“People ignore design that ignores people.”
Frank Chimero, New York-based designer & illustrator
It is widely agreed within the design world that behind every successful product is a product team fuelled by solid customer research. Indeed, if you ask any designer for the key ingredient required to create a high quality product, the answer is likely to be some variation of “understanding the user”.
Quite simply, talking with the people who routinely use your product lends a completely new perspective to your research. While the input of managers, consultants and the like can certainly deliver added value, reaching and engaging with the end user – the people your product is built to serve – is the Holy Grail.
As a Product Manager at PRISMA, and following substantial customer feedback, my team and I have taken the decision to redesign the registration process for using our platform. This was a decision driven, in part, by sheer necessity. With our customer groups multiplying in recent times to include not just hundreds of shippers but growing numbers of individual users too – all of whom require approval by the individual operators – it has become clear that our original ‘one size fits all’ approach has not kept pace with PRISMA’S growth.
But as well as being a pragmatic choice, it is also one that is in tune with our broader ambitions of becoming a more people-centric company, better able to augment the behavioural patterns we see in the data with a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges faced by our users.
In short, we want our new registration process to better reflect our four keystone values: uniting, driving, understanding and people.
With growth comes fresh challenges
The growth of the PRISMA platform has been a huge positive, but with it has come the realisation that the registration process itself needed a major rethink. Of course, the nature of any regulated environment means there will always be a certain amount of jumping through hoops required to use a platform like PRISMA’s. But the feedback we were receiving from both shippers and operators highlighted a range of specific problems they were encountering, all stemming from the fact that the process was no longer a simple one, but rather multiple interconnected ones – ones for signing up as a platform user, ones for registering an organisation, ones for registering new users from an organisation, and ones for approving (or rejecting) applications for relationships with operators.
We knew our role was to make the actual signing up and approval process as easy as possible, allowing operators to focus their energy on reviewing applications, and shippers on gathering the right information for approval of their applications.
So we started looking for breakage points, where things were not being communicated clearly, and whether some of the steps required at PRISMA’S end have been designed in a way that does not reflect the processes in place at the shipper's or operator's end.
Rather than trying to fix each individual problem, we began looking at things holistically.
Putting the methodology in place
This is not the first time we have conducted exploratory user research, but in the past it has typically been focussed on a particular subset of users. Now, due to the way our customer groups have fragmented, a new approach is required – one that applies the same research methods, but across multiple segments and even multiple user types within a particular segment.
So what are the tangible dividends we expect from such an approach? We’ve highlighted five:
1. Bridging the empathy gap
One of the main challenges in product design is closing the empathy gap between the people who work on a product and those who use it. In some sectors, such as fashion, this gap will be small, whereas in others, like pharmaceuticals, it can be far bigger. Exploratory user research can be a hugely effective way of helping designers become more attuned to the needs of your users – and this is particularly true in the case of PRISMA, whose research participants are often themselves internal stakeholders within the business. After all, who better to inform the design process than the people most invested in a product’s success?
2. Gleaning secondary information
When conducting user research it is not uncommon for secondary information to emerge that points to other potential changes that could benefit your business. For example, what if we can refine the registration process in a way that enhances trust in how newly registered organisations or users are approved? For one thing, this could help us to strike a better balance between paper-based solutions (and specifically the need for signed hard-copy documentation) and digitalisation.
3. Finding commonalities that lead to solutions
The nature of the PRISMA platform ensures a large variance in user journeys. To gain a better understanding of them all, we need to involve a wide variety of stakeholders in the research process. And by shining a light on the varying experiences of our users we are likely to hone in on a number of commonalities along the way too. Identifying commonalities can help us in formulating solutions, because it will enable us to separate out the aspects of a user experience that we should be retaining from those we should be looking to change.
4. Promoting cross-functional working
Whether it is through surveys, group workshops or prototype testing, our registration redesign has presented an opportunity for cross-silo participation between individual divisions within PRISMA. This is because many of the issues that arise during the research stage are likely to affect different departments – whether it’s financial, legal, HR, or another – and require their input and collaboration in order to reach a resolution. Promoting such cross-functional working practices can only benefit PRISMA as a whole.
5. Demonstrating thought leadership
Finally, redesigning our registration proves gives us a fantastic opportunity to display our thought leadership qualities as a company and enhance our standing in the industry. Over the past year or so, our proposed changes to the registration process have caught the attention of industry regulators keen to know whether our plans might help inform their own decision-making around how they regulate new users. On a couple of occasions we’ve even ran workshops in which we walked them through the new processes we are looking to introduce. As the saying goes, rising tides lift all boats, and we’d be delighted if our efforts result in an overall improvement of business relationships between organisations, and helps ensure there is an appropriate level of checks in place to satisfy regulators without creating too much red-tape.
We hope this has given you some insight into our thinking. Too often in companies, because sign-up is a one-off process it tends to be shunted down the list of strategic priorities in favour of ‘top tasks’. But we firmly believe that by dedicating time and attention to how our users interact with the registration process we will further strengthen the PRISMA platform on which people can reliably, simply and safely conduct their business.