UX design in a technical/scientific BtoB context
I had the opportunity to work as a freelance on a UX design mission with a very motivated team at :
Working on a very specific subject in a scientific context can be scary for a designer at first sight. Indeed the knowledge gap between the designer and the client about the product features can be hard to overcome. Nevertheless if you manage to create a trustworthy relation I assure you that you have a lot to learn from each other!
During this mission I learned a lot :
- I opened my mind on a scientific subject
- How to empathize with super technical users
- I progressed on my ability to share the core principle of design-thinking
- and much more!
The kick-off meeting was key for this mission. My client’s team and I spent 3 hours in deep discussions to share the most we could about :
- the market
- the technical context
- the users
- the competition
- the goals of th company
On my side I took time to explain the main steps of a design sprint and the mindset the team would need to ensure a successful mission. It was very motivating because they were eager to discover this methodology and curious to see the results.
We also spent time on ergonomy principles relying on this very good article :
10 Heuristics for User Interface Design: Article by Jakob Nielsen
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable…
Let’s now dive into context. First, their mission :
In case you are not sure to really know what is air modelization here is an example :
The goal is to be able to see directly on a map the range and intensity of air pollution. The sources of this pollution are mainly cars, heating, agriculture and factories.
Before launching the first tests and interviews with users we finished the kick-off meeting with this brief :
Pretty wide ! Which is good because I was then totaly free to go directly to the users to define their biggest pain points and the main problem statement to solve.
Speaking about users :
As you could guess this is a very specific field, a “niche market”. It’s aiming at engineers specialized in air modelization. It can be used both by industry engineers and air specialist consultants.
I interviewed those users and they were real “ambassadors” of the solution. They were friendly and took time to explain their work and the way they were using the software to improve it. To represent those users please meet our persona, Bruno :
I don’t know if you see it on the picture but Bruno is the kind of “nice-but-you-should-not-piss-him-off” guy. He is easy-going but also very dedicated to his job, that makes him very demanding with the tools he uses and the professional partners he works with.
Now let’s see what “real-life Brunos”, the users, said about the existing software. First, the good news :
I actually had very positive feedbacks from every users I interviewed during the mission. More importantly the users satisfaction points were directly linked with the company values (ease of use, reliable data, dedicated team).
Regarding the pain points, 2 main items came out of interviews :
Even if it seems very technical at first, the needs beyond this pain points can simply be expressed as follow : more flexibility, quicker results and more autonomy.
These pain points could be defined with this problem statement :
We can see that autonomy is really the main focus both of the team and the users so it was the main point to address.
In order to answer the users needs we made an ideation workshop with the client team. Another 3 hours meeting! Before starting the ideation we started by looking together at key data from users. My goal was to unite everyone around a common problem statement, defined together by all the meeting’s participants.
When we reached this result we started an ideation workshop by using brainwriting:
Thanks to this technic with 3 participants we managed to produce 27 ideas and concepts to address the problem statement. We used dot voting to select the best ideas among them.
Two main ideas came out :
Screening is a common solution in data analytics. The goal is to minimize the calculation process and time by using only selected data. Most of the time the interesting data to take into account is extreme data because it allows the user to have a view on the “worst case scenario”.
The second idea was straight to the point. Users want to be able to export in several format : let’s do it.
After wireframing in mid-fi these ideas we organized a new meeting with the client. This time another director was here and he had a very clear vision about long term business goals and :
Unfortunately the ideas we selected with the rest of the team during the ideation workshop were not answering these goals according to him!
No problem with that : we decided to tackle the problem statement more directly by developping the third idea we had during the workshop : a step-by-step guidance for the user in order to increase its autonomy :
Once the new wireframes were validated it was time to go hi-fi. I started by creating this moodboard, very scientific of course and focusing on 3D visualization and air pollution. In the picture with the chimney you can actually find all the colors I selected with the blue sky and the shades of grey:
Regarding the font I decided to go with a very readable simple font : Helvetica Neue. A lot of text is displayed directly on a map so it needs to be readable. The main colors are sky blue and shades of grey. Green and red are navigation colors. Sky blue is also associated with the main CTA buttons to guide the user all along.
It was very important for the team and I that the flow in hi-fi wireframes had to focus mainly on usability and be exhaustive in terms of features. The aesthetic aspect was important too but was not the main driver as it can sometimes be in a BtoC context. As designers we could have the temptation to focus on aesthetic a lot but the goal here was to fulfill Bruno’s needs.
Our persona, Bruno, will be using the software during his workday and what he wants is a simple, light, reliable and fast tool.
To guide him better, completion of data was made mandatory to go to the next step, data saving became automatic and a guiding path in green is now displayed to indicate the completion :
In order to improve the recognition of feature and the general aesthetic I created new icons and redesigned the existing ones to make them more meaningful :
I implemented a “card system” to have a general view on the created elements with a quick access to edit and delete :
I worked on the elements displayed on the map to make them non-disturbing regarding the main action and easier to understand :
Regarding iteration I needed a lot of versions before I was satisfied with the simplification on the main features. At first the creation button (as the draw zone) were directly displayed on the map but it made them really hard to see and their function was not clear enough. That’s why I decided to make the buttons in the left column, away from the map, always displayed and with more space to illustrate their action:
Some icons still need to be simplified as the “modulation” feature which is related to time and could be displayed with a calendar:
Key learnings I got from this case and would like to share with you :
ALWAYS manage to include the business analyst vision from the very beginning of the project!
By the end I had very positive feedbacks from my client’s team on the global work we did together but I couldn’t help myself feeling a little bit frustrated because of the “wasted time” I spent developping the 2 first ideas.
If this first advice could be applied to any UX project, this second one is more dedicated to working with client with technical profiles : take the time to share the core principles of design thinking and ergonomy. I actually used this quote :
Indeed in technical context exhaustivity of features and reliability of data is considered the most important. It can lead to negative effect in term of ergonomy such as overload of buttons and information’s display without ranking.
Nevertheless after taking time to discuss ergonomy principles the product team was inclined to rethink the flow and simplify it as much as possible.
Thanks again to the team and thanks for reading :)