The aim of this project was to conduct research that can be used to improve the usability and engagement of a major internal web portal, herein referred to as Adviser Suite (in order to preserve the client's anonymity).
The portal is heavily relied upon by various types of users such as financial advisers and their support staff, to manage their practices and serve clients in their regions more efficiently and easily with a range of financial products.
I joined Phase 1 of the project which consisted of 2 teams working concurrently:
My responsibilities include: planning, executing, and delivering the research alongside Branden, the team lead, as well as introducing UX concepts and methodologies that helped to develop the strategic and design recommendations.
Proposed flight plan for Team 1 consisted of four phases: Gaining context, conducting user research, analysing the data, and reporting on our findings.
Note: Due to unforeseen challenges with participant recruitment and scope creep, the deadline for the project was extended.
This extension provided us with an additional week to complete the project.
We noticed that Stream 2 didn't have enough information available to them to make design decisions and recommendations. Therefore, we adapted to work in a way that allows us to share pertinent research findings as they come in order to leverage a more Agile approach.
Next, the product owner helped us to schedule semi-structured remote interviews with 9 stakeholders which included various executives, the Adviser Suite team, engineering, auxiliary product owners, and various SMEs.
These interviews provided valuable insights into stakeholders' goals, concerns, and pain points regarding the Adviser Suite portal.
Stakeholder research process
stakeholder themes overview
The stakeholders' goals are to provide the advisers with a pleasant and holistic experience on the Adviser Suite portal that might lead to increased engagement.
The siloed communication and information sharing between departments has a significant impact on the users as misaligned strategic goals and governance of the system and content affects the portal in various ways.
The information architecture of the portal is widely considered the biggest pain point, negatively impacting the user experience for various user groups.
There is a need for clearer and more controlled inter-departmental processes to ensure that systems in the user's ecosystem are created and maintained more accurately and effectively.
Measures of success
In our discussions with stakeholders, we identified the following measures of success for the project:
In the end, we were able to source a sample of 23 participants that were sourced from the client's teams with help from the product owner on the basis of their roles, tenure, and gender as laid out in the recruitment matrix with a primary focus given to the advisers who use the Adviser Suite platform.
4 distinct adviser groups, Personal assistants
Adviser Suite support staff, Administrators
Due to unforeseen challenges in recruiting participants, the recruitment matrix was greatly simplified to accommodate our constraints while still staying true to the diversity of users identified in the first part of our research.
By leveraging a triangulated research approach, we are able to draw more reliable conclusions from our study by utilising three different research methods to cross-validate the findings:
The survey was made available on the Adviser Suite platform and covered questions about the participant’s role and ways of working, their physical and technical environments, needs and pain points, and several benchmarking user experience questions.
This survey reached 310 users in various user groups which resulted in a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error.
An unforeseen code freeze in engineering delayed the creation of the survey component that I created for the Adviser Suite portal by 1 week forcing us to run the interview studies concurrently and use the survey results as an independent source of information.
The research project was exploratory in nature which lead me to design an observational study that aims to learn about how users use the AdviserSuite platform in their day-to-day lives without the biases and constraints of a questionnaire.
Due to location constraints, the study had to be conducted virtually over MS Teams which meant that we were not able to do a purist observational study. Therefore, I recommended that we prepare 4 short exploratory tasks to learn about the user’s environments, behaviours, and sentiments in a naturalistic way:
By using the questions and hypotheses that came up during the observation study, we created a protocol for remote semi-structured one-on-one interviews with users to validate these findings and to gain a deeper understanding and inform the learning goals.
These interviews allowed us to gain a much deeper and holistic understanding of the user and problem space with interesting correlations coming out of our discussions with participants.
After transferring our findings from the observation and interview capture sheets to Miro, we started synthesising the data to draw insights through thematic analysis by using the 6 step technique by Braun and Clarke to ensure more reliable and unbiased thematic insights.
This approach offers benefits such as accessibility, reduction of bias, iterative data analysis, data set clarification and exhaustive analysis.
The research approach is limited in that it is time-consuming, reduces complex data to phrases, requires validation, and may not be representative of the population.
By using a triangulated research approach and interrater reliability, we were able to produce more reliable research results.
We synthesised the data that was captured during the user observations and interviews using the 6 step method—as we did for stakeholder research earlier.
After careful consideration, we constructed 3 main themes using of all our research findings which were illustrated in a research report alongside various artefacts like task flows to produce actionable insights that can be used by the client and future design teams.
Areas that we reported on:
At the end of the report, we then added a section outlining 21 actionable suggestions on ways to improve the system and align future strategies with the help of various artefacts like prioritisation matrixes and wireframe designs.
UX Recommendations overview
With great care given to the user's needs and behaviours, I made various recommendations on ways to improve areas like the information architecture, linking, and search functionality to help users find content more easily and quickly (especially after a big redesign like proposed).
I also made recommendations regarding the content on the portal to ensure that it adds value to users and meets their expectations and mental models to increase engagement and ensure that users are more successful in their every day tasks.
I noticed various ways to increase the discoverability of content and features by making improvements to the user interface and content strategies that will help users explore the portal more easily and promote returning visits.
I also made various other recommendations to improve the overall usability of the portal by leveraging the insights that we gathered during the user research.
Strategic Recommendations overview
With big changes on the horizon and various limitations like siloed communication, it is important to create a change management plan to addresses things like training and communication of the organisation's goals and objectives to ensure a successful implementation.
We also recommended that the way the platform and the content is currently created and managed should be clearly defined and communicated to improve the quality of the content and reduce misalignments that might affect users.
I observed that the MIS system can be optimised and that the metrics used to evaluate success should be re-evaluated as they are not aligned with the goals and purpose of the Adviser Suite platform.
After creating a research report containing all our findings and recommendations, we presented our findings to stakeholders. This session was very successful as the stakeholders were happy that we were able to answer questions that they had about their users and the portal for such a long time as well as the depth of insights we were able to provide.
Next, we presented our research findings to the other designs teams both internally and contractors, who were relying on these findings to implement future changes and improvements to the Adviser suite portal.
The report was seen as very helpful to these design teams and is still being circulated around the company to this day where various other teams like marketing and people teams are able to use our research to create a better experience for many more people in the client space.