Member Portal Redesign

UX Design
Client: 1871
Role: UX Designer
Time: Three weeks
Tools: Sketch, Axure
The Ask
Home to a diverse set of tech companies in Chicago, 1871 provides the resources and space for entrepreneurs to grow their business. A few member companies include Techstars, Accenture, and MATH Venture Partners.

Striving to improve the member experience, 1871 partnered with PeopleVine to launch a new portal combining all member services onto single platform. While still under active development, 1871 brought on my team to solve the member portal’s accessibility problems, address user needs and increase daily member engagement.
The Approach
My team began our approach by familiarizing ourselves with the entire 1871 experience, agnostic of any platform. During our research phase, we identified members' goals within 1871 and their pain points when using resources to achieve those goals.

By looking at the experience as a whole, we shifted the projects focus from "How do we fix the portal's usability issues?" to "How do we leverage the digital platform to enhance the experience within the physical space?"
The Solution
Our solution involved a re-haul of the existing member portal. In leveraging members' interaction within physical space, our design focused on paralleling both the physical and digital touch points to create a cohesive experience.

By incorporating elements such as a daily announcement boards communicating changes affecting the space and mentor couches to streamline mentor bookings from online to in-person, our design took into account all member touch points to elevate the experience as a whole.

View prototype

Now let's dive in...

The Research
Working with two different companies– 1871 and PeopleVine– we began with stakeholder interviews to familiarize ourselves with the portal's business objectives. After defining business objectives, I conducted member and staff interviews to understand the 1871 member experience as a whole and how the existing portal played into that. Furthermore, we conducted usability tests on the existing portal to evaluate whether or not it provided members with adequate support.

Coming out of this phase, our research narrowed our scope by defining what resources member's valued most and uncovering the pain points members faced when utilizing those resources.
stakeholder interviews

After conducting interviews with 1871's core team and PeopleVine's co-founder and lead developer, we realized there was a slight miscommunication.

1871's first and foremost concern was improving the members' experience through ease of use and full customization. On the other hand, PeopleVine focused on providing a universal platform for various clients, allowing for individual customization through CSS.

Without fully understanding the platform's constraints and members' overarching needs, 1871 approached PeopleVine with a list of technical bugs in hopes that, if addressed, the experience would improve as a whole. Therefore, we needed to identify those overarching problems and provide PeopleVine with more guidance on what the portal needed to accomplish.

"What are the opportunities here that we are missing, how can we use this portal to solve a problem that we don’t necessarily realize that we have yet."

-Vanessa Yeh, VP of Brand

User interviews

Early interviews showed mentors as the most valued resource at 1871 and the front desk as primary contact for support issues. Moving forward, I interviewed members, mentors and the front desk staff to understand: 

  • How did people characterized the 1871 experience and why?
  • What were members’ primary goals at 1871?
  • What resources helped them achieve those goals? How were they utilized?
  • What were main points of frustrations?

usability testing

Testing the existing portal allowed me to define pain points specific to members' digital experience. Allowing me to test early what was and wasn't working. In addition to interviews, I tested the following tasks on the portal: 

  • Finding and reserving a room
  • Finding a mentor and booking office hours
  • Finding and booking workshops and events
  • Finding members via the online directory
stakeholder interviews

Research uncovered five core insights

1) Members highly value the 1871 experience as a whole

Beyond the resources, members' considered 1871 a home for their business. They enjoyed being greeted by familiar front desk staff and connecting with other professionals.

"Corporate environments are stale and dead, being here is so different. You get a buzz being around people with the same mentality."

- Jason, Member

2) Unnecessary dependance on the front desk

Receptionists wasted time answering repetitive questions and forwarding misdirected emails because members were unaware of who else to go to for support.

"We’re trying to get people to be independent of the front desk and figure out how to do it on their own."

- Khadijah, Administrative Assistant

3) Mentors and members shared common frustrations

The existing portal failed to provide considerable information about mentors and the booking process. Finding mentors turned into a research project, and the day of the meeting turned into a game of hide-and-seek.

"It is a little disconcerting and unorganized to find someone easily, leaving you to wonder if there will be a problem."

- Alex, Mentor

4) Excessive 1871 emails resulted in high unsubscription rates

Feeling bombarded by emails, the staff’s main communication method, members often unsubscribed or marked emails as spam. This resulted in members missing important events and announcements.

"Emails are overwhelming because I get so many, I just want to go to the member portal."

- Erin, Member

5) Mentors, members & staff found the portal confusing

New members attributed it to a learning curve they would soon adapt to. Existing members bookmarked most-used pages to avoid interacting with the whole site. Mentors and staff contacted PeopleVine's customer support for assistance.

Sometimes I have to call someone over to the front desk to help me. I can’t expect members to do it if I can’t.

- Erin, Member

The overarching problem = communication

Our solution needed to address communication gaps between:
Members and mentors
Members and staff
Users and the portal.
Our Scope

After identifying miscommunication as the overarching pain point, the next step was narrowing our scope to focus our efforts on the most utilized 1871 resources. Using the jobs to-be-done framework, I asked "If 1871 was a product, what are members hiring it to do?"

I found the answer to be networking. Members hired 1871 to provide the support needed for business growth through mentoring, community and a collaborative co-working space.

framing the problem

Pinpointing communication as the overall problem and networking as the most valuable resource, what we were solving was a question of

How might we address the communication gaps throughout the experience while highlighting and making 1871’s networking resources readily available to members?
design principles

Moving forward, we crafted four design principles to guide our solutions.

