One of the major Irish banks engaged iQ Content (now Each & Other) to complete a redesign of their online banking application. Their goal was to provide a world-class online banking experience, encouraging people to do more of their personal banking online. I was the Design Lead on this project.
The first phase of the project was a 6-week Discovery phase, researching user interactions with the bank to understand what areas of the current solution were causing the most frustration. The deliverable was to present the research findings with our recommendations on how to address the issues found and what the design goals for the next phase would be.Read more...
I worked in partnership with one of the Lead UX Reseachers who has a strong background in service design. The client was very supportive in giving us access to interview various business stakeholders, branch staff and call centre advisors as well as allowing an online survey to be linked from the current application. We were really pleasantly surprised to get over 6800 detailed and informative responses to the survey within the week it was live. User testing sessions gave us more in-depth insight. The sessions were held in the iQ Studio with user interviews being followed by task exercises tracked using Tobii eye-tracking. One interesting method we used was to interview some couples together on how they managed their banking - it was really intriging to observe the interaction between the two and we found that they actually kept each other honest about how well they are with their finances and who actually manages what!
Having quantitative data really helped to back up our findings from user interviews and user testing.
We spent a day at the bank's call centre in Dublin listening to the queries raised by customers and observing how the support agents used the online systems to find answers.
We asked 10 participants to spend one month logging all interactions with their bank using the dScout app. We were able to track their updates online and followed up with a phone interview with all participants.
We found the diary study to be a very useful addition to the research methods armoury. As the participants were recording their interactions on a mobile app we were able to capture more real-world situations than we might in the user testing lab. The feedback from the study led us to an number of insights into user banking behaviour:
The participants also logged suggestions from the diary study which were fed into the design process. One suggestion, based on a participant's experience at a girls' weekend away, actually inspired a whole new product feature in the application.
The Irish Cancer Society is Ireland’s national charity dedicated to preventing cancer and improving the quality of the lives of those with cancer. A non-profit organisation substantially funded through its own fundraising activities, it does a great job at supporting those dealing with cancer in Ireland.
For many years, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) website had grown in an uncontrolled fashion until it had become extremely difficult to find anything at all. There was little structure to the information and the content was overloaded on the homepage with a barrage of styles competing for attention.
iQ Content was engaged to work with the ICS to redesign the site from the ground up, to put structure in place to enable future updates and to unify the message to the user.Read more...
The most two important task in this project was to get the information architecture and the content strategy right from the start and enable it to be expanded gracefully with future increments. The Head of Content Strategy and I worked together on this project both through the Research and Design phases. A series of workshops with the ICS team enabled us to get a clear understanding of the user goals, to develop design personas based on our research and map out the core information structures. We conducted a thorough analysis of the existing content and set recommendations in place for the terminology and tone that would suit the target users.
One particularly interesting activity was combining user interviews with paper prototyping in order to get feedback on the structure and terminology early in the design process. All the participants had in some way been affected by cancer in their own lives and many were still undergoing treatment. The sessions had been planned to last 40 minutes. In all cases the sessions ran over, in one case 50 minutes over, but we let them run on as we just found it so engaging to talk to the participants and hear their stories. After the sessions we updated our designs to ensure that the website always contained a route to hear the stories that could support and encourage users in their own cancer journey.
The client teams were great at getting involved in workshop activities such as card sorting and affinity diagrams.
The homepage design was key to tie together all the different user needs under one common theme.
We worked closely with the visual design team to ensure the messaging and tone came across in the final site design.
One of the key challenges with a website for the ICS is that the different groups of users may be in very different emotional states when arriving at the site. On the one hand there may be those who are worried about cancer or those dealing with their own or a loved one’s recent cancer prognosis. Sensitivity to these emotional and stressful situations needed to be married with the desire to showcase all the fun, exciting, fundraising activities the ICS manages, promotes and supports.
The teams at ICS were enormously enthusiastic about the site re-design and were very keen to get involved in the design workshops but it was important for the design team to make sure that the balance on the site was fitted to the users’ needs and not internal team structures. Each of the teams we met were worried that their particular area might not have strong enough emphasis in the new site.
Whilst sketching out wireframe ideas for the homepage I came upon the idea of a unifying message that could bond the different areas with one sentence - We are here to support you, but we need help, in order to save lives.
