CVP UX Strategy & Design
Responsible for improving engagement through enhancement, optimization and future state UX planning of client and employee facing journeys and experiences.
In 2013, I was brought in to establish a UX practice at New York Life, supplementing the existing front-end design team. I began by initiating prototyping usability improvements in Axure & wireframing with Omnigraffle and supplemented that with online usability testing through usertesting.com and UserZoom.com. My internal UX design team never got very large, because for major work we contracted out to design shops like Sapient Nitro and Code & Theory, giving me a deep bench of talent and great foils to bounce ideas off of. What we did internally was to execute smaller redesign projects, provide UX guidance to transformation efforts throughout the company, and establish a testing protocol to validate the work — whether coming from inside or outside — against a “standard candle” comprised of:
- Existing industry research and standards,
- Benchmarking against internal analytics KPIs,
- Benchmarking against prior versions using the qualitative and quantitative methods available through our online usability analysts
- Session recording to expose customer struggles and pain-points
- A/B tests using Adobe Target.
Intranet redesign 2013-2015
Led a team which played a key role in a ground up exercise, rebuilding the corporate intranet from a static site into a social collaboration platform. Based on a company-wide discovery exercise, we conducted interviews with key stakeholders: divvisional leadership, the C-Suite, HR transformation and talent management teams. Based on what we learned, the team developed user stories and functional requirements.
We identified and prioritized key tasks:
Defined information architecture, navigation structures, designed wireframes and, built page templates, group structures, with the goal of ensuring easy adoption and practical utility. Post-launch activities centered on promoting best practices for getting the most out of the new tools, populating the FAQs, and designing and running numerous gamification promotions rewarding employees for completing exercises to familiarize them with “The Square”
Goals of the new social intranet: Enable collaboration, break down silos by enabling groups to broadcast their work, challenges, and wins to the entire company, reduce emails and meetings, "work out loud," and encourage participation in the many ongoing conversations on what NYL needed to do to thrive in the 21st century.
Internet redesign 2015-2017
Key roles: running design thinking workshops with numerous small groups drawn from throughout the company, eliciting feature opportunities during all phases of the customer journey. Distilled features down through low-high value/ low-high effort sorting and provided as discovery to an external design firm. Oversaw design sprints and provided design/UX guidance through the launch of MVP. Validated design decisions through benchmarking studies and a/b tests, Defined feature enhancements to guide the evolution of the site to an end state that supports AI/ML driven personalization
Testing & Optimization platform
Acquired and managed various usability tools: A/B testing, online usability suites, session recording solutions. Design, development, and tracking of usability studies, A/B tests, and customer struggle detection. Providing ongoing improvements to usability and employee engagement
Platforms and software used
Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Audience Manager, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Target, Jive + Bunchball Nitro, usertesting.com, UserZoom, Sessioncam, Adobe Creative Suite, OmniGraffle, Axure, Sketch, InVision, & Jira.
NYL Internet Redesign Screens
Artifacts from throughout the process.
MVP Homepage at launch
Layout grid 1280 – 1600 breakpoint
NYL Intranet Redesign
Artifacts from throughout the process.
The Square goes live.
How it came to be called The Square. First, we had a company-wide contest, like you do, using the intranet’s vote-up capability, where people could submit ideas, and others could vote them up, or down. The top 10 suggestions were then presented for a final vote, but leadership did not like the result. So we had a senior level brainstorming meeting. One of my associates suggested Blue Square based on the NYL logo, and another suggested Madison Square. Extrapolating on those, I suggested that if we just called it The Square, we would also be referencing “The Public Square” a concept which refers to a venue of open communication. Leadership approved.
Validating our assumptions: Testing & Optimization
While we make the best, smartest decisions we can in developing The Good Design, we always have to be willing and eager to prove we are right. This happens all through the design and development process, but in this final phase, we have an opportunity to take a step back, in order to take a step up.
So how do we know what to test? What to examine to see what opportunities there are for improvement?
One way is of course analytics. Are our KPIs being met? Are the pages, engagements, and conversions performing as well as our benchmarked prior state?
Another important way is secondary sources with authority. Does existing research say anything about an experience you are employing on your site?
This image of a project space within the Corporate Intranet serves two purposes. First, it shows how we were using the collaboration & idea generation tools of our intranet to reveal and discuss opportunities to explore. Using the vote-up feature, anyone is invited to contribute an idea to improve the website. Those ideas are vetted and prioritized, and those selected are moved through the research & optimization workflow. In this case, I submitted my own idea into the system as a demonstration. The idea itself, to keep primary navigation exposed at mobile breakpoints, instead of collapsing everything into the hamburger, is based on research into combo menus conducted by Nielson Norman, which found that, among the Hamburger Menu’s many problems (findability, inconsistency with mobile app & mobile OS paradigms) there was an apparent solution. Leaving some of the top nav exposed produced greater engagement.
The visual I created here illustrates the A/B solution to run in Adobe Target by assigning some fraction of visitors to a version with different CSS to see if the study holds true for NYL’s audience.
The third way is intuition. A large part of the value we, as experience and visual designers, bring to the table is of course our own passion, talent, training, and experience. While we bring others in to learn from them and get alternate perspectives, at the end of the day we take all of that in through our own filter, and make our own decisions. In the case below, we embarked on an iterative series of tests to validate our design decisions on the display of our primary CTA, the Agent Lead Form. In test one, we replaced the “hip” underline style of the form with a more obvious design pattern. A/B testing showed, with more than 95% confidence, the alternate visible form field style outperforming the control by more than 10%. The next series of experiments require working with lead-gen teams to get agreement on the reduced fields.