How we used UserZoom to redesign UserZoom.
Since UserZoom’s founding we have focused on a single buying persona: the power User Experience (UX) Researcher.
As we broadened the capabilities of our platform we discovered that there are many additional profiles who could benefit from a UX research solution. We also admitted to ourselves that these expanded users could benefit from an improved user experience — having bootstrapped the company and scaled with limited resources, we’d generated pretty significant UX debt. And it was time for us to “pay it back,” so with the help of our new partners in Q4 2015 we kicked off a complete redesign of our UI.
Today, I’m personally writing this article to tell you the story of how we did it – how we used UserZoom to redesign UserZoom.
A bit of history
We started UserZoom because we wanted to make the web a friendlier place and a more enjoyable digital experience. We thought that by empowering companies with a software platform to conduct UX and usability research in a fast, automated and cost-effective way, they would frequently test their web properties with end-users who would provide valuable feedback. That was in mid-2007, but it now seems like 20 years ago!
I say that because so much has changed since those days. When we built our first version of the product, we targeted a very specific type of persona: What we internally call the UX “power researcher”who conducted highly complex quantitative and qualitative studies, working at a large enterprise — where even the slightest incremental increase in conversion (0.01%) would yield a significant return on investment (ROI). Fortunately for us, we found quite a few clients, or enough for us to launch and actually generate revenue. That may not sound like a lot, but it was quite an accomplishment in our minds for two reasons: 1) most startups fail miserably in the first year and 2) back then, UX testing was still considered a “nice to have” that only top brands were forward-thinking enough to make it a priority.
More amazing is the fact that we did this by bootstrapping the business. In the software-as-a-service (SaaS) world, normally you have to raise around $10m to get to $10m in revenue, because there’s a need to fund upfront all the R&D effort it takes to build your product. We only raised $1.7m to hit $12m back a few years ago. That’s… pretty awesome. We were on to something good. Again, we were able to accomplish this by really focusing on a specific buying persona. These users wanted, among other things, lots of functionality and features, security in our systems and databases, customization and great customer service. And for a few years we did that very well.
Recent evolution of UX Design and our new buying persona
Time passed quickly and the market evolved. After 2011 or so we started learning and applying Design Thinking, Lean UX, Agile Development Methodologies, etc. Enterprise B2B software needed to get their act together and start delivering the same great digital experiences that B2C companies were. With these, the demand for usability testing started to explode. Fast forward a few years to 2014. By then UX and CX (customer experience) had become huge. Steve Jobs had already said it loud and clear back in 1997, but the fact is that it took quite a while to evolve from “nice to have” to “must haves.”
Meanwhile, software and the cloud enabled the automation of UX research so that UX teams could keep up with this increased demand. As part of this evolution, UX research is no longer exclusively in the hands of the “Power Researcher.” Usability testing is now embedded in the user-centered design process and it’s become a standard practice that many UX Designers, Developers, Product Managers and Digital Marketers often do. UX research is part of the agile process because you can now run a study in days and make wise design decisions based on user feedback.
Knowing this, we aggressively kept up with the needs of our customers.
However, like with so many other enterprise software products, the overall user interface (UI) and usability of our product actually came second to delivering them for our customers. Classic case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes. With all this in mind, we knew that we had to drink our own champagne, eat our own dog food, and finally put some shoes on our kids feet.
It was time to use UserZoom to redesign UserZoom.
The redesign process begins!
The first thing to consider in order to go about a redesign project like this is actually the company structure. We needed to make some important adjustments, including culture and team members. We went from being predominately focused on engineering to being much more product focused. We hired more Product Managers and UX Designers, and worked with an external Product Design agency to add a fresh point of view.
“UX doesn’t have it’s own goals per se, or a strategy independent from the organization that it is a part of, unless the organization doesn’t have or provide larger strategy and goals to align to.”
We all understood this very clearly from the start, and so we went to work. With the help of our awesome customer base, who we can never be thankful enough for, we started the project by running a bunch of UX studies. How much is a bunch? We had literally hundred of clients, representing every major industry, give us their feedback.
We began with a UX Benchmark study to understand and measure usability KPIs – where we were, and where we wanted to be eventually. We analyzed the usage metrics for the past years. We ran frequent one-on-one interviews and surveys with over 130 enterprise customers. And so with all these insights, we started wireframing. I had forgotten how complex (and how fun) it was to create wireframes. I had spent 10 years doing it in my previous roles before co-founding UserZoom, and so working on it again with our new team and for our own product was extremely challenging, but also exciting and inspiring.
A complex redesign involves the right people, right process, right tools and constant, steady stream of customer feedback
The main findings can be summarized by the fact that our users love the power and flexibility of all the user research methods and the insights that UserZoom provides. However, with more personas involved, we found that our customers were intimidated by the overwhelming options, and needed help in selecting the right options and being guided through the study creation process. Also, with more designers, product marketers and marketers involved in gathering UX research, they needed an accelerated method to capture quick qualitative feedback.
This became an exciting challenge. It’s very hard to rebuild the core architecture of a relatively large software, but UserZoom has always had a robust, secure and scalable enterprise platform that we could build customized user experiences on top of. In addition, our professional and experienced development team based out of Barcelona made it easy to partner with the new expanded product and design team and quickly execute on our findings.
Our initial key objectives were prioritized around: customized management of project data, streamlined & guided project creation, and automated participant recruiting.
We utilized industry leading processes like design-led requirements and emphasized bi-weekly agile engineering sprints for development. Not only did we collect feedback from our customer base using UserZoom, but we also analyzed usage of the current platform using tools like Google Analytics and support tickets. Special emphasis was given to develop a Beta rollout capability to onboard customers onto the new platform. We use, among others, key product development tools like Confluence, JIRA, Invision, Sketch and Hipchat.
Sample findings from our customer research
We conducted a Card Sorting study using UserZoom in order to understand the categorization of the various “UX methods” (or types of studies) offered by UserZoom’s suite. Around 85% of customers suggested a different name for “Advanced – All UX Methods” as it was confusing. See dendrogram below:
We also conducted a Screenshot Click Test to determine the discoverability of duplicating a project. UserZoom provided us with a click map of “where would you click to duplicate an existing project”?
Most customers had issues discovering the “duplicate” functionality and went on to “create a new project”. The lesson here was the importance of allowing an option to “duplicate existing” as a secondary option within the same action.
Evolution of our design
Design evolution is one of the most exciting aspects of any major redesign. It is magical to see the evolution of the UserZoom Manager from the current UI to a more intermediate wireframe to the full built-out, sleek and easy to use Beta version. We conducted several UserZoom studies throughout the evolution to have a steady stream of customer feedback in order to optimize it.
Intermediate Design explorations:
New Platform (Beta):
UserZoom allowed us to collect and analyze our customer’s feedback via various nifty reports and helped inform our own product and design direction.
Overall, dogfooding our own product throughout the development process has been an amazing learning experience. Listening to customers everyday means better and more successful products. What better way to do this, then UserZoom itself!
The best is yet to come!
Originally from Madrid, Spain, Alfonso has 17 years of experience in User Experience, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, Web Design, Web Project Management, User-Centered Design and Usability Testing.
Before founding UserZoom, he worked for companies such as Dell Computers, Icon Medialab (now LBi / Digitas), and Proxicom’s venture in Spain (now Indra). He’s a frequent speaker at UX conferences, has taught usability courses at various universities, and collaborates with the Stanford University Technology Ventures Program.