My Role: Lead Designer
TL;DR: Lead design efforts for a 0 to 1 feature for inclusion in a cross-team simultaneous product launch which resulted in an initial NPS score of 70.
The Organizational Problem
Early in the 2017 planning process, The Knot realized the need to improve their disparate and bloated consumer product portfolio. The existing user experience consisted of a set of narrowly focused tools with little to no communication between products or user sessions. The goal was clear: Create a cohesive product that helps couples plan their perfect wedding day.
User Journey and My Team
Thanks to great existing research we knew that in addition to being disjointed, the product portfolio also lacked solutions to key problems in the user journey. The largest missing piece was, in retrospect, a pretty glaring omission, the day-of timeline. The timeline is the one document that helps a wedding happen without stress. Couples were currently using robust tools like Google Docs Microsoft Word and Excel to create this blueprint to their wedding day. They would then share this document with their wedding vendors (DJs, Photographers, Cake bakers, etc). We were helping our customers through most of the journey, but leaving them hanging...
Up to that point I'd had limited experience working within the consumer side of the company. My team had been focused on consumer to vendor messaging solutions for the past year. So I had to get up to speed, quickly.
Oh yeah, in addition to those issues the business also placed a deadline for a synchronized launch of the newly dubbed “ultimate wedding planner” of which the timeline would be a big part. We had to develop a solution for our part of the user journey while also helping to establish a shared data model, cohesive user experience and with a team that wasn’t familiar with the user problem or tech stack.
My team, made up of a Product Manager, Product Designer (Me) and Engineering team, began the discovery process by figuring out where our gaps in knowledge were. We had many questions to answer.
High Level Questions
What are the pain points when creating a day-of wedding plan?
Who are the timelines used by and for what purpose?
Is this a good problem for The Knot to solve?
Generative User Research
After identifying our high-level questions we started interviewing recently married couples to see how they compiled their timelines. We asked a series of short questions then asked them to walk through their process for creating their timeline, who they shared it with and how the day went.
Their processes were all quite different ranging from extremely complex down-to-the-minute plans to more loose 'sketches' of the day. A few key insights began to emerge that would help guide our exploration from these interviews:
- Flexibility: Couples used their timelines in many different ways; for planning, for organizing, to envision their day and to keep their wedding vendors aligned. Additionally, every wedding was different with some being multiple day experiences. No one-size-fits-all template approach was going to work well. The fact that most users currently used an extremely 'open' tool like Word to complete their timeline highlighted this need.
- Guidance: Couples also kept mentioning their lack of knowledge around how to build something like this. Many said they were not confident that they included all they needed in their document and would have done it differently in retrospect.
- Sharing: The dissemination and alignment around a timeline is very important to the success of the wedding day. Their wedding vendors often requested early access to this document in production to see if it worked for them. Couples also mentioned that often vendors would help them 'iron out' the details when creating their timeline.
This phase of the research helped us definitively answer some of our high level questions. This was a pain point for couples and was a problem that The Knot was well positioned to solve. Having in-house wedding planning experts and a great product team allowed us the opportunity to help in this key part of the wedding planning process.
Competitive Research and Surveys
In addition to our generative research we also conducted a series of user tests around a few competitor 'timeline builders.' The results largely spoke to their inflexibility and further reinforced the need for flexibility and guidance within a solution.
Hybrid Design Sprint
Armed with our first set of user research we wanted to quickly develop the ideas with key stakeholders within the organization. I organized and lead a 3-day hybrid design sprint with members of the Product, Design, Marketing and Engineering teams.
Better understand the user problems we want to solve
Foster shared understanding and alignment around the product organization
Understand any technical risks or limitations
Generate and decide best ideas to rapidly prototype and test
Due to some constraints we went with a hybrid approach to a traditional design studio focusing on the 1st three parts with the entire team in NY then headed back to Austin to prototype and test with the team quickly thereafter.
Day One: Empathize
We started the first day by bringing the team up to speed on the user research we had already compiled in addition to existing user journey information from the research team. During these presentations participants were asked to take notes with stickies as 'How might we ___' questions as things popped in their heads. This allowed the presentations to flow without excessive interruptions, but still captured everyone's ideas and concerns.
After the presentation we began to organize the How-Might-We notes into themes and prioritized them.
After getting all our first ideas captured we then focused on capturing our long-term goal and mapping out the user journey.
Long-term goal for the product:
After many iterations and word-smithing we landed on a long-term goal for our product.
