NexisUni (ex LexisNexis Academic)

Product redesign and migration to core platform

In 2005, LexisNexis launched the next iteration of their core legal research and collaboration product – Lexis Advance – on a newly built platform. A rationalisation of the product suite was well underway, both within the legal and professional (BIS) divisions of the organisation, to migrate their core offerings to the new platform.

The first BIS product to migrate was LexisNexis Academic – a tool for students to search vast legal, news and company information.

Snapshot of responsibilities:

  • Key advocate for customer needs across the product and senior leadership, development and marketing teams;
  • initiate and facilitate sessions with the user researcher – advise key areas for inquiry, draft, customise and edit discussion guides, sometimes honing the questioning live during a session, via chat session;
  • prototype concepts and user journeys in Axure to help illustrate design approach and, with time permitting, test these with customers;
  • discuss, influence and challenge product managers and senior engineers in the best design approaches during pre- and grooming sessions, incorporating agile UX design to communicate how feature development will be realised, from one development cycle to the next;
  • present wireframes (and sell in benefit of design) to engineering teams during grooming sessions and detail the requirements in subsequent user stories (via Jira, Teams, VisualStudio);
  • drive the design vision, and take opportunities to educate and inform design principles, through pre-/grooming, development and QA cycles;
  • inform and seek input from visual designers and content editors of upcoming design increments, and direct their schedules to create assets ahead of when needed by engineers;
  • participate in roadmap presentation sessions, industry insight sessions and input into the discussion around feature increments for future release cycles;
  • liaise regularly with UK and US colleagues in the legal division to compare, brainstorm and co-design on similar features being rolled out on the new core platform;
  • advise and inform newer UX and product team members in agile and story creation processes.

Examples:

One of my initial duties was a deep dive into the core platform – to learn its quirks and features, and how the platform would, or would not, support the user flow for university students. The need for students to be able to search for free – without registering – was a significant structural change to the tool.

I started by mapping the user flows to describe these changes to engineering (both ours and external) teams  that were needed and to be logged as dependencies.

This required several rounds of discussion with the software engineers of the core platform – defining what could and couldn’t be done to meet the MVP schedule. All the time maintaining wireframes to help simplify the journey.

Some of the many other features I would simplify functionality of:

  • different search initiation tool to better help students – more familiar with simple Google search than constructing complex queries – find sources. Much research went in to the design for these tools to test and further refine. Another tool I worked on incoporated a conversational agent model.
  • simplifying the global header and core navigation structure of the platform to meet the student need
  • defining a new layout for news and articles pages (stylesheets which hadn’t been touched for more than a decade) – available on request
  • simplifying document option dialogs – print, share, etc – available on request
  • stop-gapping glaring issues with sharing notes and documents, and notes WITHIN documents – available on request

While at the same time, designing new features to be incorporated, such as:

  • saving a document to Google Drive flow – available on request
  • creating subject landing pages for core university study areas – available on request

Another large chunk of work involved devising a new visual look for the site. Product desired that it’s look not be of a corporate nature but engage a younger audience, but not hinder the search experience. Given that the current core platform had just rolled out a new visual design, our team needed to tread a fine line with our proposal – in order to make this work, I engaged the global head of design in early discussions to express our ambition. I worked several sprints with the visual designer and product team to meet both product and user needs.

    

NexisUni was launched to librarians only in January 2017. They were encouraged to use the tool as they would the existing product and send on their feedback. Following this, I suggested a diary study – to engage students early in the feedback loop. For one week, they were encouraged to use NexisUni for their real-world research and to report back on their findings. I participated in a number of these feedback sessions, which proved incredibly insightful.

In June of 2017, the first public release was made to universities and colleges in the US only. At this point, I stepped back from the lead role, handing over to a US-based UX Designer, so that I could take up the lead role on the next migration product, Nexis, to the core platform.

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