This proposal was really well received by all at ICS and not only did this cohesive theme become the central message on the homepage but some of the teams said they would adopt it themselves in their offline materials too.
iQ Labs is an initiative at iQ Content that enables employees to work on internal projects proposed by members of the team. Tom Cunningham, a Lead Designer, conceived the Daddyo idea from his own experience of becoming a new dad. He wanted to create an app that would condense all the info needed to survive this potentially daunting experience, written in a language that would resonate with other dads.
He presented the idea at an iQ Labs Pitch Party in June 2013 and everyone agreed it was an idea worth implementing. I was selected to join the cross-functional team tasked with making Tom’s idea a reality.Read more...
The project was run using an agile methodology which worked very effectively, with members switching across functions to work on what needed to get done. It was a real all-hands-on-deck approach which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I found working closely beside the app developer made the process much more collaborative. The intended interactivity could be teased out through discussion and rapid prototyping with just simple flows and sketches needed as supporting artefacts.
As much of the UX work had been completed quickly, I put my hand up to work on some of the promotional materials including storyboarding the product messaging video, creating the structure and writing content for the website as well as the layout designs. It was great to work with Tom himself on the project to implementing his vision and visual style for the product.
Taking on the website development too was actually a chance for me to use Webflow for the initial responsive design layouts and CSS generation. It was also a chance for me to get a better understanding of Google Tag Manager implementation to enable analytics on the site.
Everyone got involved with the final content proofing and application testing to ensure that everything was ready to deploy within the project deadline.
Working closely with the app developer meant that we didn't need too much formal specification. Most of the UX effort was involved in considering the flows through the application and making the experience as intuitive as possible.
We wanted to make sure that all the promotional materials, website materials and social media messaging reflected the tone of the application so my video storyboard and script used a simple, no-nonsense style.
The Daddyo app was approved in the iTunes AppStore just the day before the Christmas break 2013 – a really nice way to end out the year at iQ Content. I found the whole project atmosphere very rewarding and really enjoyed getting dug in and working across multiple functions to get things done.
One of iQ Content’s key clients is a large telecommunications client and at the end of 2012 there was a major project underway to design and develop an application for customer support agents. A large-scale project involving complex integration with telecommunications hardware, the product was not going to market for another 9 months. In the meantime, the client wanted to enable the sales team to get a feel for the experience of the upcoming application and approached iQ to create a high-fidelity prototype for the sales team to use & be able to demonstrate to their clients.
Critical to the success was that the experience had to be believable to their data-centric customers. Time and budget was very tight as the prototype needed to available for a major sales show in 4 weeks.Read more...
As a team-of-one on this project, my first task was to assess what was feasible to produce within the timescale and what level of functionality and interactivity we could include. The way I approached this was to first find out what the key benefits of the application to the target user were and then to take these and weave them into a typical scenario of use. I storyboarded out the planned flow through the prototype and from this was able to work out the minimum functionality required to demonstrate these benefits. The story was further developed into a full script that the sales team could use which would enable them to walk through the scenario and know exactly what interactivity was available.
I developed the prototype using a mixture of Axure with integrated Highcharts. I took some initial visual design styles for the full application and adapted that for use in the prototype so that it has a very polished, final product feel. I was new to using Highcharts and so there was a bit of learning curve but the effort was worth it in the end as the animation and interactivity in the charts is really what made the difference in the richness of the experience. Along side that I worked with the client to get real-world data into the charts and dashboard statistics which gave the simulated experience the authentic feel they required.
The initial scenario was set out using storyboard sketching in collaboration with the client so that we could get the key benefits across.
To enable all the sales team to be able to use the prototype to maximum effect I created a narrative script detailing the scenario of use, the best journey to follow and all the active elements.
The prototype demonstrated the interactive charting features as well as the advanced telecommunications coverage mapping techniques that would be available later in the real product.
The real key to the project was to keep a tight control on scope and manage the client’s expectations of what could be delivered. In the end, I think the richness of the end experience exceeded both the client’s and even my own expectation.
The client was delighted with the outcome as it was the first time that their sales team and key customers had been able to have something tangible in their hands long before the product release. They were so impressed that they have made iQ Content an integral part of their product development team and a number of further prototypes and demos have been produced since.
This project was selected to be included in iQ Content’s Design Credentials (pdf) showcase.
