EML are an agile team whose founders have been building full stack web and mobile applications for over 10 years, with a list of clients and companies including Waitrose, John Lewis, Kantar, KPMG, M&S, Allen and Overy, PWC, Deloitte and Property Partner. In 2018 I joined their team as a consultant to help build an internal audit and project management platform for a global big four auditing firm.
This project was entirely remote as our core team was based in London, the client in North America, and the development team split across the US and India.
EML was preparing to implement multiple large features within an existing platform they had been developing for 4 years. They wanted to review the UX strategy and UI design system across the project, then improve on it before starting to build out new features.
Up until this point, EML’s primary focus had been on development. They now needed to engage with a UX strategist and UI designer to work alongside the product owner, stakeholders and development team, so I was brought in to consult.
My primary goals within the project were:
The software is internal and can only be used by staff within the North America teams. For this reason, logos and specifics have been removed from any artwork shown and any usage metrics cannot be shared.
I adapted my standard approach methodology of discovery, persona creation, ideation, testing and implementation to work with EML’s existing pipeline and structure. The first step was to analyse and audit the existing platform with the stakeholder and product owner. This involved walking through the client’s daily processes and working practices to gain insight on what works for their needs.
We gained the most value at this stage by talking directly to user groups. This helped us discover their individual use cases and pain points with the existing platform. It also allowed us to understand how they ‘work around’ certain processes to improve their own performance.
Alongside the logic and structural improvements, we updated the UI to reflect more modern software trends. We also developed a design system that allowed for a more flexible, component-based UI. This allowed for faster iteration on concepts and offered reusability of assets to the development team.
Modernising a UI’s aesthetic, although not always a priority with internal applications, is valuable for keeping teams engaged with a platform. Users spend hours every day within this environment. So making it a pleasant place to be (by softening colours, giving the UI breathing room and space for the eyes to rest) is important. The value can be hard to measure, but is just as important as reducing time users spend in performing specific tasks.
Working in sprints, concepts were quickly validated or abandoned through testing sessions with both the stakeholders and the various key client-side testing teams.
We validated concepts in whiteboard sessions with EML. Next, we presented wireframe prototypes to the stakeholder before we presented user groups with high fidelity prototypes for testing sessions. Rinse and repeat.
Over the year I spent with the EML team, we developed a new visual language and Design System. With these assets, EML and the end client can now consistently create elements across the platform and quickly iterate ideas.
We built out a modular dashboard system for the platform, which users can modify so it only shows the most important information to their teams/processes. Modular components throughout the platform have also prepared the UI for it’s eventual transfer to tablet.
We also implemented a traffic light system across monitoring components, to improve data comprehension at a glance.
In addition, we introduced improved export features for data sets. This allows users to transfer data to platforms they might be more comfortable with, like excel.
Another key goal was to enable teams to easily create, share and track progress of specific projects or processes in a single space. To achieve this, we created a real-time collaborative project management platform within the tool.
I also helped the team to make improvements to guidance and ‘tips’ within the product UI. This allowed junior members of the audit teams to better understand the processes they were completing, reducing the amount of time managers needed to spend explaining specifics within the various digital workflows.
There were definitely both negative and positive aspects to joining a project at this late stage. My design side wanted to start the UI from scratch, which was obviously not feasible, but the UX requirements were a great challenge.
For me, analysing what currently exists and discovering a way to add value through minor changes is always a rewarding process. Carrying those improvements across to the new features I help create allows me to bring holistic changes and enhancements to the product environment.
I was also able to revitalise the core team by giving them a fresh perspective on the project. They were happier about continuing the work after gaining a greater understanding of UX considerations and best practices.