Legacy product enhancements, alongside product redesign for migration to core platform
In early 2017, the decision was made that Nexis be the next BIS product migrated to the new core platform. Nexis is a research tool used for due diligence, risk monitoring, but mainly used as a research tool by Fortune 500 corporations, journalists, legal researchers, television and film studios. The legacy product engineers were a waterfall team; the product migration engineers were agile.
My duties for this product segment were two-fold:
1. Legacy product enhancements:
- advocate customer-centric requirements in discussions with product leadership and engineers;
- prepare wireframes and mockups to illustrate an enhanced user experience and influence the product team on the best approaches;
- partner with the user researcher to develop a weekly schedule to gather insight for current and future design challenges;
- present user experience deliverables to senior engineers, senior leadership and global product and segment leads
- coordinate the work of content designers, visual designers to produce assets ahead of development.
When I joined the product team, engineers had rolled out a new customer dashboard to the product. My first task was to help define and refine content pod interactions – add, edit, delete, reorder, etc. I had basic wireframes from the previous but scant annotations.
The most significant task was to make the product responsive – work which I liaised with the core platform UX team to incorporate some of its responsive behaviours to assist with familiarity when it came to migrate customers. This included a new header, document toolbar (eg. email search results or a document) and post search filtering. For the latter I sought out to improve the clunky interaction on the core platform interaction and it was recognised and slated for re-use by the team.
2. Product redesign and migration to core platform:
- work closely with the product team to define requirements for iterative MVP development and testing;
- define research areas, draft and polish discussion guides, hone inquiry questions, observe sessions to identify insights for future research;
- distill research outcomes into user journeys and interaction design;
- using the experience from the NexisUni development, educate the new product team on core platform features and champion agile processes to a previously waterfall team.
My role was to take the existing legacy features and ascertain how they would be replicated on to the new platform. Given the sometimes inability to tailor the codebase to Nexis needs, features were re-prioritised and moved forward for development or returned to the backlog when time and resource allowed a rebuild.
The challenge was that little user research had been done on this tool to validate this prioritisation exercise. There was scant understanding of how the different user segments used the tool and what their key daily challenges were. The user researcher focussed on these areas, in order to deliver insights to both the product team for feature priority and to me for design.
One of the main legacy features moved forward was the ability to preview a document from the search results screen. Document preview was not available on the core platform. As already stated, besides basic user analytics, there was no evidence of its usefulness to customers, or its high priority given by the product team in the backlog. Devoting a significant amount of resource to the development of a new feature this early in the development would eat into other more relevant features. I thought it advantageous to use research to validate this decision.
Given the spotlight this feature would attract, I peer reviewed my wires with multiple designers, both in the UK and US to ensure I was meeting our internal design principles and to find flaws in the design. I prepared a number of different concepts, beginning with a simple basic implementation (to be used for user research) through to a more complex. This helped to convey to the product team an iterative UX development that could be built across release cycles to eventually reach the more complex solution. I used these concepts for input from the software engineers to ascertain that the codebase could actually support the design. User stories for the simple solution were assigned to upcoming sprints, following which a research sprint would test the value of the feature with users.
Other features that required customisation on the core platform were:
- global header and user menu
- pre-search filtering
- simplification of the power search form – wires available on request