Before development could begin, I was determined to develop the initial business analysis from spreadsheets into visual stories that the users, the team and I could review and get a shared understanding of what the user needs were.

Requirements and challenges

  • Users across the business have been forced to work on a DOS-like system with a black background with green text, repeating mundane tasks due to lack of an intuitive interface.
  • Users had 30 years worth of backlogged requirements and as UX designer, it was my duty to bring to the surface the key things that would make the new system a success.
  • Getting users to try a different UI to the one they’re used to has been a challenge. By sitting with users and learning how they work, I got a feel for how they struggled with the current system.

Reviewing the current process

I sat with teams from across the business to understand their current processes and wanted to be able to sympathise with them and what they had to go through to get simple parts of their job done. I was surprised to see that it took too long to complete what should be a simple 5 minute task. Complicated by the convoluted and laborious UI of an age old keyboard driven prompt system.

The task

  • To enable users to input data from customer submitted paper forms quickly and easily on a browser based interface
  • Allow a seamless experience for those in the business who need update existing patents and for those who create them

The UX problem

Currently users must select the action from a numbered menu (e.g. “add an applicant to a patent application”), then they would type in a patent number on which to associate that new record and would proceed through the process. Similarly, thereafter, anything they to do with that patent, they would have to type the patent number after choosing the required action; this was repetitive and time consuming.

The solution

  • Create a search driven application, whereby users would search once for the patent they need and from there onward, they could complete any number of tasks associated with that patent

Actions

  • Reviewed the current process - sat with users across the business.
  • Lead workshops for gathering requirements and mapping out user stories which would give an outline of the end to end process that users would go through from a “to be” perspective.
  • Created user journey maps
  • Created low fidelity sketches and more advanced, dynamic HTML prototypes that were to be used to run user testing sessions with the teams involved; the people who would ultimately be using these screens daily.

Outcomes

Producing quick sketches of screens and screen flow allowed me to put ideas in front of users regularly and meant I was able to get quick feedback on how flows worked for them, and also what didn’t work. Soon after starting these interactions with users, they were informing the flow and constructing the journey that suited them.

Through demonstrating the failings of the current system and the quick completion rates of the new prototypes, I was able to convince the business that this change would bring instant benefits to staff workflow and ultimately would bring financial gain through quicker processing.

In doing this, I was able to gain the trust of key stakeholders and impressed them with the simplicity of the service I designed for them; it has a great user experience and it meets business objectives and is valuable to everyone invested in it. A senior manager of a section I had been working with took the time to praise my efforts and thank me for the work I’d done for them by way of writing an article in a staff newsletter.

A fully functional HTML prototype was used for the GDS Alpha Assessment to demonstrate the end to end process. The assessment passed successfully and was commended. The prototype was then used to inform developers of the exact way the screens needed to look and function.

With a fully functional prototype, as UX lead, I was able to lead sprint planning sessions with developers and testers, in order to plan the workload and what was needed to deliver each part of the service.

Presented the final prototype to key stakeholders across the business and lead show and tell demos throughout the build process for product owners and senior management.