Omni-channel communication platform.
Ytel Communication Platform
Ytel powers millions of voice and text conversations each month. In 2018, Ytel’s mission was to unify all of their communication products onto a single platform. This project was an exploration on how a user could easily sign-up and trial products from a centralized experience.
Get user to sign-up for the platform
To achieve a unified platform experience, users need an intuitive sign-up experience that would give users the ability to try features before paying, enable SSO for existing users, and unify the product's navigation into a seamless customer experience. It was important each product could stand alone as a self-service experience to reduce the need to contact sales reps, just for a trial.
Design new Inbox product
The next evolution in Ytel’s outbound communication product suite was to design an Inbox experience that would be the catalyst for conversational campaigns and future custom communication workflows.
As part of the discovery process, I spoke with current Ytel customers to understand their pain points when interacting with multiple Ytel products during their workday. Verification of the user journeys with actual user’s behavior provided evidence for the new user experience design. By empathizing and better understanding user behavior we were able to write concrete user stories for our next phases.
Various people on the team had different ideas about what the platform should do and how we would get our users to engage with it. Having a wide variety of ideas was great and I love collaborating with a cross-functional team. I introduced design sprint workshops to provide a framework for our ideation meetings – this proved to be efficient and trackable with artifacts produced during workshops. I explored a multitude of ideas varying in depth from low-fidelity sketches to high-fidelity prototypes, and went through numerous rounds of feedback with teammates and stakeholders.
Before finalizing the visual details of the design, I wanted to see how our users responded to our chosen direction. Because our proposed single sign-up/sign-on feature was meant to solve an inherent user need, we conducted usability tests with low fidelity prototypes. I paired with a front-end developer to rapidly produce a working prototype to create a smooth sign-up/sign-on with the necessary business requirements. Our goal was to see if our users could complete the set tasks intuitively and potentially eliminate form abandonment or disruption moving between platform apps.
Diverge and Converge
After validating our direction, there were still a lot of details I had to finalize before our team of engineers started building out our MVP version. In our concept testing, we saw that many participants didn’t know what they should do next after completing sign-up. Due to this UX dilemma, I advocated for increasing the project scope to include an onboarding element for new users.
To keep users moving confidently through the experience, we used informative icons to call out important features in the onboarding experience. This helped ground users as they moved through their first time experience. This also allowed us to track which information icons received more or less interaction and could focus our research for further iteration.
This was a brand new product offering to design as part of the larger platform project. Design the Inbox experience was one of the most fulfilling design experiences in my career. By using a Lean UX approach to rapidly build, experiment, and learn – we gained valuable insights through piloting with several current users. This required a large coordinated effort between engineering, product, and business. I believe this framework improved outcomes by focusing on user impact and streamlining the feedback process. Due to time constraints, the Lean UX framework didn’t reduce time-to-market, as I had been hopefully anticipating, and will remain in the pilot phase for 2019.
Ytel deals with B2B communication, but it doesn’t want to be a flavorless company. They want to attract and help empower marketing and tech companies to power their communication campaigns, so a fresh new UI approach was needed for the brand to position itself in this segment. This new product design aesthetic was a brand new approach for Ytel and helped unify the products on one platform.
This project was a huge endeavor, and the amount of time and resources that went into designing it was unlike anything I, or even the company, had been used to. Here are a few takeaways I got from working as the only designer on this project:
Take what users say with a grain of salt.
Qualitative research isn’t always going to get you the answers you want to hear. Especially when it’s generative research, the answers you get may be a jumbled mess that won’t always point you in a clear direction. Which brings me to my next learning…
Good products don’t always solve an obvious (or the original) problem.
This one may be a little bit controversial, and one I am still coming to grips with, since “design thinking” is always touted as “solving problems.” I’m sure the most efficient way to build a product that sells is to find a need and fill it, but what about products like Facebook? Snapchat? While we reduced complexity, increased self-service account creations, and unified products – it didn’t equate to increased revenue. One of the biggest things I learned while working on this project was to trust my intuition for ideas that seem inherently interesting, while at the same time making sure that I’m using the right words to articulate hard-to-grasp feelings beyond “cool” or “awesome.”
Involve engineers early on.
This one’s probably the easiest to agree on and something others have said time and again. I regret not speaking to engineers sooner, and not pushing project managers harder to get everyone on the same page earlier on. If they were to see what we were thinking about during the ideation process, we would’ve been able to eliminate some ideas early on.