A side jam that made product releases more sensible.
My Role: Lead/Annoyed designer.
When I first joined percolate in 2015, the Product team was guilty of crimes that seem to be common around the enterprise software space, but one that really shook me to my core was the way in which we would deliver updates and new functionality to customers. It was basically the wild west.
Dev teams would be pushing out software and UI changes seemingly at random with little - to no warning to our customers. During live testing and customer interviews, many folks would describe feelings of confusion and fear when they logged into Percolate and their tools would be different or unrecognizable without a heads up. This drove me mad… although we were delivering new functionality which would ultimately provide value, the end user would still suffer from an ever changing software experience; not the best look.
In late 2015, some major UI updates were slated to be released, and I wasn’t having it, so I convinced a handful of my colleagues on the design team, front end team, and internal marketing team to do a little extra work. Turns out they were into it.
We started with a workshop to best determine our path forward and to really iron out what we thought the ideal (and realistic) new user experience could be - the fruits of our labor resulted in the following principles:
- A user needs to be warned ahead of time prior to any UI update.
- We need to be super clear about what changed
- We need to educate users on any new workflow being introduced.
- It needs to be lightweight - and feel good!
- Our solution needs to be simple AF to implement
Doing any of this after the fact would no longer be acceptable.
We needed a framework to deliver this educational layer to customers whenever any updates were produced…we also needed to prove the value of this effort with minimal engineering resources. Needless to say the first iteration was a little scrappy. We had buy in from the product management team to roll this out for all new features
We kept it simple and to the point - whenever a new bit of functionality was to be introduced a pop over would quickly disrupt the user to let them know of the update and what to expect. additionally we wanted to implement some type of change log in the future, so a user could go find any product info after the fact.
We landed on a design that employed the use of a modal window that would appear when a user would view a app area that had been updated. This system would record weather or not the user had seen the new update. In some cases we knew some updates that we were releasing wouldn't be relevant to most folks, so we would occasionally target specific users via their user role (usually admins) to let them know about an admin specific feature. We also set up event tracking to keep an eye on how quickly users would be fully onboarded.
This initial effort involved lots of collaboration with the in house creative team and marketing team to help illustrate new functionality, and calling out items that changed specifically. When a design was to be unveiled- the product designer would be responsible for working with the team to call out specific attributes of a UI update and creating assets for the animator to work with.
We landed on a simplified style that was quick on the product team to produce, and easy for the animator to quickly iterate on animation concepts.
v2 - Change log
With our foundation set, our second milestone was to establish a record of all changes, so if a user didn’t have time to read about a new bit of functionality or wanted to learn about something else they may have missed- they would be able to quickly find it.
Around about this time our engineering team was a little swamped to build a custom change log tool from scratch, however our IT team was considering Intercom as a platform to help log all of our product changes.
We ultimately created designs to include the Intercom change log in a team selector menu accessible from the top navigation of the application.
How do we measure success?
In addition to general anecdotal feedback from our customer team and tracking customer service tickets related to any onboarding process, Intercom has a rather handy tool that allowed us to poll customers as they read our content: 👍
How did it scale?
We eventually made the full shift to intercom as the product marketing team began to take over the product education process. Ultimately we scaled up our resources further and created a more self service product guide to give the user even further info when new tools come out.
I can now rest my head at night.