Office Cloud is an online application that allows independent advisors to manage multiple client wealth portfolios and run customized reports and presentations.
As a large core product to Morningstar, numerous teams were assigned to different features within the application. Features were scattered throughout the product without consideration for the jobs users were trying to accomplish. The result was a fragmented, inefficient navigation, with users dependent on workarounds to access different features while completing routine tasks.
Our job was to solve these problems by designing experiences instead of features and to make significant headway prior to launching two months away.
Identifying the Problems
When I joined the framework team, I had some understanding of navigation issues from initial user research. Additionally, the team was one of 13 squads on the platform, which led to internal collaboration issues.
Since I was new to the team, I needed to understand previous decisions and how the framework team could improve collaboration, both within itself and with the other squads. I sent out a survey to designers and product managers on other squads to identify pain points and blockers.
User feedback revealed that the initial dashboard upon login was not set up in a way that facilitated key tasks. Accessing different clients’ data or specific areas of the software took several unnecessary steps; users were not able to intuitively navigate the platform to find what they needed quickly. The full value of the software and its many features were not fully visible due to the poor navigation experience.
Through the survey, I found out that other platform squads wanted a clearer way to contribute to the framework, more transparency into what the framework team was working on, and more frequent check-ins to review items that might overlap with their own projects. It was clear we needed to improve cross-platform workflow and collaboration in order to collectively impact end-to-end user flows.
Within the framework team itself, there was a need to reassess and organize, especially with the addition of a new product manager and myself. The team had pivoted several times in recent years, leading to mixed interpretations and differing opinions of how users navigate and use the software. There was an emphasis on speed and project completion over thoughtful, process-driven product design that prioritized real user and business needs.
With deadlines quickly approaching, we needed to figure out how to collaborate effectively within the framework team as well as with other squads.
Isolating navigation to one location so that the user has the same consistent navigation point through out the application.
Naming conventions for objects and places had to be re-thought to align with users mental models.
Instead of trying to force a specific naming hierarchy, we decided to elevate different object types into the navigation, making user access more prompt
Menu colors and font sizes were reconsidered to increase legibility and ease of use.
Access to “What I Need First"
We realized that in the majority of use-cases, users logged into the application with a specific client in mind, in order to pull up relevant information for a given task. Making this easily accessible from the initial dashboard would allow users to start working right away.
Providing a brief overview of their practice, markets, and clients would allow users to see at a glance if there were any important alerts or developments.
These also acted as jumping off points for some of the various tasks the user would be performing after logging in.
Building Internal Foundations
Building a solid foundation for the framework team would enable everyone to work more efficiently with each other and across the platform. A dedicated design retrospective allowed the team to identify what was working and what wasn’t within the existing design process.
Collaboration & Transparency
By frequently using other squad members to provide feedback on new ideas and engage in readouts on user research sessions, multiple teams were kept on the same page. This allowed other squads to identify how framework projects would effect future design roadmaps for their own projects.
Overall, we have moved in the right direction in building a strong foundation for the users’ homepage and navigation experiences:
Users were able to log in and start doing research and analysis on their clients more quickly.
The redesigned homepage helped give users an overview of their clients and the market to help cover any blind spots.
Changes to the navigation allowed users to more intuitively find what they needed within application the improving overall experience.
Communication gaps between teams were resolved and collaboration improved across the platform and the framework teams.
- The business team was excited to hear from early-access clients that many user pain points where being addressed.
Measure and Improve
Set benchmark metrics on the new homepage upon launching to create a new baseline. Reiterate to the platform teams that this is V1 and a starting point to keep building off of.
Building from Foundations
Continue to emphasize process over speed and the need for thoughtful user-driven iteration. Make sure the framework team is clear on the jobs that need to be done and how, before trying to move faster.
Collaboration, Not Governance
Focus on collaboration over governance. Encourage cross-platform conversations instead of unilateral decisions by any one team. Keep open channels of communications to help keep things moving forward.