Revamping User Experience from the Ground Up
I was brought on by the product team to help mold the future of Fuze, an HD audio and video meeting and project collaboration solution for businesses small and large. It was a massive undertaking with Windows, Mac, and Linux clients as well as native clients for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. We began by laying the informational groundwork for the design of the next iteration of the product. We interviewed users to understand how they worked, how they included digital products in their workflow, and to discover their pain points. We also met with stakeholders and embedded ourselves in internal departments such as sales and customer service to really gauge the pulse of the product and get insight into what they were hearing on the frontlines.
Finding Problems and Working Toward Solutions
While we found many opportunities to improve the overall experience for both hosts and presenters, we found some really key issues right off the bat. We heard similar feedback over and over by talking to internal customer facing teams and during field studies: “the join process isn't intuitive," "we're ending up having to troubleshoot and walkthrough people we invite who are using fuze for the first time." A customer survey confirmed this pain point and the design planning process began. We began immediately, sketching at first and then looking at the results across teams, then graduating to paper prototypes and lo-fi testing with internal users. Once we had a path we felt might work, we recruited users from our target user groups (based on created personas) and began watching them use digital prototypes and even iterating between tests; we learned a lot.
We ended up implementing the Fuze Green Room: a join process that aimed to be so easy that it didn't require coaching. We were smart about defaults -- we started users with the best settings for productive meetings: HD quality video, VoIP, and audio projection. Adjusting the settings is as simple as a tap or click and, if necessary due to slower connections or device issues, the act of moving the audio to the user’s phone was just a few clicks away.
We also tackled another pain point for our users -- the resistance to being on video. Using the Green Room they had an in-between state to do what we all want to do before appearing on camera; do I look ok? is my audio working? how do I sound? It didn't end there; after implementation, we examined how the piece fit in holistically with the rest of the app; we looked at how we would adapt what we learned onto not only desktop platforms but also to touch devices, and also what happens when we're implementing on platforms with many more restrictions (as in the case of our browser client). We found an increase in video meetings from 40-67%, and a significant increase in user meeting satisfaction due to face-to-face contact with their remote teams.
A complex and rich application, developed by many teams located across various time zones, leads to another major hurdle: How to ensure the design is implemented correctly and how to communicate our designs’ functionality and the look and feel of it to developers. After a few teamwork sessions, working closely with devs and a lot of trial and error, we created the design wiki. Developers could easily locate the full functionality of a feature using it, including viewing deltas between iterations and seeing every state completely, every icon name, and callouts on how they could recreate elements in code. We also made ourselves completely available to devs, and began working the way they worked -- adopting a workflow that was in line with theirs in Jira. Unsure what a feature involved? Let's get together and do a quick walkthrough and Q&A session. Does the design not work from a dev perspective? Let's get together and find out how we can accomplish our goals given new dev restrictions. It’s highly collaborative and continues to be the way we do things long after the apps are shipped.
Not long after the native clients launched, I helped lead the charge on a rich HTML5 experience using the power of webRTC, a technology that allows for audio and video meetings to happen from the comfort of the user's browser, and without a heavyweight download: a key to get attendees in fast. However, this presented new challenges of web restrictions and how to optimize for a web experience while at the same time working to keep consistent with the look, feel, and interaction model of the desktop native apps. Another challenge was that the dev team charged with implementing the browser experience was thousands of miles away in Bulgaria, which tested the true strength of Fuze as a collaboration platform. It still led to early mornings, late nights, quick turnaround, and edifying experience (as well as a two-week heads-down work session in Sofia, Bulgaria) that ultimately led to the Fuze HTML5 Browser client: a fast and easy way for attendees to join a Fuze meeting.
The work continues to this day with improvements to the application to be the best it can be for the users and through the development of new features to ensure Fuze stays an important tool in the workflow of teams today and in years to come.