My technology department leadership requested an initial vision for a new dashboard to set the tone for our evolving platform. This "portal" replaces the current dashboard that, was never fully realized. In addition to being incomplete, the dashboard had become outdated, inconsistent, and did not meet our user's needs.
The request was for a refreshed branded dashboard concept to include the following elements:
• User data visualizations
• User badges to reward engagement
• Event calendar
• Enhanced user profile management
• Widgets for the marketplace, resources, and reports
The main goal of this project was to reposition the platform dashboard. The legacy dashboard's sole focus was to support the institution, so users only exist within their institution's context. The company has a network of over thirty thousand institutions and has access to hundreds of thousands of staff members, including Principles, varying levels of Administrators, Teachers, and other staff members. In the legacy system, the company is unable to track support and engage with an extensive network of users. The result is a significant loss of data, knowledge, and potential revenue.
The new portal intends to change the focus and create a relationship with the individual user. A user's account will be an independent record that can be associated with an institution. If the user moves from one institution to another, the original association ends, and a new association begins. So instead of losing user insights, we can build a meaningful and more comprehensive relationship with the user and translate that into a more streamlined personalized experience. This personal experience will include custom recommendations, information, and content that will leverage user data like role, occupation, location, and areas of expertise to better guide users and thier associated institutions.
This project also aims to rebrand and update the look and feel of the dashboard after a recent company merger.
Finally, the last priority is to consolidate and centralize user management to allow an institution's administrator to add, create, edit, and remove access to all of our tools and manage user permissions quickly and easily in one place. This centralized capability will replace the disconnected and siloed user management currently located in each tool of the legacy system. This issue has been a pain point to our clients for many years.
This project will face the common product challenges: scope, time, and resources. What is different for this project is it's a substantial foundational project with incredible detail and reach. It will be essential to get a comprehensive understanding of what we can do initially and remain flexible as the long-term vision is defined. Executing a short-term goal while remaining flexible to incorporate a more long-term strategy is something we have struggled with as an organization.
I started with an initial vision based on the leadership request and included known gaps and issues identified during feedback from previous user research.
The vision served as a starting point for our working group. This group consisted of the Project Manager and Business Analyst, and myself. The three of us spent about two weeks object mapping (OOUX) a couple of hours a day until we were able to identify the scope and the user flow for our initial product release.
The initial vision was a quick example of what could be. My knowledge of the platform's features, content, and future objectives allowed me to create this quickly.
Below is the new portal, which provides intuitive navigation through grouped content and functionality.
There are two paths in the navigation, so users are always aware. The user has access to global navigation throughout the platform. As the user navigates related objects and other calls to action, affordance-based navigation anticipates their needs. In addition, I incorporated branding into the interface and visuals, making it more modern and educator-friendly. Portal functionality is divided into the following groups -
Institution Management, User Account Management, Navigation to Platform Applications, Access to Client Care, and Footer.
Portal Dashboard Navigation
Kitchen Sink Object Map
The initial vision covered everything outlined in the request, so I used that as the reference for the first round of object mapping. This map includes everything and the kitchen sink. I also added known gaps in the current product, relevant user feedback requests/issues, plus any other appropriate requests the business had shared with the Product team.
This object map was a quick and messy exercise to establish a comprehensive baseline view to understand the components better and strategize. It can be overwhelming to account for this many objects at once - this exercise was only to establish the priorities and relationships. We could have used stickie notes if we were working in person, but using Trello for this collaboration was helpful for a remote team. Even better, we had a place to document knowns and unknowns that usually get lost or overlooked this early in the project.
Working Object Map
Once we identified priorities from the previous "Kitchen Sink Object Map," I started a new object map that addressed only the prioritized objects for the initial release. We moved the relevant content from the other map, re-established relationships for this new map, collected, updated, and documented to ensure current information.
At this point, notifications remained undefined because we were still unsure if this would be part of the release. Also, the Event Calendar was omitted from the map because it is an external link to the corporate marketing calendar.
As I looked at the map, I realized all of the objects had something in common. These are all global objects that should live in the header for easy user access. So I thought by focusing on only the onboarding process that flows to the header and then building out the items that live in it, we could establish the foundation of our new platform with this scalable component.
This plan is simple, which is strategic to minimize the possibility for both scope creep and rework from both a content and integration perspective. We could reasonably deliver this within our timeline, a 90-day window.
The next steps are to complete the object map and to start designing! As a bonus into later phases of this project, I included a few high fidelity pages.
I led the discovery/planning phase of this project for the first time with this organization. Participants of this project are part of a new team after the company underwent a corporate merger and restructuring.
Object mapping created a space (both literally and figuratively) for our team to understand, collaborate, and have solid foundational knowledge as a group at the very beginning. This process streamlined not only the design phase but also the implementation phase.
Positive feedback from the Business Analyst was one of the most rewarding aspects of this project. After working on this exercise for two weeks, she felt that she had a better understanding of this project and its goals than she had ever had before.