Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services team is responsible for all aspects of the company’s physical workspace. A majority of the team’s effort is related to commercial real estate activities. Within REWS is a Global Services Team focused on data deliver, especially on real estate data quality and integrity.
Real Estate Global Data Team growing quickly (along with entire REWS organization)
Increased demand for metrics - gathering and using data to inform business decisions for real estate purchases, project budgeting, move management, etc.
Lack of communication left people frustrated (on the team: working hard but getting no recognition. Outside the team: confusion of what data exists, how to find it and how to use it).
Identify and implement tools to identify and organize data, communicate available data along with current processes and procedures for using it, define and communicate team accomplishments (get recognition and justify further resources).
Interface with various groups within the organization to identify and clarify data needs for decision-making and define special data integrity projects.
Created a number of topic glossaries to clarify and define important terms for real estate planning, space classes and measures, construction project management, etc.
Document and visualize existing processes to facilitate team discussions about what works and needs improvements, as well as clarify to external teams what services are offered, and how to interact with the team. The document was converted to an employee-training manual.
Increased communication throughout the organization.
Developed a glossary so that people are now unified in using the same terms.
Created decks to communicate key concepts and processes right when they were needed.
Created and socialized a location taxonomy (street, city, state, country) for all Google properties, worldwide, which were adopted across the organization.
Stubhub, an online marketplace for buying and selling event tickets, contracted Seneb to research and visualize a complete customer experience, both on- and offline.
The company was growing quickly and had recently concluded strategic work to define their vision for the next 10 years. Although the vision was clear, peoples’ role in implementing that vision was very fuzzy. To address this, the User Experience Design Manager commissioned the creation of a customer experience map to portray a single, unified understanding of the company’s target customers.
Detailed customer information existed, focused on specific use cases or topics, and existing within different organizational silos. There was no singular, united view of the company’s customer base, including a deep understanding of the customer’s experience throughout the entire lifecycle, or customer journey.
Create a simple, visual customer journey map to engage stakeholders at all levels and in all parts of the organization. This was accomplished by doing qualitative, task-based user research to create a user mental model, combined with quantitative customer data wherever possible. Key touchpoints along the journey were identified, highlighting company successes as well as opportunities for improvement.
Special care was given to creating a visual that could be understood and used by everyone in the company; a single, visually engaging poster that clearly identified journey segments, customer tasks, thoughts and feelings.
The Customer Journey Map (or CEM as it was referred to), was adopted across the company and became a staple for organizing peoples’ work. Icons were created to represent each phase of the journey and added to presentations, documents, and other internal communication. Individuals used the map to indicate what part of the customer journey their work affected.
Support user assistance while on eBay.com. The scope of the project included all content currently on the eBay site, excluding imbedded content (in pop-ups within user experience flows). This includes "help' related content as well as other content which currently lives outside the "help" section on eBay.
The current culture in eBay supports different departments and groups to generate content to support their own projects and initiatives. This content is posted within the eBay domain within the "Help" section of the site as well as within different topic-related content "islands", referred to as "hubs". There were over 17 different hubs when the project started, with no central framework, repository or digital location for all content. The resulting user experience was a maze of content when viewed as a whole, disorganized, heterogeneous, not supporting the eBay brand and not support users in providing assistance. Data showed that page usage was extremely low.
Lead a comprehensive research project to construct a mental model of typical eBay users and how they use content to help them navigate the eBay.com buying and selling experience. Articulated a clear information architecture to include all content within a single framework. Mapped current content onto the existing framework. Also developed page level architecture which supports users in easily finding the nugget of content they need quickly and easily. Present information in an easily digestible format that can be scanned and browsed, then read in-depth to answer specific questions. The overall architecture and design was sucessfully rolled out across eBay in a number of global markets.
Paypal, an online payment service, provides highly visible information for customers outlining the company's protection services for both buyer and seller. After growing organically for years, this information was clearly in need of a revamp. A redesigned content framework and visual refresh was so successful that it paid for itself in just nine months.
PayPal's Security Center offered an explanation of services and agreements for buyers and sellers, but the content was poorly organized, duplicative, unclear, used too much "legalese" and was not aligned with PayPal's brand. In addition, the content was hard to maintain across multiple sites and languages.
This effort was part of a larger initiative to improve PayPal's online customer experience through user-centered design, understanding from the customer perspective how people buy, sell and manage money online. Needed information was identified, organized, and rewritten, simplifying content management in multiple languages and markets. A new visual design and branding was applied, and the site was tested with real users multiple times before implementation.
