ALICE: UX Research, Strategy, UX/UI - Hotel

My ROLE: UX RESEARCHER & STRATEGIST, UX/UI DESIGN SUPPORT

Project overview

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews, brainstorming, prototyping, wireframing, UX/UI design, cardsorting
Skills: Interviewing, synthesizing, wireframing, designing 
Deliverables: sketches, designs, personas, IA/sitemap
Tools: Post-its, notecards, Sketch, Invision


Opportunity

ALICE is a B2B and B2C SAAS hospitality platform that allows for easy communication through all departments of a hotel and the guest staying in the hotel.

As part of ALICE’s first user research initiative, I had the opportunity to unlock the goals, pain points and needs behind the users of the ALICE platform in order to help the company create a research strategy and cultivate empathy within this user base. There was some basic understanding of the day-to-day user, but most of the research conducted was within the market/sales realm. The understanding of how users actually used the ALICE platform was minimal.

We went into this project with the overall objectives of understanding how users used the platform, uncovering pain points, gaps or bugs in the product and discovering potential product innovation opportunities.


Strategy

My approach was to begin the process of generative research, which created a more holistic understanding of who ALICE users are, how they are currently using the product, as well as any needs or pain points they feel while using ALICE (or how ALICE could help outside of the current platform capabilities). This approach would greatly help the company develop empathy and understanding for who their users were, allowing for better and more user-centric product releases and changes. Due to this research, several ideas already in the making pivoted in order to align better with user’s expectations and needs.

We primarily focused on the most heavy user of the ALICE product, hotel concierge, and then did some additional research with housekeeping and hotel engineering to make sure we were fully understanding the hotel ecosystem.


My Process

ainstorming workshop around potential users/personas
Who was involved: me, account managers, sales, product managers
- My first step was to pull internal stakeholders who had knowledge regarding our client’s current needs, tasks and pain points. This led to a basic understanding of who I would be talking to and helped focus the research questions
- For this workshop, each participant had twenty minutes to brainstorm ideas for each section: pain points, needs, tasks and personality traits. After discussing these points, we clustered similar ideas, prioritized and chose the top seven in each category for the proto-personas
- I created basic proto-personas based on this information to give us an idea of what we may expect when speaking with these users. Proto-personas also helped guide the interview questions, especially when interviewing a more closed-off user; it gave us a jumping-off point in where to focus on the product

2. Interviews with clients
Who was involved: me, designers, product managers, developers
- Once we defined our target segment and proto-personas (primarily hotel concierge), I started recruiting users through emails in order to schedule both in-person and remote sessions
- I conducted generative research interviews with seventeen concierge, six front desk agents, nine housekeepers and nine engineering staff. Each research session was about 60 minutes.
- Each interview was extremely open-ended and more of a conversation which started with their day-to-day responsibilities and how they learned about ALICE. Users then walked us through how they used the platform and showed any major pain points or gaps. I also asked them to show me exactly what the pain points were and any other questions the team and I deemed relevant. All sessions were recorded, with permission, and notes were taken by my colleagues and me.

3. Synthesis
Who was involved: me, account managers, sales, designers, product managers, developers
- Self-synthesis
- After completing the research sessions, I went through all of the research in order to organize it better for my colleagues to digest and take action on. I put all of the notes in excel and tagged insights based on the original categories (pain points, needs, tasks, personality traits). If something was interesting and didn’t fit into one of the categories, I placed it into a “miscellaneous” category and had the team help me categorize later

-Workshops for persona validation
- After creating categories and summaries, I sent out this information to the original participants of the proto-persona workshop. With the pervious knowledge of the proto-personas and our new understanding of the user through research, we created our first (ever changing) personas

- Workshops for customer journey and ecosystem creation
- It was very important to the company’s initiative to understand the complex ecosystem and journey/flows of the different departments. Since I now had a better understanding of our users, I sat down with different teams to discuss the ecosystem, journeys and user flows of the different personas we created (concierge, front desk, housekeeping, engineering) and, most importantly, how they all worked together
- This was extremely important in helping ALICE become a well-rounded tool that was not only optimized for concierge, but enabled the entire ecosystem of a hotel to work together seamlessly


Deliverables

Who was involved: me, designers, product managers

Deliverables included:
- Personas
- User flows
- Customer journey map
- Ecosystem/organization charts


SOCIALIZATION

- Socialization and evangelizing user research is probably the most difficult part of the entire ux research process. After all that work, you want people to use what you have found and action on the insights. I learned, it is not as easy as simply doing the research, but sharing it with the audience, in the most digestible and appropriate way, is key
- I presented the user personas to each team, ensuring everyone was able to give feedback
- I put up posters of personas, task flows and customer journey maps around the office to ensure people had easy access offline, and created easily accessible google drive folders for online access


Next Steps

We continued iterating on the personas and deepened our understanding of our users. Through this research, and other opportunities, we were able to expand from a hotel only platform to also supporting residential buildings through the ALICE platform.


Postscript

Joys
- Bringing in and collaborating with all different departments of the company
- Since there was no previous user research, being able to introduce the company to their users and create a sense of empathy/understanding
- Watching colleagues get excited about the research I was putting out
- Seeing changes in the product based off of the research (as opposed to gut feeling)

Challenges
- Getting buy-in for user research
- I did the minimal amount of research to show impact in order to get buy-in
- Working with a remote development team in a different time zone
- We made sure to use google hangouts during synthesis sessions, and all research sessions were recorded and sent to developers who could not attend due to time difference
- Making research accessible and actionable to the different teams in the company
- I catered my presentations and summaries to each team - short and showing impact for C-suites, moderate detail for sales/marketing geared towards how to speak to users/write effective copy and very detailed to engineering, product and designers

Lessons
- Practice before synthesis sessions to try and get ahead of any tough questions that may be asked
- Always come into meetings with reasons for doing research beyond “understanding the user better” - think about broader company KPIs and goals and how research could positively impact those
- Ask people how they would like to see research synthesized - they may not be sure, but they might also have some really great ideas!
- You can’t make every user (or colleague) happy! :)

Nikki AndersonComment