ALICE: Generative & Evaluative Research - Residential

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, competitive analysis, market research, 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.

After conducting research for ALICE’s hotel product, we had the opportunity to research whether entering the residential space was a good move for ALICE. Since hotels and residential buildings have some overlap, we were curious how the addition of this market would impact our current product offering. Once we decided to move in the space, we had the opportunity to explore and understand an entirely new user-base, and make decisions that would be positively impact these new users, as well as our current hotel users.


Strategy

My approach was similar to that of the hotel space. I began with the process of generative research, which created a more holistic understanding of these new ALICE users, how they are currently using competitive products, as well as any needs or pain points they feel while using these competitive products. Since we didn’t have a product to show them, I wanted to understand their basic needs with and without the competition. This approach would greatly help the company develop empathy and understanding for these new users and allow us to explore how to capitalize on what competitors were not doing well, while aligning with user’s needs and expectations.

We wanted to approach the residential space as we did with hotels - it was necessary to understand the ecosystem of how all the different residential departments worked together (front desk, handymen and community managers) so we could enable better communication between the residential departments and, ultimately, create a better experience for residents.


My Process

1. Market research & competitive analysis
Who was involved: me
- My first step was to understand the market space and what potential competitors were out there. I searched through different platforms used by residential buildings, and assessed the most commonly and widely used (BuildingLink)
- I created a SWOT analysis and a full competitive analysis for BuildingLink, including a UX assessment and task flows

2. Interviews with clients
Who was involved: me, designers, product managers, developers
- I used my market research and competitive analysis to define our target market, which was boutique residential buildings in New York City, who were currently using BuildingLink - this made for an accessible user base, as well as helped us validate/disprove assumptions made from the competitive analysis
- I recruited and conducted generative research interviews with seven front desk agents, five handymen and six community managers. 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. Users then walked us through how they use the competitor’s platform (BuildingLink) 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 categories (pain points, needs, tasks, goals). 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, customer journey and ecosystem creation
- After creating categories and summaries, I sent out this information to my colleagues, so we could begin to put together information for our first iteration of personas, customer journeys, ecosystems and task flows

- Compare to our current product
- It was very important to the company to be able to use our current product offering for both hotel and residential staff. We had to understand the overlap between the two users and how to best choose, display and name features for them.


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 we were able to create a platform that was compatible with both residential buildings and hotels, adding value for both users


Postscript

Joys
- Being a part of a completely new product innovation and watching it come together
- Witnessing a product built off of research that empathizes with both hotel and residential users
- Listening to product and tech teams use persona names and reference personas in user stories
- Using different techniques the company hadn’t before (card sorting)

Challenges
- Test with more wireframes than finalized looking designs
- Since we had a basis for design from our hotel product, it was very easy to use those designs instead of wireframe for usability testing
- Company wanted a very quick turnaround time
- We wanted to ship this product out very quickly, so we didn’t test as often as we wanted to, and had to iterate “on-the-go” and sometimes change features post-development
- 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
- Try to plan ahead and do as much research as possible in one session when there is a time constraint
- Attempting to find overlap between two different users was challenging, but it is an important less to learn for when a company has a less specific user base
- You can’t make every user (or colleague) happy! :)

Nikki AndersonComment