UX Research for RMF Site Redesign:

Texas Association of School Boards (TASB)

The objective

The RMF group sought to improve the online availability of their core business offerings and make services more accessible to internal and external clients.

My role

Heuristic assessment of TASB RMF site. Performed user research to inform a mental model to more intuitively align with users needs and expectations of what services the business provides. Team pitch to client to secure design contract.

I joined a team comprised of a Sr. Project Manager, Sr. Information Architect, Sr. UX Specialist, Director of Design of Online Communications, Web Designers and the RMF Management team.

Services Provided

  • User Interviews
  • Heuristic Evaluation
  • Information Architecture

Problem Statement

Pain points: Customers trend towards calling in for services instead of finding solutions online.
  • External customers driven to telephony channel at high rate.
  • Internal client reports a specific set of recurring critical path activities are difficult to maintain, time consuming to manage and incur strain on a limited number of CSR’s.
  • Online channel communicates a poor representation of the business services and makes for inaccessible and poor user experience.

This group is top notch at making themselves available to their customers needs however the constant state of triage inhibits focusing upon the core strengths in areas where they out perform competitors and hampers branching into new service delivery areas.

There is apprehension to dedicate budget to the project without confirming the percieved challenges are real and assailable. Our team got creative with its toolkit and took advantage of opportunities to learn as they presented themselves.

Discovery

Baseline Observations

Site Usability & Heuristics

The information architecture fails to support the mental model visitors have of service locality within the domain.

The legacy site developed in Flash, hampers accessibility, performance, maintenance and SEO. 

Navigation model confusing, complicated. Visitors abandon page exploration for the immediate feedback of the telephony channel.

User Interviews

Internal Stakeholder Sessions

I met with managers, Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) & budget influencers to hear directly from them  what would make their jobs easier and listened to how fulfilling their customers needs brought joy into their own lives. These people care about the organization’s purpose and their clients, all of whom are committed to the public education of children in Texas.

The most common complaint is that customers repeatedly indicated they tried to accomplish tasks online but grew frustrated with the website, gave up and would simply call or email in their questions and requests.

UX Research Proposal

I worked with the Director to create a UX Research Proposal to present to  the RMF group. 

The proposal outlined that as a service design project, emphasis is placed upon identifying current obstacles to service delivery and prioritizing exploring methods to enable online services successfully.

Focus is placed upon validating the story with site analytics of traffic and page abandonment.  Secondly, emphasis is placed on illustrating a complete perspective of the users’ frustrations maneuvering the site and basic task completion.

Persona Generation

The profiles of external customers interacting with the RMF group varies greatly.

School faculty, facilities maintenance and members of the superintendent team all seek different solutions to claims management and each user group had different priorities in their interaction modalities.

I created several personas to baseline usage cases and inquiry structures against.

 

One-on-One guerrilla UX testing

The annual TASB RMF Members Conference  provided a opportunity to do live, one-on-one guerilla user testing.

I sourced possible usability candidates from CSR interaction records of various district employees who expressed problems with various aspects of site functionality.

I vetted candidates for various demographic attributes and prioritized their interview assignments using responses to Likert scale questionnaires.

We used free ice cream as incentives in exchange for their time.

Interview Authoring

Short, focused question set tailored to each respondent persona.

I created a set of proctoring guideline to structure testing protocol for one-on-one interviews.

  • Best Practices

  • Interviewing Respondents

  • Steps for successful note-taking 

  • Setting up the interview space and hardware configuration

Transcription of User Test Sessions

Collected Verbatim commentary of each interview on a issue by issue basis.
Established a severity rating system prioritize usability issues.
Distilled findings into discovery and recommendation rationales.

Retained the question and answer format of the interviews

Visually highlights problems such as Blocking Points, Task Abandonment and successes like Task completions.

Created a simple visual legend

Icons used to indicate gesturing, mouse movement and nuanced behavioral indicators in the recordings where video of the sessions was not available.

Capturing Interactions and user behavior

Identified issues by frequency, category and task

Findings and Recommendations

Analyzing the sessions produced a data set validating many of the teams hypothesis about what was wrong with the legacy site.

Service Delivery

  • High Task Abandonment on primary business flows

  • No online help, not readily discoverable

  • “I have a relationship with the staff, I will just call.”

Web Standards

  • Non-intuitive unique interaction elements

  • Interaction touch points lack consistency of behaviors

  • Unique Flash elements especially jarring. Elements behave in unexpected ways from UI generally found online.

Information Architecture

  • Navigation is not intuitve

  • Lack of wayfinding

  • Lack of information chunking

  • Inconsistent use of content

  • Labeling not in-line with the users mental model of the services

Competitive Research

Reviewed 22 peer organizations

Competitors sites assessed for functionality, content, visual style, tone and structure.

Bisected study into two tiers, direct competitors and players in the vertical

Broader best practices

Evaluated service delivery outside of risk management for advantageous design and content delivery

Findings

  • There is a lot of opportunity to leverage web based service delivery to become a  leader in this space

  • Competitors with the budget to implement a fully realized online presence and offer fully functional online shopping, marketing and customer service experiences did just that.


The team presented the findings to RMF leadership showing that the current site was a clear hindrance to customers ability to complete tasks.  

The Online Communications Design Team was awarded the internal contract to re-design the RMF site.

Solutions Implementation

I had opportunity to contribute to the early exploration of solutions on the RMF project.

The RMF group agreed to contract with us and move forward. Online Communications could work with them to create a vastly improved online presence & service delivery portal. I was able to collaborate on the reimagined IA as a deliverable.

Information Architecture

User Research showed that the navigation and site architecture are critical blocking points to users.

We undertook a current content inventory accounting for public pages, secured services, and the knowledge-base library.

Card sorting exercises and affinity maps provided insight how to realign the site with users’ expectations and improve discoverability.

We produced IA artifacts of the current and future content states to communicate the content strategy  vision.

Takeaway

The compressed time frame of my contract and pulling dual duty with day to day production updates along with the project’s research duties impressed upon me the need to be flexible and realistic with time estimates.

  • My former enterprise experience helped bolster my impulse to stretch beyond the baseline tasks I was brought onboard for and bring to bear some much needed UX Research best practices.
  • The ambition to prove ourselves as competent internal service providers helped drive everyone on the team to take chances and make the most of the assets we had available.