FocusVision is a storied veteran of the market research industry with over 25 years of experience. Over time they had created and/or acquired a suite of tools that help market researchers collect and analyze opinion data.

Decipher, one of their key pieces of software, was a robust tool for deploying complex surveys and analyzing results. However the interface was brittle and crafting a survey or analyzing results often required the use of xml coding. Neglecting the user experience had left it vulnerable to less powerful but easy-to-use competitors. We were tasked with resetting the company’s impression of their target users and redesigning their core product experience.

As the lead designer for the project, I had a high level of autonomy and was largely responsible with setting direction and producing deliverables. I worked with a junior designer in the beginning of the project and a visual designer towards the end.


The original survey builder interface.

I began with an audit of the current experience and a round of competitive analysis. Besides competitors, FocusVision had a set of contemporary applications they wanted the experience to be on par with. I made sure to include those applications and describe some key points we could absorb as the project progressed. 

Air BnB

Lessons to absorb from a venerable design giant.

With the help of our junior designer, who had a research background, we interviewed 26 market research professionals across experience and roles. Through observation and client discussion, we derived core qualities and spectrums of experience. We split the task of listening to and deriving insights from the interviews. 


A page of spectra with interview observations attached.

Using the interviews as raw material, we hosted a two-day workshop with our client to create our core personas. We ended up with a total of five, including a new primary persona who represented the younger, scrappier market researcher the company needed to target. 


Our primary persona.

I had an opportunity to attend a market research conference in person with my colleague, where we validated our personas by meeting examples of them in real life. And not wanting to waste a good opportunity, I worked with the junior designer to create high-level concepts that would embody rough ideas of future functionality. We did gorilla market research by attaching our concepts to a piece of foam core and camping out near the sales booth.We traded coffee gift cards for 5 minutes of market research.

Monitoring Concept

A rough concept we used to gather in-person feedback.

Our experience helped us two ways. First, keeping our concepts broad let participants give us key insights into what details they’d want our ideas to include. Second participants were all too happy to share their experience with Decipher, validating audit findings.

It is also the only time I’ve conducted research while a participant was waiting in line for food.

We then moved on to redesigning the core product flow. Through a series of sketches and concepts we honed in on a design that focused the user’s attention on the primary task of building and configuring questions. Looking through our interviews I realized that other parts of the process, testing, styling, and configuring logic, were far less common but needed to be quickly accessible.

For advanced logic and path configuration, we began to design an extended “map” view that would visualize a survey taker’s path through the survey.


Our updated dashboard focused on monitoring the survey lifecycle.

Updated Survey Builder

Our redesign of the core experienced prioritized focus and just-in-time interactions.

Mapping Interface

Our concept to help manage logic and non-linear flows through a series of questions.

We ultimately worked through several iterations of each, page, honing in on a core flow which we turned into a lightweight prototype. At this stage in the process we were ready to translate our screens into visual design and hand them over to developers.

As we approached our final project phase a mandate came down from the new CEO. His concern was that the current design work was taking precedence over fixing glaring holes in the current interface. He wanted to see the current experience improved in time for the next release, giving us 6 weeks to push updates to development.  I had 4 weeks left on the project and was the only remaining ux resource when this news hit. 

I quickly switched gears. Putting on my project management hat I created a series of tools to help the client prioritize what improvements were most crucial from a user experience perspective. These tools were largely based on my internal time and project management habits. I was unsure of what would happen when I made them public. Luckily, it worked. The team rallied and collaboratively evaluated and prioritized possible updates.  In a very short period of time I had designed several low-development feature updates that drastically improved the current interface. 

Prioritization Spreadsheet

A section of one spreadsheet I created to rank and categorize potential short-term improvements.

Question Switching

One of the short term updates that we implemented.

Style Guide

Our brilliant visual designer created an extensible component style guide.

From this miniature crisis I sensed that FocusVision was needed more guidance through this difficult but necessary transition toward user centered design. I compiled a deck to wrap up lessons learned from the project and present suggestions based on my experience as a design consultant. This deck reflected the current design work but also envisioned a future of renewed innovation. I drove several hours to their offices and presented our deck alone to a large group including our client team, developers and one of the company co-founders.

Final Deck

A sample of the final presentation we presented.

Surprisingly, this presentation netted me some of the most positive feedback I had received while on the project (and probably ever in my career). And that’s considering I had helped them completely reimagine a large chunk of their application.

In the end I didn’t deliver the fully fleshed out experience I was expecting to, though I’m very happy with the ux work the team created. Our work provided a long term vision of the product and plenty of features that could be phased in over time. 

I had successfully steered the client through a rather terrifying fire drill. Perhaps the most satisfying reward was the sense that I had created lasting cultural change and had kindled a new focus on tailoring their software to their target persona. 

This project inspired me to submit a story to Enterprise User Experience conference, which I was able to share on stage.