The business development team at iQ were investigating an opportunity in the Driving Test administration space and approached the iQ Labs team, iQ Content’s internal innovation initiative, as to whether a proof-of-concept could be developed. It would primarily be an application used on a tablet device for a mobile workforce with the aim of cutting down on laborious paperwork and streamlining booking systems with online/offline syncing to a cloud server.
The concept was judged as having some initial viability but would require validation in the marketplace to gauge the size and feasibility of the opportunity. A two week x two person sprint was approved to create a proof-of-concept model for the application.Read more...
Creating working concept models from scratch within 10 days with just a team of two was certainly going to be a sprint!
I was joined on the project by a new analyst to the iQ team, who although she was just learning some of the applications and processes proved herself to be very flexible, able to work under her own initiative with only minimal guidance needed which was great. We were able to pull in some time from a couple of the other analysts who knew the domain well so that was invaluable for our initial research and user analysis.
Here’s a quick rundown of how we ran our sprint:
Problem definition, sector research, stakeholder interviews
User analysis, guerrilla personas, initial scenarios of use
Concept sketching, scope definition, story and flows
Visual styles, detailed sketches, technical feasibility and tool selection
Tablet app prototype build (Axure)
Tablet app prototype build, iPad distribution
Mobile app prototype build (Flinto)
Testing, fixes, demo to stakeholders
Final fix, delivery, presentation
During the first week the two of us worked very closely together. In the second week we split the tasks according to the build requirements and skillsets. We were still available for discussion and cross-tested each others' work but we just divided up ownership on delivery of different elements.
The scenario generated for the demo was around a day in the life of three users. Each had very different needs in how they would access the application and what functionality they would use.
In such a short timeframe there was not going to be any time for the creation of detailed wireframe documents. All flows and screen details were sketched and iterated on paper before approaching prototyping tools.
We created videos of the concept walkthrough so these could be used by the commercial team when talking to potential clients and partners.
I was pretty proud of what we managed to achieve in a couple of weeks. Yes, we had to suppress out some of our principles of how to do thorough user research and proper personas but we were lucky enough to have access to a couple of people who had deep understanding of the domain and had completed a related project with similar user needs.
Essentially it was a storytelling exercise. The selection of what story to tell was based on the target audience and how the concept could address their current pain points. The location for the scenario, Greater Manchester, was selected to suit the greatest potential market value and we used real statistical data available for that location within our graphical simulation. Completing three different app delivery methods was ambitious but really the only way to demonstrate flexibility of the concept to the user need. So although prototype development time was very limited we did manage to get in a few nice features in the tablet app - a pictorial gesture login, security signature and a ‘scrub’ gesture to erase changes.
We followed up the project by writing a full narrative of the three scenarios for the commercial team so that they could use the prototypes themselves and demo to potential clients. With the help of the iQ Labs team we also created videos of the three demos so that these could be used again for webinar or other promotional events.
The Learnovate Centre is an industry-led centre of excellence for innovation and research in learning technologies based in Dublin.
Back in 2009, a cluster of the world’s leading learning technology companies were based in Ireland, including rapidly-growing indigenous Irish companies. The collaboration within the industry was strong with the Irish Learning Alliance (ILA) formed to act as a collaborative network between the companies. In order to strengthen the competitive advantage of the learning industry through access to the Irish applied research community, Enterprise Ireland proposed setting up an industry-led centre of excellence for innovation and research in learning technologies under the Technology Centre Programme.Read more...
The challenge was to put together a Detailed Description of Needs (DDN) for the centre, based on the research and innovation goals of a consortium of companies, who all operated in different markets with their own strategic direction. The DDN would then be put out to the academic community in order to respond to the tender.In partnership with Jonny Parkes, then Chairman of the ILA, I was contracted by Enterprise Ireland to put together the DDN on behalf of the industry consortium. My role was primarily around defining the research themes and innovation model whilst Jonny was leading the business strategy and partner collaboration.
As a former Head of R&D of one of the top learning companies, I had been involved with a previous ILA industry/applied research partnership project, giving me a good insight into not only the needs of the other companies but also an understanding of the strengths of the research community. My role was to see how these strengths could be utilised and applied to best effect within the learning industry.
The vision had to be ambitious and therefore a good understanding of the state-of-the-art in learning technologies was needed in order to set out a plan and model for the centre that would give the individual companies and the Irish industry as a whole a world-class leading edge.
We started by interviewing stakeholders at various levels in the industry organisations including CEOs, CTOs, Learning Pedagogy Specialists and R&D teams to understand the specific strategic focus of the companies and how they believed the research centre could help them get there.