Help couples pull together their wedding event(s) plan, giving them confidence that everything will run smoothly, allowing The Knot to collect more vendor data to help future couples
We then began to sketch out the user journey as we currently saw it based on research and the wedding experts in the room. Doing this as a group helped to us to foster a shared understanding of the pain-points our couples faced throughout the process.
To finish out Day 1 we created an empathy map for our users using our journey map and following persona as a guide.
In addition to the output an empathy map allows participants to put themselves in the users shoes. This empathy exercise helps to refocus the team around the person using your product as you inevitably run into conflicts during the execution phase.
Day Two: Define
During this part of the studio we focused on defining the key user problems and our guiding design principles.
Through discussion and white-boarding we established the key user problems we aimed to solve:
I don’t know how to start building my timeline or what to include to make it comprehensive.
How do I make sure the right people, do the right things, at right time, in the right place?
Through discussion and using our previous work as a guide we also defined our design principles for this product. To be effective the tool must be:
Adaptable: Every wedding is unique. The tool needed to be flexible.
Guiding: Couples don't know what their missing. Leveraging The Knot's wedding planners to help guide users through the planned ensured they would feel confident in their timelines.
Intuitive: People disregarded many of our competitors due to poor UX/UI and mental model misalignments.
Personalized: It is very likely that our couples had already used a Knot product prior to using ours. How can we make the tool feel personalized and non-redundant to other questions?
Delightful: Wedding planning is stressful, but has great moments of delight. How can we best capture and share those moments of delight during the process?
Day Three: Ideate
At this point many stakeholders were itching to begin sketching out their ideas. Through sketching exercises (Crazy 8's and Storyboarding) we began to develop some great ideas to begin testing and prototyping.
Design Studio Conclusion
The hybrid design sprint helped us in many ways:
We better understood the problem
We established goals and a strategy to achieve them
We generated plenty of ideas to take back to Austin to test
We aligned with our stakeholders early in the process
Prototyping, Testing and Execution
We came back to Austin armed with a lot of ideas and began prototyping and testing immediately. One of our main hypotheses was around how we guide users through the creation of their timeline. I began developing high-level wire frames and sketches around many models, but we eventually began to center around the idea of quizzes that a user would take to fill out a section of their timeline (Ex: Ceremony, Reception, etc). This approach was great because it allowed us to impart our industry knowledge in an easily digestible way that helped build the user's timeline. The answers to the quiz questions would create events on your timeline that you'd be able to edit later.
We began testing these hypotheses with user tests via UserTesting.com. The first iterations included the option for the user to start with a "Blank Slate." We quickly found that users didn't even consider this as an option and gravitated overwhelming toward the "Guide Me Through" option. This matched up with our thinking from research as a main pain point. This was a great in that it also allowed us to separate ourselves from the more 'open' solutions like Word.
User testing also helped answer the question of adaptability and ownership of events. Users gravitated towards more flexible options for their timeline editing and wanted mechanisms to be able to 'assign' vendors or wedding party members to events on their timeline.
Execution & Beta
Through continued iteration and testing we delivered the timeline to a beta audience in early October to get more quantitative feedback on the product's effectiveness.
I also began to refine interactions and visual style based on the shared style for "The Ultimate Wedding Planner" for the final product launch.
After many other iterations the team was able to launch an MVP product that delighted our users. While there were many tradeoffs along the way the team was able to stay aligned around our users in large part due to our design studio process.
- We had a completion rate of 88% for our quizzes, with 91% taking additional quizzes
- Initial NPS score of 70
This was such a lifesaver for me! Nothing has stressed me out more about wedding planning than logistics and trying to put all the moving parts into a timeline. This feature is awesome and literally took a huge burden off of me! Thanks!”
“Easy to click everything and already had my pre-specified vendors filled in which was fantastic”
“It took me weeks of writing and re-writing timelines to do what took this tool only seconds!”
“The questions are clear and they do all the work for you and at the end your timeline is set, its brilliant!”
“HOLY CRAP THIS IS EVERYTHING I’VE NEEDED AND BEEN WAITING FOR. THANK YOU.”
"I was confused and clueless. Now I'm not"
The road goes ever on and on...
Following the Lean UX methodology means this is only the beginning. While my team was transitioned off of the timeline to focus on other problems shortly after launch, I think the team has a solid baseline to build upon and look forward to helping them iterate in the future.