UX Audit of Guest Management Service: A Project Deep Dive

I evaluated a guest management platform using personas, a competitive analysis, and a heuristic evaluation.

Summary

Over the course of several weeks, I completed a UX audit of a guest management platform including personas, competitive evaluation, and heuristic evaluation. The research revealed an internal user base, many usability issues, and a number of competitive features to consider for future redesigns.

DOOR3 had their own presentation templates, which I followed for each of these deliverables.

  • Role: Freelance Product Designer
  • Firm: DOOR3 Business Solutions
  • Design Tools: G Suite
  • Tasks: Personas, Competitive Research, Heuristic Evaluation
My portfolio includes a quick overview of DOOR3: alliwalk.com/ux/guest-audit/

Note: DOOR3 had their own UX/presentation templates, which I followed for each of these deliverables.


I. Personas

Personas are used by design teams to create representations of end-users that can help ground the design team in the realistic capabilities and expectations of users. I conducted interviews with the client, to learn more about their users and develop personas.

Introduction

The template for DOOR3 organized personas by the following:

  • Characteristics: What do we know about them?
  • Goals: What are they trying to achieve by using our product or service
  • Questions: What are some of the common questions they have while using our product?

Personas were then separated into Internal Actors and External Actors.

Client Interviews

In order to answer these questions, I set up an interview with one of their lead client services managers and a product manager. I also read job descriptions for some of clients they worked with, such as an event manager or director of development. Using this information, I created six personas, which the client reviewed and validated.

3 Key Learnings

I learned three key pieces of information that affected the user experience:

Roles & Permissions Restricted Functionality: User roles and permissions was a core aspect of the user experience. Many functions required could only be accessed if permission was granted by admins.

Internal Core User Group: Most end users were internal members of the client services team; many did not have admin access. Only a small minority of users were actual customers. Of those, only a rare few had accessed the site independently. There were no plans to add user registration so that new customers could sign up on their own.

Extensive Training Required: I learned that the platform required a significant amount of training before users could became sufficiently productive. The reasons for this became clear during the heuristic evaluation.

 


II. Competitive Evaluation

The competitive evaluation or analysis is a common stage in product design. I identified at least 20 competitors and related industries, to gain knowledge of industry conventions and identify potentially useful features.

3 Tiers of Competition

To locate competitors, I reviewed Capterra and Software Suggest, and included obvious choices such as Eventbrite and Splashthat. I included a few I’d learned of during the interviews. Competitors were organized into 3 tiers of competition: direct, secondary, tertiary.

Direct Competitors

I identified 10 and evaluated 4: PlanningPod, EventSquid, Eventbrite, Envoy Visitors. I reviewed all competitors, but included examples from these four in more detail.

Screenshot of Planning Pod website
Planning Pod, a direct competitor, has a robust set of features focused on event and guest management.

Secondary Competitors

Offered the same functionality but specialized in specific types of events, like weddings or travel. I identified 2 and evaluated 1: TripIt.

TripIt Screenshot
TripIt specializes in helping their users keep track of travel itinerary. The client’s owner said he was a user of TripIt.

Tertiary competitors

Represented tools or industries that the users encountered frequently as a part of their work, such as airline websites or industry news. I identified 7 options and evaluated 4: SendGrid, BeeFree, Flight Stats, BizBash. These services specialized in only certain features and I wanted to review the functionality they did well.

Screenshot of BeeFree (BEE).
BeeFree (BEE) has services related to email marketing. I reviewed this tool because it was mentioned by the client. I was impressed by the cute animations and whimsical email character throughout the site.

 

4 Categories of Findings

Findings were organized into 4 categories, based on functionality or features users would be likely to find important. Examples are below:

Competitive Overall Features — integrations with third-party apps and services, (e.g., MailChimp, GoldStar, Zapier, etc); branded user profiles

Platform-Specific Features — ability to create and share a favorites list or vision board; easy access to help or reference guide

Design and Information Architecture — high-contrast between foreground and background colors; strong global and sub-task navigation

Additional Event Capabilities — real-time RFID event tracking; ability to preview and export name badges


III. Heuristic Evaluation

The bulk of my time was spent on the heuristic evaluation. In a heuristic evaluation, a UX expert uses an established guideline to identify potential usability issues.

A large number of issues were revealed during the heuristic evaluation. While many were not critical, the cumulative amount was a concern.

Method: 10 Usability Heuristics

DOOR3’s template only referenced Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design, which I used. I also included principles from Bruce Tognazzini’s, First Principles of Interaction Design.

Over 70 Usability Issues Identified

I identified over 70 usability issues, from their main platform as well as their public website. For each usability issue, I included a suggested recommendation on how to fix it. I also included an appendix with additional UX references on typography, accessibility, and navigation.

Many of the main issues had to do with inconsistent use of UI elements, navigation, or labels, as well as accessibility issues like low contrast. There were also technical issues, cryptic error messages, and confusing workflows.


