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by Lea Refice
While in the context of market research Steve Jobs once said, “It's not the consumers' job to know what they want” (NY Times). As a user experience designer, it is my job to understand what our users may want or need in Acquia’s products. One of my user experience challenges at Acquia, the redesigned Acquia Help Center, placed me in the shoes of those who wanted product support. To complete this redesign, I built on three concepts: familiarity, simplicity, and collaboration.
Preparing a strategic design change requires a deep understanding of how customers struggle with the current system and what systems they may be familiar with every day. Researching solutions that exist already can highlight the gaps in the existing system and present opportunities for reuse.
To start, I completed tasks that users would typically perform with a ticketing system by conducting a scenario walkthrough. I signed up for free trials of support software and pretended I had issues with some of the software I use regularly. I opened tickets with a variety of tools, including the old Acquia support system. I could see workflows, data, and insights we could use to improve Acquia’s previous system. For instance, the interfaces of Zendesk and Quora, both have the comment field placed close to the top of the ticket to enable immediate communication. In addition, Drupal.org and the LinkedIn Community Forums, all structure their posts with the issue description in the left body and supporting information in a right column. I found that this creates a visual hierarchy, focuses information for left to right readers, and provides at-a-glance access to metadata without cluttering the interface or pushing info down the page. In addition, knowing developers are a core persona for our product, I also reviewed Atlassian JIRA, GitHub, and other tools that may have support ticket forms.
From this research, it was clear to me that users want immediate access to their tickets, an obvious indicator of status, and a quick way to create new tickets. Reviewing these familiar tools gave me a framework for how users are obtaining support, a glimpse of their expectations, and drove to many of the design decisions in the user interface you see today.
Support systems can be very robust, complex applications. Adding white space and striving for a minimalist experience highlights the primary interactions. If every bell and whistle was presented in a ticket or list, everything would fight for the user's attention. Thus, I focused on the core features submitting, viewing, and commenting on tickets to ensure user success.
1 - Acquia users can comment below the description of any ticket.
2 - Additional metadata appears at-a-glance on the right side of the ticket.
In future releases, we plan to add small features such as displaying how many tickets are remaining on a subscription. While the project began with a larger vision for what we could achieve, we needed to trade-off a comprehensive feature set for efficient delivery of critical features. The team of project managers, user experience designers, support personnel, and technical staff would continually evaluate the product's direction and track items that were marked for future releases. For instance, we were able to integrate support tickets and documentation into a new 'Help' tab, but had to defer advanced filtering on tickets. We realized that if users needed help obtaining Acquia’s support, it would have been a painful ‘catch-22’ experience.
3 - Acquia users can view recently updated tickets in our new 'Help' tab.
In order to iterate and improve on products, it's essential to continuously learn throughout the process. Throughout the year, the Acquia User Experience team interviews customers and gathers research to identify critical issues with our products. We reached out to our customers for their feedback early on and partnered closely with our support team who talk with them every day.
Acquia's internal product team observing a usability study of the Help Center.
This gave us multiple perspectives that guided our implementation and forced us to iterate. We learned that users wanted swifter access to ticket details, a better layout of the ticket data, and access to seeing other tickets filed by their team. Multiple assumptions were invalidated by simple observations and 5-minute chats. Not jumping right into design saved time and helped to target our efforts in the long run.
Research prioritization session of potential enhancements using the KJ-technique.
When approaching Acquia’s product redesigns, I listen, consider, and then recommend. My recommendations are based on the above principles and are shaped by my passion for engaging experiences. For those who use the new Help Center or any of Acquia’s products, let’s keep the dialogue alive! Collaborate with us, share what you find familiar, and enlighten us to your view of simplicity. From this, let me and Acquia’s User Experience Team figure out what you really want.