excellence manager. We’re confident ACCA now have a way forward for continuously shipping excellent products:
- Use frameworks and tools to simplify the front end design and development workflow, including SASS and SonarQube
- Use Github pull requests to enable code reviews so that the lead developer can maintain standards
- Estimate all user stories with sprint planning before development starts
- Empower testers to write a comprehensive test plan and provide the Product Owner with a test report before launch
Promote Agile delivery with workshops
The Digital team had run several modestly successful projects to redesign and relaunch parts of the online service but still faced cultural obstacles to running Agile projects: the wider business hadn’t heard of Agile delivery and ACCA still used a convoluted Waterfall process to fund new projects.
On a Friday afternoon, I ran a workshop where I served cupcakes and wrote out a series of Digital Transformation ideas on A4 pieces of card, including ‘Find a senior sponsor’ and ‘Run regular show and tells’. I captured the team’s ideas as we went and they used a dot voting system to identify the ones with the most potential. This helped to generate some enthusiasm within the team as well as teach the Quorum consultants more about ACCA culture – what would work to drive change in the company. I wrote these up as a blog post in Confluence to create discussion and encourage the Digital team to start working differently.
2. UX / UI design at Royal London
In 2015 Royal London were ready to modernise their online service with a new application for Protection insurance. In the Pensions division the #thinkbeyond project was looking at transforming the online customer experience.
I used a combination of user research, UI design and rapid prototyping to get buy-in from key stakeholders and help transform the company.
Simplifying a customer dashboard with user research
I worked with a user researcher to create personas for financial advisers and their administrators. We validated these with contextual enquiries (office visits). I used these to simplify a dashboard into a table of applications and a prominent ‘New application’ button. The original design I was given had an unnecessary ‘Updates’ table and a right-hand column with extra contact information. Good design involves getting rid of unnecessary elements and focusing on the essentials.
Relaunching a service with responsive design
When I arrived at Royal London the product owners would pass requirements directly to developers without considering how to make the journey usable and attractive. I worked with a visual designer to incorporate the company brand then worked with business analysts to develop a run of screens. I started with paper sketches then built these up into high-fidelity designs. Before the launch, we validated these by visiting financial advisers in their offices and running usability testing. After the launch the new service took in over £1 million pounds of new business per week. We presented our work to the CEO Phil Loney.
Capturing ideas with rapid prototyping
In the #thinkbeyond project I supported two Discovery teams looking at ways of relaunching Royal London’s online Pensions service. I worked with subject matter experts to define customer journeys and capture pain points. To capture each team’s ideas I created prototypes of new online calculators and apps.
We validated our ideas by running a programme of customer engagement which put Royal London in close contact with their end users for the first time.
3. User research at the Student Loans Company
When I started at the Student Loans Company (SLC) in 2008 they had a paper-based application for student finance and some basic websites.
As an Online Services analyst I had the chance to experiment with UX approaches. Over the next seven years I helped SLC modernise their whole online service and launch new customer-facing websites.
Transforming an online application with usability testing
In 2009 I led lab-based testing with User Vision to test the online application on real students and their families. I wrote test scripts, attended the sessions and presented our findings to stakeholders who prioritised improvements. This was the first testing of its kind in SLC’s history.
In 2010 I worked with the Customer Insight team and the Government Digital Service to run another large-scale round of testing, with 30 participants. We presented the results to the SLC board of directors. This led directly to a multi-million pound Digital Transformation project to replace the old service.
Finding out customer pain points with lean UX
In 2010 I worked closely with the SLC team which processed applications for student finance. We captured a user journey where students and their families were confused about what evidence to send in to prove their identity and income. This caused a backlog of documents in the mail room and large delays to applications for finance.
I worked with a UI developer to create a microsite and put it live with some Evidence content explaining what customers needed to send in. We promoted the URL with SLC’s IVR system. The microsite had analytics and the link to a survey to capture customer problems.
The microsite had 200,000 visits over the summer of 2010. The survey gave us insight into what the customers were struggling with. We then closed the microsite and created a new Evidence section on our customer-facing website to resolve customer problems. We used a ‘lean UX’ approach as we put together a short-term product which could quickly capture customer feedback.
Reducing customer contact with design logic
In 2011 I worked closely with the Customer Insight team to analyse the reasons why customers phone the contact centre. We concluded that SLC’s biggest cause of avoidable contact was the password reset process.
I worked with a User Interface designer to redesign the password reset screens then validated these with guerilla testing – inviting students to a pop-up lab in SLC’s offices.
One of the main problems was a simple flaw in the password reset text. The wording in the email we sent customers didn’t match the wording they saw on the password reset screen.
By offering a different set of labels as well as a clear set of instructions for choosing new passwords, we reduced password calls to the contact centres by 50%.
Fixing broken user journeys and bugs with analytics
In 2011 I used Google Analytics to lead a relaunch of SLC’s suite of websites, working with an external agency and in-house designers. I performed a content audit to find out which areas of the websites were visited and used, then produced a new sitemap and page templates.
In 2014 I moved to the Digital Delivery project to support three Agile teams building a new online application for students. I worked closely with a lead developer to identify the paths in the application which triggered error screens for users. Using analytics we found the root cause and online errors dropped by 90% saving money for SLC and frustration for our 1 million customers.