Member Experience Network (Portfolio Piece)

For: Nationwide Insurance | Role: Employee, Project Lead | 2016-2019


Summary

In 2016 Nationwide’s affinity program invested in a thought leadership initiative to educate non-profit partners on how to craft a best-in-class member experience. I led the development of two major portions of this program, developing the website and managing all marketing and communications strategies. Using a variety of user research methods to help develop the program and site, as well as a number of targeted and personalized marketing tactics we developed a program that had tripled in size over its two year lifespan.

Problem

Prior to 2020, Nationwide partnered with hundreds of non-profits to offer insurance products to their members. Using the partner’s marketing and communication channels was key to the success of each relationship, but often partners were not as savvy as Nationwide. In an effort to help partners be more successful, which in turn would help Nationwide, a $1M project was initiated to create the Member Experience Network.

The Network, as it was usually dubbed, had an educational foundation built around helping partners enhance their members experience. We formalized the experience building educational content into a six step process, and then created topical content specific to marketing, direct mail, and social media. A team of three led the initial development, myself, Abbi Failla, and Kortnee Campbell in partnership with a third party copywriter.

Core Educational Content

To distribute the content more strategically, we needed to develop a community website, as well as a full blown marketing strategy to engaging our partners members. I led planning and development, and managed both of these.

The Website
A Newsletter Sample

The Website

User Research

We knew that our partners had many desires in this space, so in order to better understand what features would deliver the most value from the start we conducted three different kinds of guerilla research to aid both in the development of the site, but also in the development of the product itself.

First, we had direct access to all partners and were able to submit a survey (via Typeform) to all partner contacts early on to gauge their interest on both the content and features offered on the site. After synthesizing the survey data into an interview guide, we conducted informal phone and in-person interviews with prominent and high-engaged partners to confirm our direction. Eventually we landed on a group of eight recurring contacts that became an advisory council that provided critical feedback throughout the life of the program.

Wireframes

Using our primary partner research along with a site vernacular compiled from other comparable professional focused education sites, we had a composite view of what needed included in our MVP. Based on this, I developed an initial hand-drawn wireframes for the developer.

Our developer, Shipyard, reviewed the initial wireframes and adjusted the to fit the common modules available within their proprietary CMS. These digitized wireframes were shared with the advisory council and adjusted based on their feedback.

Prototype

The project was developed under agile methodology allowing us to focus on fitting components into the CMS as they were developed by corresponding design and content teams. Because we were comfortable with the fidelity and feedback to our wireframes, the initial site prototype was developed as a sandbox that would eventually pushed to the live environment.

Testing

Site UAT was done by partner managers, our marketing support team and the Nationwide UX team. Each area had disparate testing tasks related to site functionality. Because the site contained educational content, personal profiles, organizational profiles and documents, and more, a rigorous testing plan helped us roll out error free on launch.

Launch

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The site was announced at the program launch during an in-person event in August of 2016. The site launched without issue in March of 2017. Users were preloaded into the site database and emailed a link to join by creating their password and acknowledging TOS. All of their information was prepopulated for their convenience.

Results

The Site

The site itself ended up bigger than it was originally intended. As we decided to expand into a full on community platform with a discussion forum, user profiles and progress tracking, and eventually the inclusion of partnership documents. A simplified site-map to the shows far beyond educational content we ended up creating for.

Network Site Map

Stats

Marketing and Communications

Audience

The audience for the program had both breadth and depth within our partner organizations, spanning both function and authority. Our first goal was to develop a small set of personas that would afford us some guardrails when developing our messaging and choosing channels.

Essentially, the higher up the individual at the organization, the more personal the communications channel that was chosen. Content was also selectively featured for users within different functional areas; e.g. fundraising, marketing, list management, etc.

Motivations

To motivate users into the educational content, we selected a few key drivers to leverage. All users had the distinct desire for accomplishment, so we strummed that chord in most messaging and flouted the badges we’d developed showcasing users progress and newfound knowledge.

We also targeted mid and high-level associates with messaging around recognition, allowing them to show others their badges publicly. Occasionally we employed a scarcity motivator for webinar events by limiting the number of seats available or restricting access to individuals who had reached a certain point in the learning progression.

Channels

Under our 20-year-old ABM operations, we already had direct access to most of our audience. We stuck closely to the communication channels they preferred; emails, phone calls, in-person meetings, webinars, newsletters, and videos. For emails, phone calls, and meetings it was customary to provide our partner managers with scripts and templates they could use and/or personalize for each partner.

I personally created each of the 16 monthly community newsletters in MailChimp. I approached much of the newsletter as an editor, sourcing stories from our team about hot topics and curating top links from more than three dozen audience and topic focused blogs. I also shot and edited all video production projects like promotional videos, tutorials, and year end recaps.

A final key component of the marketing activity was a feedback loop from partners, advising us how they were using our content to better their organizations. Some of our more savvy partners also had regimented best practices that they wanted to bring to their peers so we worked closely with them to develop that content and release it via our platform.

Newsletters

Video

Print/Events

Sharon Public Library (Portfolio Piece)

For: Kent State University | Role: Student | July 2020

Difficulty

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Summary

During my Information Architecture coursework at Kent State, we were tasked with updating a public library website. We were grouped into teams of four so that we could coordinate research and pool our data for more reliable analysis. The Sharon (Massachusetts) Public Library website currently resembles many other public library sites that have not been modernized due to limited funding, and our goal was the make the site more user friendly through the information architecture of the site, i.e. organization, labeling, search, and navigation.

Problem

In our hypothetical scenario, the Executive Director for the Sharon Public Library reach out for assistance in updating their site. They had received complaints from users about how difficult it was to find certain things, and site stats like bounce rate and search volume gave evidence to that claim as well.