The new Security Center featured clean, organized, easy-to-find content with a clear explanation of how customers were covered by the Programs (a reduction from 72 pages to 24 pages). Content was rewritten to be concise and as legalese free as possible.
- Improved customer experience which led directly to a measurable 14% decrease in calls to PayPal's Security Center.
- Overall findability, satisfaction and comprehension of information related to Purchase Protection was measurably improved. Both customers and merchants found it much easier to report spoof emails and phishing.
- A consistent look and feel supported the company's global brand and enabled regions around the world to adopt the format with minimal costs. Several countries in Europe and Asia adopted the new format soon after the U.S. revamp.
KickStart, a non-profit organization which uses for-profit techniques to combat poverty, was having difficulty communicating to potential donors key concepts of their organization. People consistently asked a few specific questions repeatedly, indicating that a core part of KickStart's message was not getting across.
When doing a website redesign, it became apparent that KickStart had some fundamental communication problems. Using cognitive science and linguistic methods, it was determined that the underlying framework for the organization's web site and print material were accurate, but they were not providing critical pieces of information to their audience. Careful analysis assisted in understanding which elements of their message were most important in conveying the organization's mission and articulating a message that was subtle but powerful. The result was a clear direction about what content should appear on the web site and how the organization's mission should be talked about in all public communication, including presentations, papers and speeches.
Seneb was approached by a mid-sized high tech firm in Silicon Valley to better understand the marketing and sales organizations and provide a detailed project plan for organizing existing content. The goal was to increase sales productivity by providing better access to critical information needed in support of the sales process. The project lasted 6 months.
The sales team was overwhelmed by the amount of disparate information available to them to support them in their sales process. Information was sprawled across an intranet with little indication as to the breadth, depth, quality and currency of any information. The sales team spent considerable time and effort attempting to locate relevant information to support them in their work, often emailing the entire sales force for simple answers that could easily be found in existing literature, if it could be located. Many sales people we spoke with had given up looking for information and either went without or relied heavily on what had already been found by others. This frustrated the marketing department, who diligently churned out content but was not in touch with the needs of the sales force: there was a fundamental disconnect between sales and marketing as to what was relevant, useful content and where it could consistently be found.
Who: A team of three consultants
What: Articulated a plan for organizing, prioritizing and articulating a content lifecycle that could be utilized by sales and executed by marketing. The plan must include communication about effectiveness of content between a busy sales team and marketing department.
- Interview sales team members at all levels and create a mental model depicting how sales people use information to get their work done,
- Interview marketing team members, survey existing content, document the existing content lifecycle, and suggested changes to different parts of the content creation and management process.
- Articulated requirements for a sales portal, developed wireframes and usability tested them in order to ensure that they accurately met the needs of the sales force.
We provided specifications for the structure and content of a sales portal, including easy, intuitive access to all relevant product and services information were provide for the client, along with recommendations for how structure content within a content management system and how to define workflows to support content creators. We designed a single repository for all content relating to products and services. We also included a closed feedback loop within the specifications to provide two-way communication between sales and marketing regarding the relevance and usefulness of content.
Adaptive Path, a User Experience consulting firm located in San Francisco, CA, has retained Seneb Consulting to provide Information Architecture services for a number of clients. Seneb developed research tools and methodology, interviewed research participants, performed analysis, formulated business strategies and developed deliverables. The objective of all customer research is to understand the needs of the user in the context of the client's business and to formulate strategic solutions to address business problems.
To Build or Not to Build? A Case Study
An overwhelming majority of those who book cruises do so through a travel agent, but Princess wondered if there was a segment of the population who would be more comfortable using an online engine.
Defining the Research Project:
Princess needed to understand the entire decision-making, purchase, and travel preparation process that the average "cruiser" undertakes, starting from when they decide to take a vacation through to how they connect with new friends after returning home.
We worked with Princess to define and conduct their research into understanding and documenting the cruising process.
From the research interviews, we analyzed the tasks that a potential cruiser sought to accomplish, and then assembled and documented a detailed mental model of the cruise-buying process.
We discovered through our research that there were actually over 30 variables that accounted for why someone chose a particular cruise and which cruise they ultimately picked. Though not every cruiser used every variable, some significant combination of these affected each decision. Variables ranged from expected concerns, like cost, timing, and port of departure, to more nuanced considerations, like cost of airfare to disembarkation point, and cruise ship amenities.
Once we understood all this, we worked with the Princess team to answer its question of whether to build an online cruise-booking engine. In the broader context of our research, we determined that the core problem was actually that existing cruise-booking engines like the ones used by Orbitz and Travelocity used an airline ticket booking metaphor, which was inappropriate for the cruise buying process.
