Oceanside10 is a market research firm with a history of building robust internal tools. DesignMap was approached to turn its these tools into a SAAS platform to sell to consumers. They had built two products, a consumer research portal and an electronic marketing suite; but both had been built scattershot and couldn’t talk to each other.
I was the sole consistent design resource through two different phases, first to audit and update their marketing product, and then to re-envision their whole system. At various points throughout the project I worked with a design director, project manager, junior designer, and an intern.
First I worked with a design director to conduct a round of remedial but surface level UI improvements. Then as part of a broader team, I helped them envision a future where a unified set of tools allowed companies to conduct survey and focus group research, and turn those findings into actionable marketing plans.
Initially we were task with updating an revising core creation workflows. This meant going through and untangling the steps necessary to create basic marketing campaigns, and then doing a page-by-page update to make the process more clear.
The first phase was very fast and very narrowly focused on updating the creation experience. After the first phase was successful we were brought back to reimagine the whole platform in a more strategic manner. The long timeline and larger mandate allowed us to do user research.
I worked with a design director and product manager to write a user interview script and determine key points we wanted to cover. After analyzing our interviews, we grouped user interview results into larger issues we could address with a ground-up redesign.
As part of the the vision work I created an extensive set of storyboards. The narrative structure allowed our stakeholders to see the software within the aspirational context of being deployed in a large organization. It helped us secure buy-in for ideas that might normally have been a stretch.
From here I went on a marathon sketch session, rapidly creating concepts for a platform that centered on a unified pool of marketing and opinion data. As part of our presentations, the team wrote imaginary quotes for Carl, our primary persona.
The core of the experience was the list management dashboard. Oceanside10 wanted to unify research and marketing customer data into a fluid and flexible core repository. A typical user would manage customer segments and take different actions depending on their responsibilities as researcher or marekter. It should be noted that this was in 2014, and machine learning and AI had yet to be a must-have feature.
Sketches proved to be the right fidelity for our client, allowing me to get buy in on broad ideas before going down the rabbit hole of creating fully fleshed out wireframes. As I worked, I linked screens into a lightweight prototype. Having our client be able to click around gave them a sense of how the finished product could work.
As this tool was primarily focused on consolidating and managing data, I had to delve deep into the technical realm of database normalization and schematics. I came out with a strong opinion on how we could simplify the process of setting up data for less technical users. I ended up designing an expression builder, data import and attribute mapping, and data schema visualization screens and workflows.
As someone who had only dealt with front-end coding and markup, I had never touched the baroque and dense world of SQL queries, sharding, cold-storage, and the myriad terms associated with databases. Much of the design required repeated meetings with the client’s engineering team, where they would politely explain (and re-explain) concepts to me. Professionally this was a huge gift, as future projects have had me repeatedly return to the problem of explaining data schema to minimally-technical users.
Working through such dense subject matter was extremely rewarding. I enjoyed the challenge of decoding the normally hidden world of data. It also allowed me to empathize with the challenges posed to back-end engineers, who were often loaded with a phenomenal amount expectations for what they needed to build.
For the client, the project successfully communicated a future in which a robust but convoluted internal tool made the leap to a comprehensive SAAS platform that could underpin a large marketing organization.
Importantly, this project expanded my ability to deliver different design artifacts. It was the first time I had created heuristic audits, storyboards, and illustrated research findings. It was an instrumental project for improving my UX sketching ability. By learning new skills and tactics for communicating design I was able to create both a broad conceptual narrative as well as a screen by screen experience.