Lifesize App Redesign

 

A complete overhaul and redesign of Web and desktop app, from generative research through final UX and UI requirements and feedback strategy.

 
 

2018 Best of Show Award winner
AV Technology Europe (AVTE)

Bronze winner for Innovations in Technology
The Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards

The Challenge

The first Lifesize Cloud apps released in 2014 were an MVP to validate a major pivot in the company’s product strategy. There were some usability "band-aids" we were able to make to the apps, but lackluster customer adoption and complaints about the app being difficult to learn showed that drastic changes were needed.

The Outcomes

The closed beta of the Web app launched barely a year after the project kickoff, and the desktop apps followed within the next few weeks. Positive customer reactions (and some awards) started coming in before the new apps were in general audience beta release.

Even more amazing? Before the app was even out of beta, it lead to a significant increase in first-time and repeat use of Lifesize by our customers to place video calls.

Project Overview

About The Organization

Lifesize is a high definition video conferencing company that offers a unique integration of plug-and-play HD camera systems and HD phones with easy-to-use cloud-based conferencing software. They made a break from their twelve year history as a video conferencing hardware company to become a video calling software as service provider (who also offers high-end "it just works" room system solutions) in 2015.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Reorganize the app to make it friendlier for first-time and infrequent users
  • Ensure current users are able to find existing features within the new design
  • Focus on the ease of use for the two most frequent user scenarios of ad hoc video calls and scheduling calls for a later time
  • Reduce friction for common actions like adding additional participants to a video call in progress
  • Improve the consistency and quality of the visual aesthetic throughout the app
  • Introduce new enhancements, including improved search capabilities and in-call moderator enhancements 
  • Identify areas where the experience of Web and desktop apps needed to differ from one another

Project Team

  • UX Designers & Researchers (me)
  • UI Designer
  • UX Copywriter
  • Product Manager

Key Tools

Omnigraffle, Sketch, InVision, Axure, Keynote, Optimal Workshop, Validately, TryMyUI

Skills

  • User Research
  • Usability Testing
  • Information Architecture
  • Interaction Design
  • Fast Iteration Management
  • Design-To-Development Documentation
  • Stakeholder Education
  • Team Development

Execution and Process

We used a highly iterative process to do discovery activities and user research, then validate and lock on the high-level information architecture, app structure, UI patterns, and design direction.

 

Because we were only given two months to work on the project, each activity had to be rigorously scheduled.

 

Just Enough Design Up Front

When an organization is new to having a product design team, it’s common for them to ask that all wireframes, flow diagrams, and UI design redlines be completed and ready for implementation before your engineering team sees anything. This approach means you miss out opportunities that your technical team members bring to the table and a lot of wasted time on re-work when you discover a design can’t be built.

Rather than the waterfall-style "big design up front" that was asked for, I proposed a more Agile “just enough design” approach. This design concept—in the form of an interactive Axure prototype—would be the common reference point for conversations with several stakeholder groups. It would help us communicate new experience and visual design to executive staff, validate feature requirements with product owners, and gave engineering enough direction on new user interface patterns, interactions, and feature enhancements to guide their high-level estimates. It would later serve as the north star that would guide the development of the “sprint zero” feature-level design and user stories.

Educating Stakeholders and the Team

The executive team had bought in to the importance of good user experience. The process of creating one, however, was still a bit of a mystery to them. Over the course of the project's eight week timeline I gave weekly status updates to the executive team that would include a brief survey of the week's design activities. This helped the executive team appreciate what less familiar activities like card sorting and content inventories are (and what they're not), how they work, the value we get from them, and how what we learn from those activities shape what happens later in the project. They not only enjoyed learning more about user experience design, but it helped the executive team appreciate the amount of research and science that shaped the design decisions!

While I participated in much of the work, there was too much to be accomplished in too little time with only one UX designer. Many times I would use the first draft of that week's executive briefing presentation as a starting point to train our two entry-level UX designers on how to do the activity scheduled for that week. This let me delegate some tasks to them and then coach them on how to apply what they learned to other projects.

 
 

Rubber, Meet Road

With our north star approved by stakeholders and the engineering team, we were ready map out the next few months’ delivery schedule to develop the interaction design requirements and user interface specifications in deeper detail.

The engineering team gave us their high-level estimates in the form of story points, the order in which they planned to develop the pieces of the app, and the team's sprint velocity (the number of story points they can complete each two-week sprint). That was enough for us to map out their work timeline, then work backwards to create our own “sprint zero” plan.

 

Our “sprint zero” planning exercise was also the first visual of a realistic timeline for delivering the finished apps to customers.

 

We collaborated with the product managers so that the product design team could work two to three two-week sprints ahead of engineering. This let us create the stories and specifications for the experience and UI design in time for engineering’s sprint grooming meetings, but be close enough to development time to respond to new discoveries, solutions, and technical challenges we couldn’t have predicted at the beginning of the project.

Once the plan was in place, it was now time for me to trade in my individual contributor hat and hand over the project to another UX designer to lead the implementation design.

Customer Comments and Reviews

The beta version of the redesigned LifeSize desktop app is flawless. Great intuitive UI which we are sure our customers will love.
— OfficePlus LLC (@OfficePlusLLC) June 21, 2017
[Lifesize] has streamlined its user interface for both its software client for Lifesize Cloud as well as on the company’s phone (which also controls a Lifesize room system). As you can imagine, I’ve used dozens of UIs over the years, but none are as intuitive in my humble opinion as the latest version from Lifesize.
— Andrew W. Davis, "InfoComm 2017: Observations from a Weary Warrior"