Part 2: User Experience (UX)
For the second part of our site redesign series, we interviewed the Director of Customer Experience Strategy for both Vitamin T and Aquent, Nicole Stern.
(Haven’t read Part 1 with our Director of Customer Development and Insight? Check that out first!)
As head of our UX team, it was Nicole’s job to ensure that our revamped site worked efficiently for every visitor, whether it was a freelancer looking to find creative jobs or a client needing an art director tomorrow.
Q: When did your team come onto the project?
Nicole Stern: I was brought in after we’d had some initial planning and content strategy underway. The first thing I did was try to understand current user behavior, using web analytics to understand common paths, for example, so we could get a good sense of what our clients and talent were looking for when they visited.
From there we developed some key user flows that we believed users would find helpful and improve their overall experience.
Q: Did you find anything surprising when you studied the site analytics?
NS: Yes! Of course, there were some things we knew already. One was that a lot of people were going to our Quick Hire page to find freelancers quickly. We also knew a great number of users were looking for agent contact information.
What we didn’t know was that there was a sharp drop-off after a user’s initial visit to an agent page or the agent’s contact page. That page has a form on it the user can fill out to get in touch with an agent immediately. But what was happening was users were generally exiting without filling out the form.
We had a theory that people were either picking up the phone and calling the agent or they were losing track of the experience along the way and giving up. Our job was to make sure we were fully handling the latter. So we asked, “How can we make the process of contacting our agents better?”
Q: We know that both your team and the User Research team attended the user interviews. Is it hard getting negative feedback from users?
NS: Actually, it’s enlightening. It’s incredibly helpful as a designer to hear directly from the users and get their reactions firsthand. We go into these user meetings hoping to discover something new, something we hadn’t thought about before. Oddly enough, I think it’s great when a user can’t figure out how to do something through the interface, because we all learn from it.
And the beauty of performing the same test across a group of different people is that you start to see patterns. If it’s one person who has a problem, you know it’s not an issue; if it’s three, four, or five, that’s something that needs to be addressed.
Q: What happened after the interviews were completed?
NS: The design and research team got together and had some discussions about the feedback, then the researchers pulled together a report, ranking the issues that came up.
Our next step was to strategize on how to use this information: Are there easy fixes we can make to improve the experience or are there larger questions we need to address before moving forward?
In the case of feedback around our contact forms, we realized that addressing those issues would improve the experience and translate into helping more customers reach us faster. So, rather than waiting for our full redesign, which would take months, we just took care of that right then and made updates to the existing site.
On the other hand, the feedback brought to light some larger questions about how we explain the level of service a client would receive when they work with us. We had to take the time to take a step back and say, “Hey, what are the most important pieces we’re trying to present here?”
Q: What was the role of research as your design moved forward?
NS: In the conversations between myself and my team, we focused on the top questions that research participants had about Vitamin T when they first arrived at our site.
- Who is Vitamin T?
- What services do you offer?
- Where do I begin?
These questions guided every design decision we made.
All along the way we would check in with the research team if we had questions. I’d call them up and ask, “Where does issue X rank in your findings?” or “Out of all the clients you spoke to, how many people were worried about this?” They were a great resource to follow up with.
I also think it’s helpful to have the researchers come back and see what decisions we’ve made and to give them the opportunity to test our updated designs with our users again.
Design and research are very iterative; it’s an ongoing dialogue. You need to have constant input from your users when deciding what to change, and then you need to test those changes to see if they’re successful or not.
The key for me is to have this continual cycle of decision-making and testing. It really helps you balance business goals and user needs.
Q: Is it a new concept to use research to develop a site?
NS: It’s always been part of my world, but in recent years it’s become a more common process as companies realize testing is really critical to the success of their sites and products. Most websites are moving in that direction, becoming more functional, more tool-oriented than they were in the past. As users engage with these interfaces more often and more frequently, it’s become even more critical that we understand what they need.
Q: How will you measure the success of the Vitamin T site?
NS: One of our goals was to make it incredibly easy for a visitor to connect with us in the way they’re most comfortable connecting, whether that’s via email, social media, instant message, or phone. So, seeing how many people contact us by visiting the site would be a great way to measure the success.
At a higher level, to be a successful site we need to understand our users, not just how they interact with our site, but what their world is like and what is happening when they need our service most. When it reflects that understanding and meets visitors needs when they show up, then our site becomes a true extension of our service.
Do you have questions for Nicole? Please write them in comments and we’ll get an answer.
And, of course, check out all the pages of our new site and tell us what you think!