Project BackgroundI was hired to redesign the B2B e-commerce website of Tescom Silicon Valley Center, the U.S. branch of a South Korean company that manufactures and distributes wireless test equipment. As the solo user advocate, I initiated user research and lead on UX/UI and visual design. My primary objective was to improve the rate of visitors requesting quotes for Tescom products through the website.
I. ResearchMy user research aimed to uncover the motivations and pain points experienced by current Tescom customers. I also tried to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the existing Tescom SVC website. Business research helped everybody, including the client, hone in on the objectives of the redesign.
- Interviews with branch manager and two staff members. All conversations were semi-structured, conducted one-on-one at the office, and lasted about 30 minutes.
- Heuristic evaluation of the existing Tescom SVC site.
- SEO and Google Analytics evaluated by external contractor.
- Based on insights from the interviews and Google Analytics review, I created three personas which were useful in unexpected ways. The personas informed tasks for the heuristic evaluation and usability test later on in the project. I also used them to start a dialogue with the client that allowed me to probe even further into customer needs.
Early ChallengesI encountered many challenges starting from the research phase. I assumed early on that the client and I shared project objectives. In retrospect, I regret not creating an official document that detailed clearly defined goals. B2B businesses as clients often come with unique challenges that are somewhat unavoidable. Without access to actual customers for interviews, I was forced to extrapolate information from employee interviews and Google Analytics. Later on, I recommended that my client reveal product prices on their website per the Nielson Norman study showing that business customers report pricing as the most important information obtained online. My client decided to maintain the typical B2B practice of not disclosing price - one instance where business needs were at odds with user needs.
II. The Redesign
Rapid Prototyping and Wireframes
Visual Design: Struggling with TasteThe branch manager designed the new logo. I developed a color palette based on the existing site and the headquarter's site in Korea.
Design InspirationI was inspired by images of vintage consumer electronics manuals and the current McMaster-Carr website. I thought both imbue mechanical equipment with a warmth, tactility and friendliness that I wanted to convey on the Tescom website.
Usability TestingI tested the prototype on three testers using six tasks informed by the Engineer and the Buyer's needs. The good: testers described the prototype as "clean", "well-organized" with "nice pictures". On the other hand, testers used the two forms interchangeably, one tester struggled to find the shipping/handling policies, two testers were confused about a dropdown menu in the form. "I could find all the information I needed in just a few clicks." The actual path taken by user to search for shipping and handling policies.
III. Another RedesignAfter flip-flopping several times, the usability test finally revealed that having one form was better than two separate forms for requesting a quote and contacting customer support. The test also made it very clear that the footer needed more information.
Footer Before and After Usability Test
IV. The Outcome
Lessons LearnedI learned that UX design is inextricably linked to business strategy and yet design can only influence so much. From an outside perspective, I thought it was a no-brainer that a business would try and attract as many customers as possible. One critical staff member left the company during the course of the redesign was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The company was unable to handle any additional clients on top of satisfying their current customers. I learned how critical it was to clarify project objectives. Early on, I could have understood that the client and my own objectives were at odds. The relationship between the Tescom SVC and Tescom headquarters is strained and it manifested in murky project objectives. In retrospect, my metric of success was satisfying my client in order to launch the site on schedule and within budget. Taste. It is difficult to rationalize people’s reactions to certain colors and type. I would have done a twenty questions to try and understand my client’s taste.