A series of group workshops were held to identify the common requirements and themes between the different companies. Techniques such as affinity diagrams and dot-voting prioritisation were used to get the companies to build consensus. After a number of review rounds with all partners, four main themes emerged with interlinking sub-themes - Social & Informal Learning, Metrics & Assessment, Mobile Collaboration, and Immersive Learning.
The requirements were combined with our research into the state-of-the-art to give detailed descriptions of the outcomes expected from the centre, challenging the academic partners to show us how they could provide value in these areas.
Workshops were used to find and prioritise the common themes across a diverse group of companies.
The themes that were put forward in the DDN continue to be the themes of the Learnovate Centre today.
It was important that the research be directed by the learning need rather than be technology-led. The model defined required learning experts to validate the concept value before moving into technical evaluation or development.
The Learnovate Centre was officially launched in 2012 with an investment of €6 million over 6 years by the Irish Government through Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.
The centre is hosted by TCD at the Trinity Technology & Enterprise Campus in collaboration with UCD Clarity Centre, Waterford Institute of Technology TSSG and NUI Galway DERI.
There are currently over 20 researchers and learning experts at the Learnovate Centre working with industry partners to grow the value of the Irish learning technology industry. The themes that were proposed for the DDN have stood the test of time and are still the core focus of the centre. Read more about the centre and the current research projects.
A new generation of Irish learning startup companies has emerged over the last couple of years, a number of which have spun-out of academic research organisations. Hopefully this trend will continue and the investment in research and innovation in the learning sector will ensure a strong and prosperous future for the sector.
Chameleon was the code-name for a 3-year R&D programme at ThirdForce plc, where I was Head of R&D. The project was part-funded by Enterprise Ireland (EI) under the RTI Capability scheme. I was responsible for the full spectrum of the project - setting the vision and research direction, managing the R&D team and coordinating with the business units on the strategic direction, budget and execution.
The project was also the case-study for my thesis as part of my Masters (MSc in Innovation & Technology Management) entitled: “Learning Extra: A collaborative learning environment”.Read more...
This project took place at a time when the e-learning industry was just beginning to realise that a one-size fits all model was no longer going to cut it. It was the early days of mobile and social learning and the concept of embracing informal learning was gaining traction. We called our project Chameleon as it was all about creating adaptive learning and assessment environments that enabled users to be served content that fitted their need, level and learning style. A lot of our literacy & numeracy learners, particularly those in apprenticeships, had never warmed to formal education previously and so it was important to make sure that learning elements were framed in a context that made sense to them and that there were social and informal elements wrapped around the content to give opportunities to engage outside of the coursework.
The project was about growing an ecosystem of social & collaborative tools, informal learning opportunities and meaningful assessment & analytics around the learning content.
Vocational learning needs to be framed in the context of the user. The scenarios need to be realistic, relevant, timely and applicable in order for information learned to stick.
Everyday situations, such as catching a train, can be quite a challenge if you have low literacy and numeracy skills. We used real-world situations within a games-based environment to provide a safe & supportive environment for practice.
Managing R&D in a small company is all about finding the right balance between aligning with the company’s current strategy and goals, whilst pushing the boundaries to achieve the longer-term vision.
So it's crucial that R&D is not operating in a bubble and that there is strong coordination with Business Development & Senior Management. That said the R&D team needs to have the autonomy to set its own agenda within that strategy. I was very fortunate to have a full-time highly-skilled R&D team to work with and Senior Managment who recognised the importance of R&D for the future growth of the company. Working in R&D requires a broad range of skills - deep understanding of user needs, product design, emerging technology, learning design as well as a decent grasp on business development and potential market growth areas within the relevant industry sector.
One way to find balance is to consider your R&D projects with a portfolio view - some quick wins, some incremental innovation, as well as concepts that push the boat out beyond your current comfort zone. Combine this with decisions on the level of effort required for different project strands - there needs to be a balance between proof-of-concepts, plenty of prototyping, along with high-fidelity product demos for customers & business partners to take out into the field.
In retrospect, where I think the project fell down somewhat was that there was not enough direct user engagement in the research process. Most user needs analysis was done via business units or customer support teams and many potential insights were lost in translation. If I was to do the project again, I would spend much more time interviewing users and learning about their work environments so that the contextual learning that we were providing truly did give them what they needed, when they needed it.