When buying an airline ticket, there are a smaller set of variables that influence decision making, and the decision can be made in as little as five or ten minutes -- that never happens with cruises. Moreover, many people who purchase airline tickets do it for themselves or a relatively small group (like their family). A smaller variable set and fewer people to confer with significantly simplifies the process.
Discarding the Conventional Model:
Given this new development, we searched for other types of purchase processes that had more parallels to the cruise purchasing process -- ones that considered the timeframe and number of people involved, and also provided good information and support before and after the point of purchase.
Princess was trying to decide whether to build an online cruise booking engine, like the ones that Orbitz and Travelocity had built, based on the airline-ticket purchasing process; however, the large travel engines they spoke with were measuring success based on whether someone completed the purchasing process, thus generating dismal success rates. Our research indicated that Orbitz and Travelocity were measuring success incorrectly, and that a more effective process would support people through the decision-making process, and recognize that the act of committing money to a particular cruise is actually the mid-point, not the end, of a customer's online relationship.
Recalling similar situations we worked on with past clients, we concluded that purchasing a cruise was much more similar to the decision-support model used in purchasing enterprise software. Though the products they support are much different, the purchase points and considerations have significant similarities.
If Princess built a typical online booking engine, they wouldn't be any more successful than the online travel sites that had already done that. Instead, they needed to redesign their website to support each step of the cruisers' decision-making process.
Content Analysis and Visual Prototyping
Based on our mental model of the cruise buying process, Adaptive Path performed a content gap analysis to determine what content Princess had, what they needed to produce, and what they didn't necessarily need online in order for both new and experienced cruisers to accomplish their goals.
We also recommended a navigation scheme based on a weighted approach that took into account many of the facets of the decision-making process. We framed the high-level navigation around the key decision points in the researching and buying process, including support after the initial purchase, when travelers want to purchase cruise excursions or select a cabin, and a post-travel section where previous cruisers could access photos and other post-cruise information, and even select their next cruise.
After developing a visual prototype for a redesigned website, we presented the design ideas in conjunction with the research findings. Princess's executives appreciated that instead of simply answering the initial question, we took it a step further, reframing the question to get at what they really needed to know.
Princess launched their redesigned website based on the work we did with them. The site has already vastly exceeded Princess's expectations for both customer satisfaction and revenue. You can see the new site at: http://www.princess.com/
(this case study is taken from an article found here: http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/newsletter/archives/122005/)
Create metadata schema, controlled vocabularies and templates for a site re-design and implementation of a content management system.
This project was a purely bottom-up information architecture exercise. The company had acquired a number of different companies in a short period of time, and their web site had grown organically with no centralized web services team to guide its growth. What was required was a complete re-architecture from the ground up, implementing the new architecture and a new look and feel for the web site in a newly purchased content management system.
A taxonomy for the company was developed. Business goals and objectives were formulated. Metrics for success of the project were outlined. As the information architect, Seneb was tasked with understanding the information from the bottom up and driving the overall architecture to accommodate a number of different business goals while still maintaining a satisfactory user experience.
Content types were defined and a list of products and services were developed. Seneb worked closely with a search consultant to improve the search capability for the site. Seneb worked closely with an outside design agency to develop a new look for the site that worked with our business model and sustain a navigation that worked with our products and services. Seneb consulted with team members about cms capabilities with respect to metadata and navigation, and Seneb developed a metadata schema that would sustain the company for a number of years into the future.
Site launched on time and within budget.
Developing a Faceted Classification
Dow Corning, a large chemical company with over 3,000 products, found that its web site users were unable to find critical product information. Because the company offered wide ranging products for different industry applications, it was recommended that they develop a faceted classification system in order to serve up critical information needed for customers to make purchase decisions. Seneb was brought on board to define and develop the faceted system along with any controlled vocabularies that would be needed.
The 7 month project consisted of
- Interviews with 51 customers in 15 different countries to understand and then validate customer needs.
- Content audits to survey existing content and gather facets and vocabulary terms.
- Organizing vocabulary from existing content and customer interviews when we asked about their information use when making decisions about chemical products.
- Developing a faceted classification with 16 facets, each with a corresponding controlled vocabulary (CV). Whenever possible, we used existing lists and vocabularies as the basis for our CVs and we relied extensively on expert subject knowledge within the company when refining the list of facets as well as the vocabularies.
You can now view their web site, including their Product Finder, which relies on the faceted system for navigation in many areas. The complete list of facets, their corresponding vocabularies, all research summaries and wireframes of the completed faceted classification system were delivered on time and within the projected budget.