Redefined mission, brand + vision.
This case-study is rather comprehensive as I spent 9 months conducting interviews and using qualitative research to help VenueBook build a product and brand with a focus on giving users exactly what they need and want.
VenueBook is software-as-a-service (SaaS) that allows planners to quickly search, contact, and book venues for events.
A new flow and website redesign would not only re-invigorate the brand, but it would also address the problem of a non-converting user funnel.
To a first-time visitor, VenueBook was confusing. There were no clear indications of how to begin searching for a venue. In fact, before you could search, you’d have to fill out a 4-page questionnaire. Once past the questionnaire, you’d finally see the search results but the implementation model of search didn’t match the your mental model.
You’d get search results that didn’t match your budget, guest count, or date…and sometimes all three weren’t matched. Search felt somewhat unusable and many visitors often believed VenueBook to be a venue listing site. This was a lost opportunity because it meant that visitors weren’t fully aware that they could book a venue directly through VenueBook.
It also meant that VenueBook was missing out on money. Visitors who successfully book a venue with VenueBook means a converted lead, of which VenueBook receives a percentage.
There was a lot to tackle and I knew that the company had to redefine itself. That redefinition would have to start within the core of the company by asking some very difficult questions that needed to be answered before any work could begin:
- What is VenueBook’s mission and vision?
- Who does VenueBook serve?
- How will using VenueBook impact someone’s life?
The answers to these questions enabled me to build a user flow and product architecture that would marry the needs of the business and people using the product.
“Good design isn’t about aesthetic, good design is about finding solutions to the complex problems that people have.”
It’s important for me to understand who the business is serving, so that I and can create a plan to learn about the needs, and how to solve for those needs. This understanding also allows me to make sure I’m fairly balancing the needs of the business and the those using the products we create.
With less than 9 weeks to redesign a new brand and site from scratch, I knew qualitative research would be our biggest boon. I managed to squeeze in some usability sessions with planners who use the VenueBook platform, as well as with planners who have never heard of VenueBook.
In the sessions, I provided a set of 8-10 tasks/scenarios and watched how each person used the product the complete the tasks. I recorded the sessions for later review and analysis.
I made special note of areas in the planner’s journey that were especially confusing or made them feel as though they couldn’t complete a task. I also asked a few questions about their day-to-day, learning about their goals. Paying attention to language was of the utmost importance to me.
The biggest takeaway from these sessions was that our audience consisted of planners who were…“accidental.” These individuals didn’t plan events because they wanted to–they planned events because they had to. These multiple-hat wearers, from office managers to executive assistants, had to learn how to plan events on the job.
This discovery led to my creation of an assumption person, Maria the Busy Office Manager.
I began as a user experience consultant and was later hired as a product designer. Working directly with the product manager and a few developers, I was charged with UX strategy and crafting a new brand identity for the product.
From beginning to end, this meant conducting user research, mapping the user journey, creating wire-frames, developing high-fidelity mock-ups, and setting deadlines on future product iterations.
Time & Choice: With less than 9 weeks to complete a massive redesign, we had to let go of wanting to redesign everything. We chose to focus on the consumer-facing side of the marketplace for this project.
Unfamiliar Ideology: User-centered design was not a core focus of the business. I had to make sure that any ideas/thoughts I brought to the table were backed up by data and research that benefited both the user and the business.
Lack of Resources: We had one front-end developer, so it was crucial to be in constant communication with him.
Using the assumption person as a guide, I began creating of pencil and paper sketches, which were then shared with anyone I could get them in front of. These sketches consisted of every page the planner would interact with–from the home page to the user account area. In tandem with the sketches, I also began planning out the product architecture and user flow. A design persona, created by interviewing key company stakeholders was also created and facilitated the creation of the company style guide.
Once I received enough feedback on my sketches, the product architecture and the style guide, I used these to create high-fidelity mock-ups in Sketch, which were also shared with key stakeholders, including the product manager and the engineers. Once tweaks were made, I met with the developers to go over each mock-up in detail.
Because we were moving so fast, I began heading in a direction that made sense when I didn’t have all the details I needed, but once the design persona was completely fleshed out, we decided to make some pretty drastic changes to the overall design (which you’ll see in the next section).
Design Process: A Pivot
While we used Maria the Busy Office Manager as a guide, I ran into a problem. With the help of the CEO, Director of Marketing and the Product Manager, I created a very rough design persona that fueled a lot of my process and design thinking.
During the project, we brought on a new Director of Marketing who had incredibly strong copy-writing skills. We decided to redo the design persona, knowing that the new direction would be more fleshed out and further push us in the right direction.
When creating the new persona, I urged the team to think of VenueBook as a person–a woman–and what her mannerisms, personality, and behavior would be. The new Director of Marketing also helped us to better define our mission and vision, which also fueled the direction of the project.
We essentially made a very big pivot in the middle of the project to better fit our mission and vision–luckily, we weren’t very far into the building process.
A lot can be learned when working on a project this big, with so many different people. This redesign was no exception and, as a team, we finished the project with the following takeaways:
No. 1: Communication: There can never be too much communication between teammates. This project taught us that our communication could be improved using tools such as Asana and Zeplin.
No. 2: Gathering Data: During this project, we installed MixPanel to better understand how planners were using the site. Instead of relying on vanity metrics, this data can be used to inform our next project.
No. 3: Assumptions: Due to the time constraint, we made a lot of assumptions. A great example is of the search page: there are two scrolling areas that have been very confusing for anyone using the site. And the filters area, when open, takes up a large part of the page.