Replacing Excel templates with a web app

Perspective shot of low fidelity mockup

The problem

Reporting data with Excel templates + email is manual, repetitive, confusing, and error-prone.

Our solution

A webapp that guides users and automates + validates data handoff.

Contents

brief

Context

Circle K International (CKI) is a collegiate student-led organization that does community service.

Each month, the higher-ups want to know what each college's chapter has done.

Team

3 software developers + 2 managers

Role

As the sole designer for the project, I conducted user research and designed product.

Tools

Sketch

Deliverable

Low fidelity UI

Time

July 2018 to February 2019

challenge

Discovery

I conducted ethnographic discovery and spoke with stakeholders to collect feedback about the existing solution.

Notable snippets

"pretty confusing...organization [of information] that you have to figure out yourself"

"repetitive...could be simplified, especially...where data [are] manually copied"

"works, but it's very inefficient, both visually and functionally”

Defining painpoints

Previously collaborating directly with users gave me additional insight to easily empathize.

I synthesized discovery results into four problems with the existing solutions.

Steep learning curve

Training ~60 chapter representatives each year is difficult and often inadequate.

The reference guide of the existing solution is 1300 words long. The entire documentation is over 7200 words (a significant portion necessarily describes basic Excel functions)

Repetitive

Isolated and static Excel workbooks require manually copying and pasting information.

Manual

Each month, ~60 chapter reports are manually downloaded, opened, and parsed.

Error-prone

Cells on the template are inconsistently locked, requiring the users to be cautious about which cells they edit.

This greatly adds to the cognitive load of Excel novices, who are afraid of messing up formulas.

Excel template with comments specifying where not to edit

Comments are used to describe how the formulas work and where not to edit.

Defining need

Almost all users fall into three groups.

Chapter representatives

need to collect individual event reports to compile a monthly summary report, with minimal redundant work.

They also need to view trends and receive feedback from the District.

District secretaries

need to view parsed reports and analyze performance without manually downloading and scrutinizing each report from their email.

General members

need to be able to effortlessly create and submit reports about events they organize.

process

Design considerations

Frictionless transition

The existing Excel template was used as a starting point to the designed solution to make the transition as seamless as possible.

The input fields should be organized so that they would be familiar to users of the existing solution while maintaining best web design practices to minimize cognitive load.

Onboarding

Demonstrative onboarding would effectively replace the user manual by walking new users through an example report.

Permissions

Currently, emailing files implicitly and simply managed access to files.

The nature of webapps requires user accounts and explicit permission management to ensure appropriate access to view or share data.

Solution hypothesis

Based on these findings, we hypothesized that a web app would enable all users to effortlessly complete their core flows by automating all the difficult, repetitive, manual, and error-prone tasks.

results

Low fidelity layouts

These low fidelity layouts focus on the data entry structure to ensure a smooth transition and quick onboarding and role management to ensure that each user group can accomplish their necessary goals.

Encountering limitations

The original objective was to ship an MVP. However, due to a lack of development resources and reprioritization of projects, the project was postponed.

The next steps would’ve been to conduct usability testing with the mockups to iterate on usability.

Reflections

This was my first comprehensive product thinking project that was entirely centered around the user, their needs, and their painpoints. 

It felt natural to empathize with them to understand how the current solution fell short of their needs and helping them imagine an ideal solution. ※

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