UX Appeal: How PRISMA are reshaping the user experience
The purpose of User Experience Design is to enhance the way in which users engage and interact with digital products and services. Under the stewardship of Michaela Wawrok, PRISMA have been increasingly applying well-established UX principles to our own practices and processes as we strive to make life better for those who rely on our platform on a day-to-day basis. Here Michaela shares her thoughts and experiences.
Bad design is a bit like a drop of tea on white cardboard: a small drop is almost invisible, but if it’s repeated multiple times over the entire surface, people start to pay attention.
As lead UX designer at PRISMA, however, I’m happy to say that it’s rare for our endeavors to pass under the radar, owing to the fact that we are in an almost constant feedback loop with our users.
"And this is also why undertaking UX design at a company like PRISMA is so rewarding and, ultimately, why our users are able to reap the benefits."
Let’s take a moment to bring you up to speed on my UX journey with PRISMA so far….
When I first joined PRISMA, my central focus was on putting structures and processes in place that optimise the time users spend on our platform, making their interactions more seamless, efficient and intuitive.
But UX is not new to PRISMA. Some of these principles were already in place prior to me joining, particularly in the product team who worked with external UX specialists on numerous UX-related activities and topics. As time went on, it was decided that bringing someone in-house who could take ownership of this discipline was necessary if we were to scale our UX functionalities into something fitting for a growing, modern organisation.
“My focus is on putting structures in place that make the time users spend on our platform more seamless, efficient and intuitive”
UX is fundamentally a user- and task-oriented discipline whose purpose is to gain a deep understanding about users, their goals and tasks, and the product. That's why from the start, I took the opportunity to focus on research, differentiating user groups and their needs, identifying the different user journeys, and collecting feedback. And I'm really satisfied with the outcomes of this research, which saw us collect a vast amount of insights that would prove invaluable.
Right now, my main mission is to enhance and contribute to PRISMA's existing UX operations by fine-tuning its user research, user testing and concept work processes.
For example, I brought into our process framework a more constant Feedback loop before the Go Live for certain releases, especially for improvements. This augmented other practices we introduced such as regular sync meetings with the communication and customer success departments to keep everyone in the loop and well-aligned. Additionally, when we release a new feature, all departments will be aware in advance how it will look, so they can announce it through communication collateral such as our monthly newsletters, as well as be prepared to field any subsequent questions that come from users once the feature is launched.
Underpinning it all was the Double Diamond Design Process Model. Essentially, this model features two diamonds that represent a process that diverges and converges twice.
The first diamond illustrates the process of exploring widely and gathering inputs that are later narrowed down to a defined scope and problem statement:
Exploring widely and trying to understand the issues that users are experiencing on our platform. To achieve this, we use research methods such as interviews, surveys, usability testing and user diaries.
In this step, we narrow the research inputs down and transform them into insights that allow us to gain a well-defined scope/problem statement.
The second diamond illustrates ideating as widely as possible, and then narrowing down again the most promising solutions based on user feedback.
Again, exploring widely ideas and solutions based on user feedback and other possible requirements. We start scribbling solution and approaches in close collaboration. For example, by co-designing and discussing with users and other colleagues.
To close the second diamond, we narrow down our ideas. Refine our concepts and specify our solutions. Testing them at small-scale, gathering feedback internally and externally, rejecting those that won’t work and improving the ones that will.
Today, our UX operations have grown to include a multidisciplinary UX & Front-end team. It’s a fluid process, whereby we support other teams’ work on new concepts, while also focussing on overarching topics such as maintaining the Design System. This approach gives us more autonomy and means we’re not dependent on the resources of other teams when it comes to implementation.
Indeed, one of my primary duties at PRISMA is to sustain the enhancement and application of our Design System. In doing so, it ensures a fast-forward development process and is essential for a consistent User Interface.
That brings us up to the current day. But I’d also like to return briefly to the “feedback loop” that I mentioned at the beginning. Because not only is this part of why UX at PRISMA is so satisfying, but it’s also a key to its success.
“One of the main distinctions between B2B UX versus B2C is that it tends to involve a more constant cohort of users”
In essence, one of the main distinctions between UX in a B2B environment versus a B2C one is that it tends to involve a more constant cohort of users. This is because B2B users are, in effect, repeat customers who return to you again and again, whereas casual customers are often more transient and fleeting, necessitating different methods to build up the kind of long-standing conversations that so enrich user research.
Another factor is that, in my experience, B2B users tend to have a much clearer focus and are more able to express their need on a task-oriented or functional level.
Another vital component of our UX design processes is ensuring that users are sufficiently incentivised to participate in our user research. And again, here we can draw a trend I have observed between B2B and B2C environments, having worked in both.
In B2C settings, consumers are often given incentives to compensate their effort, such as free products, gifts, subscriptions or even money. At PRISMA, however, we’ve found that our users actively request more involvement, and so simply taking part is often reward enough for them. And that’s because they are often heavily invested in improving our products and services.
That’s not to say we don’t provide any tangible incentives beyond the chance to ‘help us to help you’. There are some merchandise giveaways, as well as training sessions introducing users to new platform features. In short, we make sure the back-scratching is always reciprocal.
So what about some real world examples of our UX in action, I hear you ask? Well, one of the main structures we’ve put in place to facilitate our UX work has been our Community Hub. This involves us actively inviting users to participate in our user research, either through filling in surveys or by taking part of a User Diary, which involves keeping track of all of their interactions on the platform for one week. We then analyse their behaviour in order to determine where improvements can be made and also to identify unmet user needs. What’s more, the Hub also includes a Research Repository to aggregate our insights and share it with our colleagues.
As for direct examples, one of the earliest projects I worked on was a situation with Network Points.
One of its particularities is that it can either have a direction exit or entry, or a bundle with an exit and an entry. It was signposted by a small bit of text located just next to the network point, and our proposed change was to substitute this text with an icon with a little tooltip that you see when you're hovering over it that contains further information. And got a lot of feedback about it.
“When you really want to craft a solution that fits with the mental model of the user, you need to dig deeper”
However, following interviews with some users , it turned out they perceived it as not as being useful as before, because they didn’t really understand the icons.
But I knew that when you really want to craft a solution that fits with the mental model of the user, you need to dig deeper. So we set about trying to understand how they consider the entity of a network point and which aspects belong to it at first glance. In other words, what is their mental model of a network point? We gathered quite clear interview feedback and from that we crafted our design solutions.
Gaining an edge
The key question, of course, is how far has our UX Design helped to give PRISMA the edge across our industry, and in one sense there is no-one better placed to answer it than ourselves, because we have the most reliable evidence to point to – that is, the feedback of our users.
And while the new features and other changes we’ve been working on have not yet been released, we can already say with confidence that our users greatly appreciate that user participation is now a constant feature of our workflows.
“In the context of our industry, UX design is still in its infancy”
Needless to say, we still have space to get better. After all, in the context of our industry, UX is still in its infancy, lagging behind areas such as HR tools or online shop systems that have had huge UX departments for a long time now.
But, as the old sporting motto goes, you can only beat who you come up against. And in that regard, we firmly believe that our UX Design work is doing the job, and, together with our users, we are making our platform a better place to be.