Connect the network

Create opportunities for inner connection amongst members

Make me self-sufficient

Provide members efficient support so they're independent of the front desk

Don't overwhelm me

Streamline communications within the community, eliminating all redundancies

Parallel virtual and physical

Communicate consistently across all resources within the 1871 experience

Initial Concepts
Due to the overwhelming amount of information sent via email and the lack thereof on the portal, I tested the amount of information needed on the most impactful areas– the dashboard, mentor booking process, and navigational grouping of resources.

Objective: Test what features and information will provide members with relevant information encouraging daily engagement with the dashboard

User Feedback
  • Give users snapshot of whats happening: Members preferred having a snapshot of their upcoming reservations and other events within the space
  • Provide daily updates: Assuming announcements included daily updates (i.e. upcoming events affecting noise levels in the co-working area, printer issues, etc.), members would be encouraged to check dashboard on a daily basis
  • Remove personal calendars: Members did not feel a need to interact with personal calendar on the portal, they preferred having the ability to add it to their existing calendars (i.e. iCal) 
  • Do not push event registration and booking: Members wanted call-to-actions to learn more about the event before registering. Many did not feel a small blurb provided sufficient information
mentor booking

Objective: Test amount of information needed for users to book a mentor confidently

User Feedback
  • Allow filtering by availability: Research found members were more likely to book one mentor over another based on availability, validating the need for a "Search by availability" filter
  • Enable immediate booking: Members wanted freedom to instantly book mentor
  • Sort by expertise: Members preferred sorting by field vs. name
  • Remove friction between booking: Members did not need to view mentor's profile before booking if bio and tags effectively communicated mentor's expertise
  • Don't use office hours & mentors interchangeably: Although "office hours" and "mentors" are often used when referring to mentor sessions, members were more inclined to look for "mentors" vs "office hours" when booking online
navigation: grouping networking resources

Objective: Test how members mentally group networking resources. Do members expect to find mentors, businesses, members and staff all in one place? Or do they consider mentor booking as a separate flow, with directories only for other members and businesses?

User Feedback
  • "Network" properly reflects 1871: Members felt like "directory" felt too formal for 1871, "network" embodied what the space was about
  • Show "network" front and center: Frequently looking up mentors, other members and businesses, members expected to see network order first within the main navigation
  • "Add to My Network": Members liked the ability to add others they've met within the space to their network for easy access to contact information
  • Don't silo mentors: Members expected to see everyone with available contact information together in one place. Separating mentors into "office hours" lost users when looking for mentors
  • Don't create another social messaging platform: Although adding contacts to their network merited interest, members did not want another LinkedIn.  A personal directory of their contacts within the space sufficed
Final Solution

Building on the feedback from concept testing, our final solution included: 

  • Daily announcement board– Pushing daily updates within the portal
  • Personalized profiles and network– Allowing for personalization within member/business/mentor profiles to help connect and build members' personal networks
  • Support– Providing adequate support to increase front desk efficiency and decrease dependency
  • Mentor Booking– improving the process from online booking to the in-person meeting
View prototype
daily announcement board

Originally thought of as a space for general announcements on upcoming events and changes, our announcement boards shifted focus to include daily updates. Pushing members to check the portal daily and eliminating redundant questions brought to the front desk.

Announcements included:

  • General maintenance issues (i.e. printer issues) 
  • Events/workshops updates
  • High levels of traffic within the co-working space
  • Room closures
personalized profiles & network

As a networking hub used to create meaningful connections, we wanted to give members the opportunity to personalize their profiles (and their business profiles) and provide information allowing others to easily discover them. In doing so, we included: 

  • Filter function: By allowing users to associate tags with their profile, our filter feature allowed members to filter through contacts based on interests and industry
  • My Network: And although a social messaging platform was not merited, the "My Network" feature allowed members to keep their 1871 contact in one place
  • Profiles prompts: Allowing members to share their goals and whereabouts within the space (Prompts included, "My work", "I'm looking to" and "Where you'll find me")

We found that members depended heavily on the front desk because they didn’t know where else to go. In fact, we found a total of 5 emails for specific inquiries, all of which few members knew anything about– landing all emails in the front desk staff's inbox, 80% of which needed to be forwarded to the right email.

By grouping frequently asked questions and conducting card sorts to organize them in order of important, we included a FAQ on the portal with instruction on which support email to us

mentor booking

By mapping out the existing mentor booking flow and the day of the meeting, we found two factors that caused major inefficiencies.

  1. Little to no mentor information: At most, the portal provided a sentence or two about mentors. Forcing members to leave the platform to find more information
  2. No designated meeting place: After booking time slots online, the portal did not provide designated meeting places or the mentor's contact information. Turning into a game of hide-and-seek the day of the meeting and wasting up to 5-10 minutes out of a 30-minute session

Little to no information about mentors on the portal lead to members having to go off the platform to do research and with no designated meeting

Our solution included more information about mentors' expertise, including tagging functionality to allow for easy filtering, and assigning a designated meeting spot within the space to avoid confusion.

final deliverables

Along with our Axure prototype, our final handoff included the site's architecture, user flows, and annotated wireframes.

Site Architecture
Annotated Wireframes
Moving Forward
As the three weeks concluded, we walked our clients through our final prototype explaining the design decisions behind each component. When explaining the research feeding into our design, our client was surprised to discover the communication gap between members and staff. Not realizing how much members/mentors struggled when looking for assistance and how it directly affected the front desk.

Pleased to see the solution we presented, our clients were excited to begin implementing our design. At the start of 2017, PeopleVine launched the redesign of the portal.
final thoughts

Working with a fluid design under active development was a learning experience in itself. This project emphasized the importance of communication within my design team and outside of it. Overall, this project strengthened my ability to keep an open line of communication with users, my clients and my team throughout the process. Staying flexible allowed us to rapidly test new elements and pivot when necessary.