UI / UX Project
Redesigning the Broadband Experience
Client Name: NetComm Wireless
- Project planning
- High Fidelity Mockup
- Content Creation
Traditionally, NetComm’s portfolio of consumer devices had come from a range of OEM suppliers. Due to the number of suppliers and significant costs involved, the user interface customisation was minimal, usually just adjusting the logo and changing some colours.
While cost effective this resulted in an inconsistent brand experience and UI with a subpar user experience. NetComm has also fallen behind it’s competition who typically supplied phone apps as part of their offering.
I was tasked with creating a single interface and user experience that could be used across the entire consumer portfolio.
The brief for this project was deceptively simple, create a new user interface and experience that could be used across all NetComm consumer devices.
The first step to really understanding the task was to take a look at the base we would be building from. The OEM UI had almost 100 individual screens, with each click on the menu revealing more and more screens. These had been organised by technology type and there didn’t appear to be much though put into grouping like elements together to reduce the number of screens. Some contained nothing more that one table with no explanatory information, some contained so much information it was 2-3 times the depth of the screen.
I working with the engineer team in charge of the consumer devices to go through each of these pages to understand exactly what the various elements were. It became clear early on that there was a lot of functionality that confused even the engineering team so you can imagine how an average consumer would react.
Adding to the complexity was my desire to make sure whatever we created was fully responsive, doing away with the need for a separate app and giving a streamlined experience to users managing their device from their phone or tablet. While theoretically possible no one had ever tried this before and even the OEM couldn’t get a concrete yes or no answer.
Next I conducted interviews with various stakeholders, including the Internet Service Providers who sold these products and had to provide support for them, to get an idea of the common problems they received calls for and also to get an idea of the personas who called. The overwhelming responses were that most problems occurred during the set up process and generally once the devices were up and running most users didn’t touch them again. Wifi issues were by far the closest runner up which gave me two key areas to focus on.
The personas came together from the information I had received talking to the support teas and through sales data I was able to access. Originally there was a 4th persona but as I continued to develop it became apparent that one of the personas would defer to either Sally or Terry for help and didn’t need to be their own category.
Knowledge-wise they fell into the three categories of a novice, intermediary and expert
"It should just work, ok?"
It should just work
Was born with a smartphone in one hand and has never known a day without the internet. Has a reasonable level of technical knowledge but doesn’t want to use it.
Expects technology to work right out of the box with minimal setup and expects it to be set and forget. Doesn’t want to have to spend time on it.
"What should I try next?"
Can look after most low level issues themselves with black belt level Google-fu, as long as there’s a manual or troubleshooting guide online they’ll find it and give it a go.
They’ll call support if they need to but they’ll try to fix it themselves first, like plin simple language and is happy to read up.
"I know more than you"
High level of technical knowledge, has their own server at home and is the person everyone goes to for hardware recommendations. Tends to be an early adopter and wants to be at the cutting edge.
Doesn’t need to be spoon fed and wants to be able to really get under the hood and tweak to their hearts content.
Before tackling the main interface I knew that if we could streamline the installation of the device we would be solving the majority of issues that resulted in costly support calls.
I created a simple step-by-step user flow that would be displayed the first time the user connected to the device and ran them through the very basic elements that HAD to be setup for the modem to work. At the very least this would be the internet connection and Wi-Fi.
However while this would get the modem connected to the internet with Wi-Fi, it could still leave users needing to access the main interface to set up the rest of their device, so I added in the basic functionality that could be found in a device including VoIP and Timezone (needed for Parental Control). To enhance security I also added the option to change the basic admin password as this was seen as something that most users didn’t cange, resulting in a large security hole.
Each of these steps could be turned off or on depending on the device, for a simple modem with only Internet and Wi-Fi only those steps would be shown making the wizard completely customisable regardless of the device it was installed on.
The final screen displayed a summary where the user could see if everything was operational, and if not, what to do about it. They could also double check the Wi-Fi security information they had input.
To test the wizard I created a basic working version in conjunction with NetComm’s engineers which we distributed to get feedback. The wizard did it’s job beautifully and was easily understood and easy to follow.
Our Techsperts also appreciated the option to Skip the wizard included on the first screen.
Creating the main interface
Creating the main interface was going to be a very large task, I decided upon a 3 tier approach and in conjunction with NetComm’s engineering team we set out to break the functionality into 3 groups, basic, intermediate, advanced.
As luck would have it the basic had been covered off already by the wizard so the main menu structure took it’s cues from that and came together reasonable quickly as it had already been tested. Next was the intermediate features, these were classed by one team member as “Advanced, but not Propeller-head advanced“.
So as to not overwhelm users these would be hidden until they interacted with a More Settings option which would then display the additional options.
I also made a few “quality of life” additions to the interface including a Quick Tasks option in the top menu which came out of the research and the main reasons people were accessing the GUI.
In addition to this in the bottom menu bar I included information and quick links to areas that were commonly accessed by support staff to reduce the time spent helping the user navigate to them.
For the advanced functionality that our Techsperts would want we created the Advanced tab on the main menu.
Within this area we housed all of the functionality that most users would have no reason to access, but for those users who didn’t like to think they were getting a “dumbed down” product.
We also hedged our bets in the coding phase and used responsive HTML 5 to create a mobile friendly version of the site. When we were able to run it on the actual hardware we were happy to find that it worked exactly as we had hoped it would.
The new experience has been a huge success and has been used by sales as a tool to get new customers over the line with 2 major ISPs signing on based on the new UI.
When it was released into the wild as a firmware upgrade for one of NetComm’s existing device it was met with numerous positive comments from users in online forums and has been recognised for it’s tiered approach to users of different technical abilities.
The ease of setup was also singled out as a defining feature by customers and is believed to have contributed to lower support call volumes for NetComm products.
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