Presentation of Findings

I presented the evaluation so that the most important findings came first, then organized the rest of the findings by section such as groups or account tools.

Since their users were internal, I focused on the connection between usability issues and productivity — that is, a interface with a shorter learning curve would save money in training and overhead costs.

During my presentation to the client, they revealed that they were aware of many of the usability and design issues I identified, but they had been backlogged in favor of “hot fixes” due to many issues in the code.

Outcome: Prioritization

The DOOR3 team worked with the client to help identify all the issues with the platform — front-end, back-end, design, future features. The issues were then prioritized, so that they could be put into a backlog and managed over time.

The client continued working with DOOR3 on engineering updates and some design updates.


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BBC News on UseIt.com

Today’s new UseIt.com article, “World’s Best Headlines: BBC News” is an article after my own heart: a glowing review of BBC News. More specifically, it’s about the concisely written, yet richly explanatory headlines on the BBC News website.

I am so excited to see this wonderful review because for a few years, I was absolutely obsessed with getting a job at the BBC. To be honest, I guess I still am. I started listened to the BBC News World Report on NPR a few years ago when I didn’t have a cable (and had THE worst TV reception) and therefore no T.V. I was so impressed with the quality of their reporting and how much I learned about news from around the world as opposed to the very US-centric news reporting that I tend to get even from NPR or other US news sources. They easily could’ve focused on British news and just tossed in tidbits of world affairs, but it really was “fair and balanced” reporting from around the world.

I was also very impressed with the aggressiveness of the BBC reporters in their interviews who don’t let anyone get away with ambiguity – even when they speak to British, US or other Western officials. I loved how they would just call people out and tell them point blank how whatever rap they were supposed to give to reporters was just a load of bull. Wonderful.

I even tried to apply to the BBC after gradschool. Unfortunately, it never worked out, but even in the job rejections I was so impressed with the their class. They would send hand-signed rejection letters. Typically, the standard response is no response, or when I was lucky I would sometimes get a dry, automated email message telling me that there were no jobs for me but my resume would be kept on file for a year. So, yeah. I guess I am still a bit in love with the BBC. 🙂

So, I was so happy to see this article about their online news source. It’s really great to see props given to a deserving news site. I do have one qualm about the article: Nielsen says that using “4” instead of “four” in the headline would provide more space. That may be true for many other non-journalism websites, but here it would just be bad grammar. In this case, I think it’s better to stick with news writing convention – which is to write out numbers from 0-9, and use numerals for 10 and above – than with website convention. (I am writing a blog, so who cares!? ;P)

I also thought Nielsen’s explanation of BBC’s excellence as originating from their days as a radio broadcaster was also interesting.

“The news organization originated as a radio station, where word count is at a premium and you must communicate clearly to immediately grab listeners. In a spoken medium, each word is gone as soon as it’s uttered…”

That is very true for the performing arts as well. Dance and music are both art forms that exist only the present (videos and recordings aside) and the art is gone as soon as it has been danced or played. For instance, one of my dance teachers once said to me that it’s important to be fully committed to your technique even in class and not just on stage because you only get the one chance to do that pirouette or that arabesque as best you can. You can try it again, but it’s won’t be the same step. I guess it’s the same as saying you never step in the same river twice. That type of attitude, that is doing your best even for mundane things, is a bit of a perfectionist attitude, but over time it can lead to excellence.

Ha! Yet again I’ve managed to connect dance and technology! Yay for me! 🙂

How to build a website: Step 1. Discover your purpose and scope

Recently at work I’ve been tasked with reviewing a handful of internal, CMS websites for a single division within the company to see how usable the sites are and to come up with a few good usability practices that will work for all the sites. The sites are all in various stages of being developed. Some are still in the planning stages. Others are nearly fully baked.

Only one of the sites took a user-centered approach to the development of their site. They found an intern, who went around and talked to people on the team. Then they took that information and turned it into the design and navigation of the site. Brilliant! For this team, I was able to simply talk with them about how they plan to manage the documents within their CMS, and discuss some of their future plans.

In another case, the team simply asked their current web administrator – who was not necessarily the web designer – to take on the building of the new site for his team of roughly 75 people. Uh, not so brilliant. He was pretty confused about how he was going to go about building out the site using the functionality provided by the CMS, and he was even more unsure of what it was that his team needed.

I talked with him about what the other sites were doing, and I sent him a short list of questions that he could ask his team to help them scope out their site. I don’t believe in blanket usability responses but I do think that the questions I sent are pretty universal.

Here’s what I provided:

  • Why have you decided that you need a CMS site?
  • What are the short-term and long-term goals for your site?
  • Who will be using your site?
  • Who will be contributing to your site?
  • What types of activities will people be doing?
  • What types of information will people be adding and taking away from your site?
  • How will you keep your information up to date?