User-Centered Design for B2B Customer Portal
A B2B company had expanded its digital offerings in recent years and inadvertently created user experience issues for its clients. The feedback from customers was that navigation and online experience were no longer user-friendly or efficient, as customers were required to log-in to multiple sites in order to access the applications, products, and services. The company needed to quickly improve the overall experience and customer satisfaction by consolidating its offerings into an integrated solution, accessible through a single, secure customer portal.
Unfortunately, the size and complexity of the project revealed considerable knowledge gaps in the company’s product management, digital design, and development capabilities, leading to a challenged start with an uncertain outcome. The company needed to design and deliver the portal at an aggressive pace in order to retain and grow its customer base, but it lacked the expertise to execute the project effectively and could not risk a trial and error approach.
Numerous challenges impeded the portal project even at the conceptual stage. To begin with, internal communication and collaboration was limited, resulting in the “siloing” of individual applications – a key reason for why the overall experience had become fragmented and inconsistent.
In addition, several enhancement projects were in motion at varying stages of design and development, making it nearly impossible for the new portal to unite the applications cohesively and with a truly user-centered approach.
Another challenge was the client’s rigid Waterfall methodology, which caused timelines to shift due to their inability to cope with requirement changes in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Even small changes to one project would create significant delays across others, adversely impacting the portfolio of digital product initiatives as whole. Similar challenges have been overcome by other product design and development teams by leveraging iterative methodologies such as Agile, but the company was only familiar and comfortable with Waterfall.
Complicating the situation even more was the improperly defined roles and responsibilities of each member of the team as it related to proven digital product development practices; for example, the company often confused task assignments between product owners and scrum masters, or UX designers and user researchers. In essence, the company was building a critically strategic product for its business and for its customers without the proper skills to manage a successful outcome. Deficient of internal expertise to lead these types of projects, the company had relied heavily on scattered vendors not only for application design and development, but also for release and sustainability.
Requiring immediate help in not only designing the portal from the ground up, but also with acquiring the proper knowledge and skillsets to complete this and similar future projects, the company turned to AIM Consulting.
Under the leadership of AIM Solutions Director Areos Ledesma, three senior AIM consultants in business analysis, UX design, and visual design guided the company on the proper steps of building a product backlog and executing the digital design from concept to final compositions, all while providing Agile coaching to the company and preparing the client team with the right structure for successful delivery of future projects.
AIM Consulting worked onsite to help the company in two major areas: working with the internal teams to help the company design its portal for a much improved customer experience and evolving the company’s product management capability for end-to-end design and development.
1. Design a User-Centered Customer Portal
AIM designed the company’s customer portal to be responsive and to host a robust hub of products and information. The new design provides a platform for expansion of digital offerings and supports personalized experiences for its customers, enabling more ways for them to interact with product, services, and valuable data. AIM Consulting’s UX design team delivered the following:
- Refined requirements and user stories to solidify the design and facilitate feasibility assessment and functional testing;
- UX wireframes and clickable prototypes to layout the responsive design experience and prepare for usability testing;
- Usability testing observation to incorporate feedback and improve designs prior to development;
- High-fidelity visual design compositions, assets and redlines to specifically guide development;
- Updated Digital Design Style Guide to accommodate the portal requirements.
2. Evolve Client’s Digital Product Capabilities
AIM Consultants blended with the client’s in-house teams and transferred knowledge of product management, user-centered design, and UI development throughout the project. As the client moves forward with the first official release of the portal, it will leverage the learnings from the portal design initiative as a vehicle to continue improving, maturing, and extending its internal digital design capabilities and methodology. The acquisition of expertise will help the company create future customer-facing applications with best-in-class user experience as a result. AIM helped the company in the following ways:
- Optimized existing business analysis and requirements management processes while coaching the team to become Agile and customer-centric;
- Implemented UX best practices, promoting adoption of rapid prototyping and mentoring in-house designers to evangelize user-centered design in partnership with product teams;
- Refined and matured an end-to-end digital design methodology in collaboration with resource managers that service product development;
- Recommended a new design team structure and solidified roles and responsibilities to scale and handle the portfolio of upcoming initiatives;
- Identified areas for consistency in usability testing of future experiences.
With these improvements in place, the company can move forward with much more confidence in the results of its portal offering and how it will meet customer expectations. When complete, the new portal will represent a monumental improvement to the customer experience, with a single sign-on that opens the door to a full suite of integrated applications and services. Relevant data will also be leveraged across applications, enabling them to make better and quicker business decisions. Additionally, the portal will feature tiered levels of service, allowing customers to upgrade from basic to more advanced offerings as their needs mature.
Our partnership wasn’t just to translate a vision into requirements and design a great portal; it was to show our client how to build a great product themselves. We created a blended team environment where AIM consultants were immersed in the client’s culture, became intrinsically aware of their challenges, and overcame those challenges together as one team.
We demystified Agile and shared UX best practices. They now have a framework they can build on. When the implementation and testing are complete, they will have delivered an end-to-end experience that delights their customers and sets the bar very high for their competitors.-Areos Ledesma, Solution Director
AIM Consulting empowered the client with all the knowledge, skills and best practices to produce the portal it needed to satisfy customers. With new insight to product roles and responsibilities, and armed with a proven methodology, the company now has the ability to design future products with more confidence, leading to higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.
As the company moves more design and development in-house over time, it will also decrease dependence and management of multi-tier vendors. “The project highlighted several gaps in existing vendors to which the client had grown accustomed to,” Areos Ledesma noted, “AIM raised the bar for what’s to be expected of solid and effective technology partnerships.”
AIM Consulting has deep expertise in Digital Experience and Mobile and Application Development. We can help you build custom solutions, augment your current teams, and improve your processes. Ready for a solution? Tell Us About Your Challenge.