An initial glance at their site gives us a quick understanding of why users are likely struggling.

Immediately we see that there’s a ton of information and it’s almost all text.

The 3-column layout is uncommon these days, and there doesn’t appear to be any strategy for where content is displayed.

A more thorough audit of the site led to a number of other issues that were identified and warranted questioning in our user research.

  • Organization – The site was too heavily reliant on secondary navigation menus. Some sections included more than a dozen distinct sub-topics that seemed to have no strategical organizational pattern.
  • Scheme – The current site scheme is a blasphemous mix of audience and task-oriented labeling, combined with occasional chronological ordering and inconsistent metaphor-based labels. This organization prohibits users from establishing a usable mental model for engaging with the site.
  • Page Title Failures – In reviewing page data via ScreamingFrog it was noted that not a single page on the site contained an SEO recognizable title.
  • Accessibility Issues – Most images fail to have alt-text and tab ordering of html code is haphazard.

Approach

Foundational Research

Goals

  • Understand site usage
  • Understand information needs
  • Develop sense of language used
  • Identify common and key tasks
  • Understand individual demographic and psychographic factors

Secondary Research – Literature

To ensure we asked the right questions during primary research, we spent some time doing library discovery work through secondary sources, most notably literary research from sources like the American Library Association and Pew. These sources helped to align personal experience with reality before designing survey and interview questions.

Primary Research – Surveys

The survey asked participants about their library habits, frequency, access points, information channels, onsite vs virtual usage, and demo/psychographic info to help determine needs for the refreshed site. Each member of our team executed their own research (as directed) but we combined all data to create a more comprehensive view of library patron activities and expectations.

Aggregated survey results.

Primary Research – Interviews

Direct interviews with patrons and library stakeholders themselves allowed for more detailed information collection and real-time follow-up questioning as to motivations and intentions. Library staff spend as much time on the site as patrons do, so getting their input was paramount to the success of the redesign. These, as usual, were transcribed and coded to find similarities between participants, as well as direct quotes that would help sell the changes to the client.

Initial Design – Tasks & Personas

The entirety of research led to the creation of 4 primary user personas including each’s unique motivations and idiosyncrasies related to library engagement and site usage. The four personas included three patrons and 1 staff member.

Task analysis was then completed to identify common tasks across all personas, to identify our most valuable tasks. Those are the tasks that would get the most attention during site mapping and wireframing.

Information Design

Classification Scheme

The first step in Information Architecture for a site is deciding the classification scheme to be used. The scheme will set the rules for how users will interpret the organization of the site, whether they realize it not. For the Sharon site, a hybrid scheme seemed like the best option give the variety of information on the site, but the refreshed version would be far more concentrated than what exists today.

The navigation menu included task-based labels like “Borrow” and “Research”, but also Topical labels for programming based on age/cohort. The “Library Resources” category is metaphorical based on users prior experience approaching the resource desk for assistance, while sub-menu items are all task-based. This approach is memorable for returning visitors, yet accessible to new users as well.

Site Map

Once the classification scheme has been decided, the next step is building out the entire site-map based on its logic. The Sharon site contains a lot of information, but for the library and as a historical record for the town. However, the focus of the sitemap and project is to refresh the website for library users based on our personas core needs, so you see evidence of that in the final design.

Tree Testing

Using Tree Test software from Optimal Workshop, the efficacy of the site map was assessed. The test was administered to 44 participants, and yielded strongly positive results with only three tasks that showed a marginal opportunity for improvement. The spider web results indicate where users went to find information and were unsuccessful, and thus need label adjustments and/or content links placed in the navigation.

Visual Design

Wireframes

Header & Footer – Two of the most crucial areas for information finding are the header and footer. Specific wireframes were developed for these areas that encompassed key navigation elements access most frequently.

Home – The second most important page of the site is of course the home page. This is where some of the most important tasks can be accessed, e.g. connecting to wifi, viewing upcoming programs, and asking a librarian question.

It reduces the site from three columns to two, offers a featured image carousel for saving space and not listing everything all at once. Events can be accessed and registered directly from the home page, and new titles are listed in swim lanes that allow for more content without making chaos on the page.

Pay Fines, Find Events, Access Wifi, Access Databases, Borrow Technology – Wireframes for many other critical pages were also created to aid the developer with understanding layout and information needs.

First Click Testing

To assess the wireframe efficacy, first click tests were administered to a smaller audience. First click tests give the user one chance to click the right thing. If that one click is correct, then the design correctly communicates the available option to meet the need of the user. If the first click is inaccurate, then the design is “off” and needs revisited. As you can see, users did well with the tasks administered.

However, because this tool was new, many participants struggled with it and the results of the test were impacted. We were able to see some positive results, but in a real environment we would want to retest with different users and added instructions.

Results

The final deliverable to the client was presented as a slide deck. The wireframes that were created satisfied the needs of the personas, based on the research that was conducted to create them. Testing confirmed that organization, labeling, and navigation worked for users, and that the design should result in a far better user experience.

The final deck is available for viewing here.

Lessons Learned

  • Looking at this and other library sites, the lack of funding is clearly evident as they are often still relics of dated web-design styles
  • Local public libraries are also tasked with more information ownership than just books, often existing as some of all of the local historical archive
  • The survey and interview data from patrons and staff often overlapped in convenient ways, but occasionally diverged and left open the potential for two different portals into the information
  • Tree testing is a fun and unique way to measure your navigation menus, and is likely done far too infrequently
  • First click tests are more complicated and require more upfront training on how the tool works to get accurate results
  • Scheme classifications are critical but modern sites often must employ some form of hybrid scheme because of the diversity of information included

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