Distributor Sales Tool
A fellow designer in our Pivotal Atlanta office was rolling off of this project, so I was asked to fly onsite for the last 5 weeks of the engagement. Our client was a Charlotte-based company that sells packaging materials, such as bubble warp and foam inserts. They came to Pivotal to learn lean methodology, paired programming and XP, and also to get our expertise building a portal for their distributors.
The challenge here was that sales distributors are not employed by the packaging company, itself. Rather, they tend to be self-employed and sell products from a variety of packaging companies. Therefore, the purpose of the portal was to give distributors product information at a quick glance, educate them about the products so they could sound like experts, and provide product videos to show their customers during sales calls. If the distributors were more knowledgable about this Charlotte-based company's products, they would likely sell more of them than products from competing companies. Having an app with these features would directly impact the revenue of the distributors and, in turn, this particular packaging company.
Difficulty RECRUITING Target Persona
When I arrived on the product team, the product had only been tested with two users of our target persona (younger, inexperienced distributors). Most of the user tests were done with older, experienced reps who had built successful careers on handshake agreements and were technology-averse. Additionally, all of the user tests were scheduled by one of our stakeholders, who was close friends with the users. This created a lot of bias, because, before we would begin the user test, the stakeholder would talk about how fantastic the app was.
When I entered the scene, I knew we needed to secure meetings with our target persona and also find a way to respectfully preclude the stakeholder from attending future user tests. I received a lot of push-back by the client PM, who didn't want to damage relationships with distributors by asking to interview them. The mentality of “well, if we can’t get our target user, at least we can get someone" was pervasive. As the new lead designer on the project, I took this as an opportunity to teach the clients about the importance of getting constant, unbiased feedback from the correct users so we are able to iterate in the right direction. Building the right product - not just a product - is a critical part of our jobs. I also helped the client craft a script for how to kindly tell our stakeholder that the results of the tests would be cleaner with only a few trained designers in the room. Fortunately, these discussions over time led to more user tests with the target persona, along with the ability to conduct them without stakeholder bias.
Pushing Back on Log in
As we neared product release, our product team began to get pressure from the stakeholders to build log-in into the product. IT pushed for it simply because they wanted to be at Pivotal while building a feature with high technical complexity. The business wanted it for the purpose of tracking and analytics. The issue with these requests, although not reasonable, was that building log-in would be an anti-goal of the product. The purpose of the portal was to give distributors quick product information immediately before running into a sales call or during the sales call. If logging in acted as an impediment to reaching his end goal, the distributor would no longer use the portal. I spent time digging into this with stakeholders to find better ways to solve their concerns without adding log-in. I also spent time explaining how and when the need for log-in might present itself, such as if the user wants to save product "favorites" for future sales calls. After several discussions about staying on track to build an MVP and driving the most traffic as possible to their portal, stakeholders agreed that log-in could wait.
IMPROVING Desktop experience & Visual design
The product was designed mobile-first, and (because it was an MVP) was initially designed with only a few packing products taken into consideration. When I arrived, I immediately noticed that the desktop viewport needed visual enhancement. In fact, a team member said to me: “Mobile is so much better. No one should look at this thing on desktop.” I also noticed that app as a whole needed better visual hierarchy for representing the many, complex packing options that were now available in the portal. I added (desperately needed) top-level navigation, grouped like products (films vs machines vs foams vs stand-alone), and linked required or associated products with each product page. This made it easier for our users to discover products and show their customers all of the additional components required for a particular solution.
Desktop designs in place upon my arrival to the project
My designs based upon need for improved desktop experience and mature product groupings
Mobile designs in place upon my arrival to the project
My designs based upon need for enhanced visual design