Capacity4Dev: Reframing the value proposition and redesigning a knowledge sharing platform for the European Commission (May 2021 - Dec 2021)
The EC had commissioned a new communication strategy in 2019 for their knowledge sharing platform Capacity4Dev. Originally, we were hired to work out the strategy and prepare a functional analysis. Through discussions with the Capacity4Dev team, subject matter experts and customer support, the new strategy turned out to be too complex and would not solve the current user problems. Therefore, the Capacity4Dev team eventually hired us to revisit the initial strategy and possibly develop a new concept ourselves.
Role and responsibilities
UX Strategist at iO. I was responsible for the analysis of the existing strategy, past research, user research, analysis, problem definition, creation of a new value proposition, information architecture, concept design, prototyping, MVP definition (version 1), functional/technical analysis, story mapping and stakeholder management. My team at iO consisted of a UX Architect, UX Strategist (me), Project Manager, and Functional and Technical Analyst.
A pivotal moment in the project
After doing an analysis of the proposed communication strategy and looking more thoroughly at the current concept and its research, we had a meeting with the C4D team, subject matter experts and customer support people. By having them realize that the proposed concept would most likely not solve the problems and pain points that currently exist, we were given the green light to do some additional exploratory research.
Since we had a very limited time frame and budget for additional research, we had to be very sure that we included all types of target audiences in our research from the beginning. Therefore, we had thorough discussions about the types of personas EC sees as their audience. They sent many different marketing and business personas that differ from user personas. This caused us to discuss what user personas are. In turn, this got us working with the subject matter experts and customer support people about the different contexts, goals and behaviours they can map.
Due to the nature of the users, a contextual inquiry study seemed the best exploratory methodology to gain as many insights as possible into the different users’ needs and context. Because of COVID times we had to ask the users to digitally show their day-to-day workflows and responsibilities, it came less naturally and this unfortunately left a lack of insights on natural behaviour. In addition to the lockdown, it was of course also beneficial to the limited budget that we had no travel expenses as some participants were spread around the world.
In the meantime, an online survey was sent out by the internal C4D team in consultation with us to get a larger sample size of data on user goals and needs.
Finally, there were also the insights from past research done on the old concept where we could map some behaviour and mental models of the target audience.
Once the research was done, we analysed the collected raw data from the contextual inquiries and survey using thematic analysis. The thematic analysis allowed us to group the data to get a better idea of how we can use this data to define problems.
We then mapped the insights into alginement tools such as personas and customer journey maps during UX workshops, supported by the research insights. In this way, we were able to use these alignment tables to create a shared understanding and gather more insights with the help of subject matter experts and customer service staff during these workshops.
Finally we used a HMW workshop to capture features that might solve a problem from the client’s feature wishlist. In this way we only focus on discussing features that solve real user problems.
After defining the problem based on the initial strategy, contextual enquiries, online survey and workshops, we had to create a new value proposition that would solve the user’s problems. After the C4D team agreed on the new value proposition after extensive discussions, we had to start building an information architecture that supports our value proposition.
First, we needed to understand the content on the current platform. So I made a thorough content inventory in a spreadsheet of the different content types to understand size, page layout and hierarchy.
Being about a platform that requires more complex features than a website, it was important to think on paper with sketches to quickly iterate ideas with the new conceptual information architecture in mind. This means that compared to often doing the information architecture first, now the information architecture is conceived simultaneously while we sketch the new screens and screen states.
Once the overall information architecture and sketches of the concept were approved, we started designing our first flows and screens. To start with, I designed ideal user flows for the hardest-to-understand and most pressing interaction flows to discuss with the C4D team.
I designed a medium fidelity prototype. This form of fidelity was exactly right for what we wanted to learn if we wanted to test our solution iteratively by users.
After the prototype was presented and approved, our UX Architect, in my absence, conducted some user tests to evaluate our new concept. The participants had to perform tasks that we knew were important to the target audience. In addition, we did some feedback loops and demo’s with subject matter experts to get the most out of this iteration and budget. This round of user testing and back and forth with SMEs gave us enough insights to document and draft this iteration as an MVP (I would rather call it a Version 1).
Functional and technical analysis
During the functional and technical analysis we, as UX professional, oversaw the quality of the user’s experience while defining the compontents and designs in collaboration witht het functional and technical analysist, and developers.
On top of that, it was up to us as UX professionals to do user story mapping in consultation with the right technical people so that we could define our MVP user-centred.
What I would improve
Overall, there are two things I would do differently looking back on the project. The first would be a user-centric improvement with the same time frame and budget as the real project gave us. The second would be an improvement that would require more time and budget:
- Creating personas with better scenarios based on qualitative user insights for better critical design decisions and better user stories for developers.
- Of course, as with most projects, sell more qualitative studies so that we have better and deeper insights to inform our design decisions.