Lifesize App Redesign
About the company
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 pivot to a cloud-based video calling SaaS provider in 2015.
What triggered the project
The first Lifesize Cloud apps could be generously described as a fantastic MVP to validate their new market strategy.
Their Web app and desktop apps for Windows and OS X were each built in-house by separate engineering teams, each with differing interpretations on how to implement core features, and varying levels of communication between the teams and with the Product Managers. The UI was designed by the engineering team member who had a Photoshop license, and all were created for the same persona Lifesize had historically designed their hardware tools for: the IT administrator.
There were some usability "band-aids" we were able to make to the existing apps, but lackluster customer adoption and complaints about the app being difficult to learn showed that more drastic changes were needed. Engineering’s project to migrate Lifesize’s infrastructure to a microservices architecture and the client app platforms to a new technology stack provided the opportunity to revisit the design.
They asked us to Create UX and UI Requirements In fewer Than 60 Days
The project ask of UX? Completely re-imagine and re-design the Lifesize Web and desktop client apps to be friendlier for first-time and infrequent, general users. (The highest volume of users, and most common and expanding use case, is non-IT staff who use the app once a week or once a month to call into a specific meeting.)
During the course of the project each week’s project status update with the executive team would need to be paired with significant stakeholder education about the activities happening that week as well as UX in general.
Luckily, the executive team had already bought into the value of user experience. The challenge was they had little experience with what it is that User Experience Designers do exactly. Each week included a project briefing where I described the week's activities, what that entailed, the value we received from that activity, and the results.
In order to validate our design decisions, we would need as much user research and usability research as possible. All development-ready site flows, wireframes, interactivity direction, user interface red lines, and image assets would need to be ready and attached to product epics and stories for Engineering’s pointing and sprint planning kick-off meeting.
This project work would be done by a team of three: myself and two entry-level UX Designers, one of whom would need to spend a significant portion of their time to supporting projects for the existing products. A week and a half before kick-off, we got approval and funding for a contract UI Designer. The entire project timeline? Eight weeks.
Could it be done? I laughed, and said “No, but here’s what we can do…”
We took A Lean, Agile Approach
Rather than the waterfall-style Big Design Up Front (BDUF) that was requested, I proposed a path toward a more Agile “just enough design” approach. We used a highly iterative process to validate and lock on the high-level information architecture, app structure, UI patterns, and design direction.
Then we created the track for Dual-Track Agile
Once we received stakeholder buy-in on the core design decisions, we needed to know what areas needed UX focus on for our "Sprint Zero(s)." We took the order of epics and stories given by engineering, then used their sprint calendar, their high-level pointing to estimates, and the teams' average sprint velocity, to map out when they would be working on specific portions of the app.
We collaborated with the product managers so that UX could work a couple of two-week sprints ahead of engineering. This let us create more detailed specifications and UI designs for engineering’s sprint grooming session, but let the design respond to new discoveries, solutions, and technical challenges we couldn’t have predicted at the beginning of the project.
The Project Outcome
UX Delivery, On time!
The project rivaled the NetSpend mobile app redesign on the focus and intensity, but I’m happy to say the UX team delivered on our initial two month deadline. The redesigned Lifesize Web app launched at InfoComm 2017, barely a year after the beginning of the project. The desktop apps are on track to follow within the next few weeks.
I could not be more blown away by the customer reactions: