TIME: 8 months to first iteration | TOOLS: Strategy and business canvases, Qualitative research methods, Figma, Miro, Jira | TEAM: Two Product Managers, four developers, one UX-UI designer (me) and several stakeholders
ABOUT THE BRAND
The NCS Colour system is a universal and scientific colour language. Through its’s physical and digital tools, NCS Colour AB helps amateurs to professionals designers and architects, take colour decisions and communicate precise colour information using an NCS code. One of their physical tools is the colour reader device through which users can ‘read’ a colour and get precise colour details on the connected app.
The current app is a white-labelled app controlled by an external vendor with core functionality to connect to the colour reader. NCS Colour AB cannot access app analytics and have very limited scope to improve usability and functionality. The goal now is to bring the functionality of the existing app in-house, enhance the user experience and support company ambition of expanding to the ‘Do-it-yourself’ user segment. The new app must support the needs of both amateaur DIY-ers and professional users, providing basic knowledge and support as well as precise technical color information for professional and industrial use.
Pairing design, technology and business aspects
Launching the first version of the app in eight months
Acting strategically despite limited time and budget
Aligning with stakeholders and team towards a common vision
Conducting primary research paired with testing to de-risk launch
- UX Strategy and management including evangelizing UX process
- Stakeholder collaboration - goals and service landscape
- User research, journeys and flows
- Agile product development collaboration
- Brand based UI design
HIGH-LEVEL PROJECT ROADMAP
UX MANAGEMENT & STRATEGY
A solid UX strategy was needed to ensure that the product team stays focused on solving the right problem for the target users. Consolidating ideas into a clear vision involved several workshops and stakeholder interviews.
One of the core requirements of the app was to support the brand identity. NCS’s brand legacy was intrinsic to the team but was poorly documented and lacked consistency. To identify a 'north star' for the brand and app, it was important to align with stakeholders and document the existing strategy.
I facilitated several brand strategy workshops with the top management and other stakeholders to extract the core of the brand and put it into words defining the brand attributes, target consumers and brand vision. Based on these, I wrote the ‘only-ness’ statement highlighting the essence of the NCS Colour brand.
As the only standard for every colour decision, we are the layer between creativity and structure. For anyone from amateurs to professionals globally who appreciate working with the 'right' colour, we provide quality and precision thereby streamlining work processes, raising colour consciousness and inspiring innovation.
Stakeholders were not aligned towards a common vision for the app. I facilitated multiple workshops, the goal of which was not to have extensive discussions or to develop a perfect solution but to make quick decisions, to get the commitment, and be able to act strategically despite limited time. Through these workshops, we identified target customer segments, our unique value proposition, key stakeholders, main KPIs and the revenue model for the app. We also defined core of the new app - the prioritized goals, the elements of the desired experience, and the competitive advantage.
During the first six months after launch, success would be measured by:
- Increase in active app users.
The app would be free for the first few months with a goal to get sign ups and engagement.
- Increase in ColourPin (colour reader) sales.
One of the top three goals for the app was to act as a marketing platform supporting the sales of other NCS tools. During the first few months, this should be refelected in the sales of the colour reader.
A thorough competitor analysis was also conducted to identify market positioning and opportunities. The NCS Colour system is unique but not the NCS Colour app. Many more features, functionalities and tools are being offered by competitor apps. I did a competitor analysis to identify the gaps in the market, empower feature prioritization decisions and benchmark our app. In addition, an analysis of user reviews on Apple’s App store and Google’s Play Store for all competitor apps helped in identifying popular features, user behavior patterns and interface preferences.
The universal and accurate NCS Colour System
Pairing the physical and digital tools
App as a knowledge sharing tool
Serving the needs of both amateurs and professionals
FROM BRIEF TO RE-BRIEF
"How might we create a platform that focuses on being a source of inspiration, acts as an educational tool to make the NCS Colour system accessible to a broader user group, links to the colour reader device and serves as a depository of ideas while offering precision in colour information."
BUILDING EMPATHY WITH USER RESEARCH
Through qualitative research methods, I mapped out the current colour decision-making journey for the user. I also tested the desirability of the features that were identified by the competitive and market gap analysis. This research also supported other teams in defining a revenue model for the app based on feasibility, desirability and viability aspects of the features.
My research included the following methods targeting professional designers, architects, DIY users and retailers selling color related products such as paint shops:
Usability testing of existing app
UNDERSTANDING THE COLOR DECISION MAKING JOURNEY
AGILE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
We were now well-equipped to create a project roadmap along with the development team. We used the agile methodology with two-week design and development sprints, with design being one sprint ahead. We expected deviations from this path and had kept buffer time for the same.
CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT AND RAPID VALIDATION
Starting with the foundational elements of a visual identity - colours, icons, typography, guidelines and components, I designed the UI of the app through six design sprints. Regular user tests were also conducted during the design phase.
USER TESTS AND INSIGHTS
- Three user tests during the design phase using clickable prototypes to test iconography, labeling, and basic flows. Designs were iterated on the basis of the feedback received and these tests also helped guide design decisions for subsequent screens.
- Guerilla user tests few weeks before launch, outside paint shops targetting mainly DIY-ers.
- Moderated user tests with six architects.
Users felt that the flow of navigating through the colors was in line with how they work in the real world.
"I can now combine physical and digital tools”
Some icons were difficult to understand, but overall the app serves their need of browsing through colours
Users want to do a lot more in Boards, use like ppt. Decision was made to not take any action on this as 'Boards' was not the primary goal of the app but just a support feature.
One part of my role on this project was evangelising the UX process. I often felt the need to convince internal stakeholder to allow for more scope for user tests and iterations in the timeplan. Pushing for the UX process, using different tools and methods made me a more confident and strategic UX designer.
The time spent during phase 1 in detailing out the strategy also helped me understand where to focus on quality and where to focus on speed during the susbsequent stages of the design process and prioritize them to fit the short timeline. Getting a clear vision of the 'north star' from the begining is something I like do for all my projects.
I consider this project a success as we were able to do a lot in few short months. The project journey was anything but linear, with several deviations from the original plan. But with a collaborative and problem-solving mindset we were able to successfully achieve our project goals within our timeline. The NCS team was one of the best teams I have worked in with good leadership and a fun, caring and trusting team culture. I carry with me examples and ideas on managing design teams well and being a good leader.