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
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:
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:
Research uncovered five core insights
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Pinpointing communication as the overall problem and networking as the most valuable resource, what we were solving was a question of
Moving forward, we crafted four design principles to guide our solutions.
Create opportunities for inner connection amongst members
Provide members efficient support so they're independent of the front desk
Streamline communications within the community, eliminating all redundancies
Communicate consistently across all resources within the 1871 experience
Objective: Test what features and information will provide members with relevant information encouraging daily engagement with the dashboard
Objective: Test amount of information needed for users to book a mentor confidently
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?
Building on the feedback from concept testing, our final solution included:
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.
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:
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
By mapping out the existing mentor booking flow and the day of the meeting, we found two factors that caused major inefficiencies.
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.
Along with our Axure prototype, our final handoff included the site's architecture, user flows, and annotated wireframes.
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.