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eCommerce for LatAm
Create a cohesive eCommerce experience in LatAm for a multinational information firm. This would allow them to position their brand in the region and boost sales.
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Background

The landscape was represented with an uneven and disconnected digital presence. Various products and business groups among different countries. Argentina and Brazil were chosen as representatives of the region.

Role

I was the project leader and interaction designer for this project, as part of an 8 people UX consultancy. My deliverables were: low to high fidelity wireframes, flows, and project documentation. I coordinated our efforts in both countries and provided the initial Information Architecture proposal.  I worked close to the UX analysts in the usability testing rounds. Finally, I helped with the visual design and design documentation for development.

Timing

9 weeks+ 1 week of documentation

3 sprints

3 rounds of usability testing for each representative country (Brazil and Argentina)

Getting from the proposal to the project plan: Agile vs. agility

A workshop set the initial scenario and built trust. (For some regional managers this was the first time they met face to face).

The project first communications showed us the client was expecting a day to day calendar for the next 9 weeks of the project. Also, terms like ¨low/ high fidelity wireframes¨ were confusing.  After a call with the client´s project manager, I learned about their need to report weekly to internal stakeholders. Additionally, they were struggling to integrate our work with other areas and countries. People´s schedules were getting crazy and holidays weren´t making this any easy.

Even though they wanted to work with agile this seemed waterfall. It was obvious to me that weren´t explaining ourselves clear enough and were dealing with a very different working culture and methodologies.

At the moment, we´d given them a general plan in the initial quote (left img) but they were expecting now to get a detailed plan (right img). 

project -plan
What about the risks? 

At the end of the initial workshop, some risks were identified and were still relevant at this point.

  • Project manager, a regional marketing manager, and a communications manager shared the role of the PO (Product Owner).
  • Tight schedule & budget:
    • Work with two countries but impact all over LatAM.
    • Run 3 rounds of usability testing for 2 countries in 9 weeks.
  • Many stakeholders with diverse interests. (up to 30 people involved)
  • Remote teams. (PM, development in different US locations, marketing managers in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Spain )
  • This project run during Argentina´s summer holidays.
  • A precise amount of templates for the final delivery was already described in the quote.

Taking a small step towards the goal

Working towards a solution that worked well for them and for us too was imperative. After seeking advice from a senior manager, I planned:

  • Weekly calls (up to 3 per week). This would keep the project team informed and provide visibility to management.
  • Reports presentations at the end of each sprint. We would present results to all the region business managers walking them through the metrics and recommendations. (in addition to the project team)  This calls would include free Questions & Answer session. This gave us direct interaction with different company areas and allowed us to evangelize with different user-centered concepts.
  • A week for feedback only between sprints. Being the stakeholder landscape a complex one, the client needed time to discuss feedback internally and fell confident to move on.
  • Argentina was going to run the usability testings first, then Brazil. At least a day would be left without reviews just to translate the prototypes to be tested.  This was challenging but we managed to pull only a day for translation/adaptation off.

So this being the plan at a general level:

Captura de pantalla 2015-08-18 a la(s) 17.37.11

The project manager received something like this (img below). It considered holidays in different countries, planned calls, deadlines for material, checkpoints proposed with different areas, estimated testing dates for both countries (Arg and Brazil). Also, expected deliverables for after sprint with the fidelity level to be expected & examples.

plan-provided

After presenting this in a call, expectations were aligned and we were able to proceed.

Understanding users needs and motivations

To understand the actual state of the interface and get baseline metrics, we run usability testings in Argentina and Brazil. Our target users where lawyers and accountants, from students to corporate professionals.

While getting ready for the first tests, we did qualitative interviews with target users we could reach within our network.  I’ll be using the input obtained at the interviews to drive the design of the product at each subsequent step of my design process.

Also, understanding context is part of my initial tasks:

Captura de pantalla 2015-08-18 a la(s) 17.36.17
Understanding what users are feeling, thinking and doing at each different step of a buying process is key.

With the interviews and tests, we found out that:

  • Users preferred physical books rather than digital ones. Before buying the book they wanted to verify if the information they needed (for.ex to solve a case) was actually in the book. Because of this, they valued getting personal assistance and being able to take a glimpse at the book. Very aware of this, bookstores were conveniently located near their workplaces and universities. For those professionals in studios or corporations, editorials even sent them book samples without purchasing obligation. Students searched for information at the university’s library and photocopied pages from books or articles.
  • Favorite authors: The author was a key factor to determine which book to buy. Participants mentioned that they looked up to specific authors among many options in the same subject because of their unique point of view or interpretation.  Also, the color of the book itself was a useful reference for students. (¨Do you have the green book, the family law book?¨)
  • Delivery was key: Knowing when the book was going to arrive was very valuable. None of the users (professionals or students) wanted to wait for delivery.
  • They usually needed a specific book: When looking for a book they used mainly the search engine. They expected a specific result, most of the participants entered the full title, author or even both. Very few of them used categories or browsed an editorial´s site just to see new releases.  The recommendation of their professors, colleagues or ex-alumni often determined their purchase.

After reviewing notes and identifying usability issues in the current interface, we had a better idea of the pain points in this process and worked on priorities with the project team.

Starting Offline & Analogue.

I created visual flows & maps in paper and began socializing them with colleagues. Doing these provided me with a holistic view of the screens/steps involved before sketching and allowed the team to jump in and involve early on.

ecommerce-project-flows

When the sketching begins this initial idea of the number of steps for the interactions may not survive. Is this the most efficient way to perform the purchase? Are we answering the users’ questions here? What is the goal of these pages? Questions with answers: ¨no¨ mean a screen goes away. In this way, I make sure I´m always contrasting the designs with the needs.

