A story about how a quick UX analysis showed there was no need for a new feature.
Hi, I'm Viki Levena, director of analytics at IMAGA. This year, we were focused on a client’s project, so focused that the client came to us for one service and ended up with a completely different one. But they still remained satisfied.
This situation is not quite ordinary, and that’s why I decided to talk about it in this article. It will be interesting for those clients who want to improve something on their product but do not understand where to start.
Spoiler: always start with research. My story confirms that.
What was the initial request of our client
I can't name the client’s brand, it's under NDA. I can only hint that it is a large chain of veterinary clinics and they are actively developing their website. Initially they wanted us to make a customer profile so that cat and dog owners can store information about veterinarian appointments.
We talked to our client, understood their needs, and started to analyse their website. And that's where we start doubting that a customer profile is even needed.
Why we doubted:
1. At first glance, the main purpose of even having the website was in scheduling appointments. The other features looked optional.
2. Why do I even need to create a customer profile as a user? For what? We couldn't think of enough reasons.
We started asking many questions, trying to understand the real needs of our client. And finally we suggested not making a customer profile. Instead, we suggested conducting a UX audit.
A UX audit is a user experience study. It helps to understand what users like about your website and what they don't, what is convenient and what is hindering. The main goal is to identify weak points that impede the business from making money. And it’s quick — it can be conducted in a few hours.
How we searched for flaws
To have the UX audit address our questions, we combined two methods.
1. Heuristic analysis.
This is the basis of a UX audit. A UX expert reviews the website and analyzes every step and scenario: all of the sections, subsections, pages and elements. Their job is to understand whether basic usability heuristics are followed and there are no issues with web accessibility.
2. Cognitive walkthrough.
This method helped us understand whether a customer profile is needed. The gist: we interviewed the client, understood how the business is organized and why people visit their website. And then we created user scenarios. For example, the scenario when a customer orders a service or checks prices.
We came up with the nine scenarios. We presented them to the client, and they added some points. Then, the UX analyst started working on these scenarios again by checking if it’s easy to perform the target action.
For example, a user came to find the address of the clinic. The expert examines how clear the navigation is, how many buttons should be clicked to get to the contacts section, whether there are sections that might be confusing, and how easy it is to find the necessary links on the main page.
What drawbacks did we find
We listed many comments like these, as we analyzed the entire website up and down. However, we found such analysis to be insufficient, as it helps assess the drawbacks but does not help to improve them. Therefore, as part of the audit, we proposed another research method called card sorting.
How we looked for solutions
Card sorting is a methodology that helps improve the structure of the website: how to simplify navigation, the logic of sections, etc. We tested the card sorting method a lot, even for our own corporate knowledge base.
We break down the website into components: sections, subsections, and other elements. Thus we get the architecture and hierarchy of the site. Then, we write the names of the sections and elements on cards. After that, we shuffle these cards and invite random people to sort them. They don't know how the cards were placed before. Their task is to reconstruct the website's structure.
Card sorting shows how people understand the structure of the site. In our case, it’s a veterinary clinic website. They can remove cards if they consider them unnecessary. They can change the names of cards if the meaning is unclear to them. They can even add cards if they feel that something is missing.
As a result, each user ends up with the architecture of the website as they see it. Along the way, we ask them about their logic: why they put this card here and the other one there. Then we analyze the results looking for common patterns. It helps to reveal a structure that is understandable to people.
Here on the right side is an example of what we have after the user sorts out the card.
In total, 15 people participated in this experiment. 7 of them are real customers of the vet clinic, and the rest were first-time-users. The results of their sorting were confirmed by the UX audit. Therefore, we confidently prepared two reports: one on the audit and the other on sorting.
The reports were made in “As is” (as it is now) and “To be” (as it should be) formats. There we highlighted the problems and presented how to solve them. As a result, we proposed the following scheme:
We kept those elements of the site that seemed ok and added new ones — "suggested" by users.
And what happened to a customer profile?
A UX audit and card sorting revealed usability issues with the website. Therefore, our conclusion was as follows: it is too early to implement a customer profile; first, other issues need to be addressed.
We presented the results of our report at two workshops. We met with the client's team and came up with an idea of what the updated website could look like, taking into account business interests and research data.
At the first workshop we discussed the research results, and at the second one, we generated ideas. As a result, we made several strategic decisions regarding the website's development and the implementation of a customer profile. And we agreed on one thing: first we need to change the navigation and structure, and only then introduce new features
Why I liked this case study
Of course, we could have just started a new project and made a customer profile for our client. But we didn't want to work on a feature that no one would use and as a result working in vain. So, I consider this project as our victory. And most importantly, this small UX audit made a good impression on the client. And that always inspires.
We may face skepticism in similar situations. Clients may not understand why research is needed and how it can help the business. But this time it was not the case. Our colleagues from the veterinary clinic were open-minded and ready for something new. We looked for the best solutions and built a strategy together. In the end, they thanked us, and of course, it was a pleasure.
Now all our solutions are at the development stage as we continue to monitor the project. I hope one day we will be able to share the results of this project on our social media. So, stay tuned!