Investment Research Application

A domain-specific research, data and document management app for investment professionals.

My Role

UI Design  /  UX Design

The Team

Co-located: Scrum Master /  Front End Developer
Remote: Product Owner / Back End Developer x2

Overview

Redington are a boutique investment consultancy, advising pension trustees and providing wealth management. ADA } RESEARCH is a domain-specific research, data and document management tool for investment professionals.

The Problem

Redington had determined a use-case to create a digital, centrally accessible way to document the investment fund review process for their main client.  Prior to this, information was recorded on spreadsheets, Word documents, and paper documents. When people move roles or leave the business, hard-won experience and knowledge is lost.

Processes that needed to be done regularly, such as reviewing IMAs, could be missed and made it hard to get the assurance that a consistent investment process was being followed.

For each Asset Class, Fund, Fund Manager or Investment House, the app had to show the consultancy’s current opinion, plus a history of previous assessments, together with any supporting documents. 

The developers had built a basic proof of concept with limited functionality but needed to finesse the core user journey, uncover unique functional requirements to give the product competitive advantage, and create a consistent user interface.

Scope & Constraints

The product would be built as a web app, designed for desktop and tablet use.

There was no budget for a Business Analyst, so I assumed responsibility for translating functional requirements into manageable user stories and success criteria, for sign-off by the external client’s product owner.

The product owner was a domain expert, but unfamiliar with Agile or product development.

Access to end-users was limited and most of the client interaction was handled remotely, but we made time to visit for on-site discovery interviews and some 1-2-1 feedback on prototypes.

Part way through the contract the client investigated integrating a new database, which could have threatened the project entirely. This was eventually mothballed, but it did mean some critical user stories we’d been working on were put on hold.

Users & Audience

David

JUNIOR CONSULTANT
Performs data entry. Frequent user, working in long sessions.

Goals

  • Populate the system quickly and accurately, copying from systems and paper documents
  • Develop the taxonomy, establishing the links between entities

“I have a lot of data to enter, the quicker the better”

Lauren

SENIOR CONSULTANT
Viewing and recording sentiments. Frequent user, working in short bursts

Goals

  • Navigate the hierarchy quickly
  • Understand the relationship between entities
  • Review and update entity status
  • View and add relevant documents
  • Know when entities have been updated
  • Understand the rationale for an entity’s status or any changes made
  • Make decisions and recommendations based on comprehensive information

“I need to be confident my recommendations are based on the most up-to-date information and be able to explain any changes to my clients”

Bridget

PERSONAL ASSISTANT

Pulling reports for C-Suite. Light user, working in short bursts

Goals

  • Quickly find a specific entity
  • Export report(s)
  • Respond to Director requests in a timely manner

“I don’t have time to compile reports from all over the place, I just want to click and go”

Alkesh

C-SUITE
Viewing reports. Light user.

Goals

  • Quickly understand an entity’s current status
  • Understand the rationale for an entity’s status or any changes made
  • Understand the relationship between entities
  • View relevant documents
  • Make decisions and recommendations based on comprehensive information

“Just give me the summary, with an option to drill down if I need to”

Process

Understanding the problem

Stakeholder workshops to understand the domain and business priorities
Side-by-side user interviews to develop personas and identify pain points

 

Product Research

I defined three key areas of functionality: Document Storage, Collaboration and Recording Sentiment.

To understand how other products had handled these challenges I looked at:

  • Document storage systems with collaboration features:
    Jira/Confluence
    Zendesk
    Dropbox Paper
    Google Docs
    Microsoft Sharepoint
  • Services with rating systems:
    Amazon
    Glassdoor
    Trustpilot

 

Building Consensus

The Product Owner was a domain specialist from the client business working on secondment, and we had no budget for a Business Analyst, so I worked with the Product Owner to draft user stories based on the side-by-side user intervfiews and define the success criteria prior to refinement sessions with the developers.  We also held regular stakeholder workshops to prioritise feature development. 

Design and Prototyping

I used Sketch for wireframing and producing both low and high-fidelity clickable prototypes, using Google’s Material Design as a base. Interaction design and animations were prototyped in Atomic.io (now shut down) and Principle. Components were documented in a library using Confluence. 

Testing and Feedback

The majority of client contact was done remotely, although we did make time for side-by-side testing sessions with our group of domain specialist end-users for qualitative feedback. We also incorporated Google Analytics for long-term, quantitative feedback once the app was released to a wider audience.

Low fidelity, clickable wireframes built using Sketch to test and fitness user journeys prior to creating more detailed views for development. 

Refining the UI

List page (before)

Although serviceable, the original UI built by the development team didn’t reflect Redington’s recent rebrand.

There is no indication of the status of each fund.

There was also an opportunity to improve the UX copy – for example, the search input field was incorrectly labelled as “filter”.

List page – after

Material Design system applied, using brand colours from the Redington website.

To reduce clicks, the fund cards now include more info at a glance including the fund value and status, with an opportunity to drill down further, and the list can be filtered.

Closed funds are clearly indicated.

Funds can be added or edited via the floating action button, bottom left. This is a constant UI element revealing context-specific functions per page.

Info page (before)

The fund information page lacked any hierarchy and also included a list of documents, with the document filters taking up a lot of screen real estate.

Info page (after)

Documents are still important in supporting the analyst’s commentary, but these are secondary to financial values and key facts, so they are now found on their own tab.

Tabs have also been included to group other related content such as fund analytics, share class information, invested clients and a timeline to show a history of activity.

Info page 2 (after)

Tabs have also been included to group other related content such as fund analytics, share class information, invested clients and a timeline to show a history of activity.

As a UX team of one, I didn’t have the luxury of time to create a bespoke design system. Specifying Google’s Material Design was a quick-win that reduced development time, helped build the client’s confidence in our  capabilities and also allowed me to quickly illustrate how branding could be applied when the app was eventually white-labelled.

Outcome and Lessons Learned

When time and budget are tight, pragmatism wins the day

Coming from a graphic design background I would have loved to spend time creating a unique design system for a suite of products. However, specifying an off-the-shelf solution delivered a very big, quick win in terms of client reception, and showing the productivity gains this would deliver for the development team built credibility which allowed us to stand our ground on some of the more difficult issues.

 

Early wins pay dividends

Early wins with functionality and UI styling and positive client feedback led Redington to expand the team and broaden the remit, refactoring several in-house tools to create a suite of SaaS products.

 

Make sure the right people are in the room

For transparency, workshops initially included stakeholders from each user group, but it was hard to stay on topic and major stakeholders often dominated the discussion. We moved to holding separate sessions for the end users, presenting findings in prioritisation workshops for the senior team. 

It’s boring, but plan in time to stay on top of admin 

Scope and priority changes lead to a gap in expectations and work delivered at the end of the first quarter. We reconciled this using detailed notes from our prioritisation workshops. We also noted rationale for design decisions in the component library, saving time when we returned to parked user stories.

Get in touch:

Due to COVID-19 restrictions I’m only available for remote contract roles at present.

East London, UK

+44 07496 230 314

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