TR_Workflow_v2
Final workflow looked like this and served as a map for the navigation once the wireframes or prototype are online for review.

No Lorem Ipsum was used while creating the sketches.

When working on the wireframes, I avoid placeholder text. Instead, it helps a great deal -for every team member- to start thinking about the language as another layer of the interaction design proposal. Listening to how users explain themselves around the subject matter was also a valuable input for this task. That´s probably why since the first wireframes there were language and labeling proposals that perform today on the website.

I think language isn´t just something that you use to fill the template, it is how the company talks with their users.  The tone and the voice they choose for this conversation are also designed.
ecommerce-project-wireframing
First sketches of the purchase flow, product page.
Captura de pantalla 2015-08-18 a la(s) 00.11.47
Some of the sketches of the purchase flow

After a couple of days of internally iterating & aligning the flows, it´s time to move to digital and generate some low fidelity wireframes that can be shared quickly with the client´s team.

Challenges: Remote Teams

using-invision-app-for-ecommerce-projectAs the project team was in several countries, relying on tools that are not only easy to adopt but can handle the complexity of multiple stakeholders, is key.

InvisionApp proved to be a great choice and did wonders on handling feedback. This tool also helped the client to share and gather feedback internally. In addition, it provided transparency to our work as they were able to see in real time when we uploaded new changes/comments.

Tools don´t replace communication with team members or client. Presenting designs with rationals and going over changes is still a fundamental step and cannot be replaced by any tool. InvisionApp made this easier.

When sharing quickly and frequently, the client understands he is part of the solution and slowly distance is no longer a big issue.  Also, we don´t just disappear and come back with a magical solution, you involve your client in the solution because he knows its business more than no one.

Testing!

Captura de pantalla 2015-08-30 a la(s) 00.15.32

We tested with paper prototypes in Argentina & Brazil these tasks:

1. Finding a specific product.

We obtained: efficiency: 40%(first test round)  to  97 % (final test round)

2. Payment options.

We obtained:  efficiency:  70% (first test round)  to 90% (final test round)

3. Registering and buying a product.

We obtained: efficiency: 33% (first test round)  to 77 % (final test round)

usabilitytesting

Findings and solutions

Transparency:  had problems with picking the exact book format they were interested in. Also, not being able to calculate the shipment price made some of them question if final price was really final.
Format and shipping information was included earlier in the process, available on the product page.

Sign up process:  The registration had four steps and each of them had a scroll.  It included safety questions, birthday date, blood type…you name it! This discouraged users.

Slowly, we moved towards fewer fields. The suggestion we gave to the client was to remain only with mandatory fields and to work towards fewer fields. This type of pages usually involve many stakeholders and require a lot of trade with departments like legal, marketing and IT. Showing qualitative and quantitative data of usage is key to make those changes a reality. And patience.

Delivery times: Users refused to proceed with the purchase without more accurate delivery information. Including shipment costs and shipping estimated dates improved conversions and satisfaction metrics.

“Vista Previa” button (“Look inside” button): Users found it quickly and understood it was meant for having a glimpse into the first pages of the book. They found a useful tool when trying to figure out if the book would suit their needs.

Some regional differences: In Argentina when we included the auto complete address checkbox:(Accessing users public records from AFIP)  it was intimidating for some users. In the country high taxes and strict regulations on shipping are common.
The recommendation was to remove this autocomplete and let the users fill the billing information when needed.
It´s good to know best practices but it’s better to understand what applies to the people you are trying to appeal to.

Some final metrics

Satisfaction (measured using SUS) increased from 62 % (first test round) to 78% (final test round) in Argentina and from 68% (first test round) to 79% (final test round) in Brazil.

Handoff

We agreed to deliver 25 templates, 4 break points for each one of them in PSD files. We did some inline documentation to the PSD files and also worked on a design documentation file. I contributed to the UI designer with the visual design.

38313431383134333831343438313436Captura de pantalla 2015-08-18 a la(s) 17.39.21

Retrospective

Just because we´ve just experienced something doesn´t mean we ´ve already learned from it.

Even though it should be conducted by someone outside of the project team (At that time, we were a very small team 5 people) making time to run a retrospective session with our team had an amazing outcome.

With a little help from books from Linda Rising and Norm Kerth, I created the retrospective´s agenda. The aim of the agenda was to set expectations, a playful environment and make sure we understood we were taking time to learn, not judge.

One of the first items was to define ¨success¨ and later on we reconstructed the project timeline in the whiteboard. This required a little memory exercise. After the timeline was ready, all of us started to classify moments into three categories: ¨the good, the bad and the ugly¨.  Right after that, we related emotions to those points to understand how the team was feeling at that point. This is called ¨emotion seismograph¨.

Finally, hopes, wishes, and appreciations were expressed to each team member before moving on to take action items.

It one of the best team meetings I´ve experienced.

ecommerce-tam-retrospective

Final Thoughts

We successfully become a part of the client´s team, gained trust and had a long working relationship after this 9 weeks project. Also, meet some cool people that made this project fun all the way. We had a year-long relationship afterward and continued to contribute to the eCommerce experience.

¨Success in terms of stakeholder management means that your stakeholders respect you and your contribution; they trust that you understand their concerns and will ensure solutions work well for them too; they trust that you will keep them informed of important decisions or changes; and most of all, they give you the room to come up with the best solutions possible, even when they are very different from what they may have originally envisioned.¨

from the Silicon Valley product group

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