How can we make it easier for teachers to start using our software?
SMART's old software licensing portal wasn't meeting our customer or business needs. We had an expensive 3rd party licence management portal that required School Admins to track and distribute individual product keys. Admins found the old system difficult, time-consuming, and error-prone.
I led the design of a new licensing portal that is the gatekeeper for SMART's software profits - we can't sell software without it. The best part is its ease of use - the new portal allows Admins to entitle teachers to software licenses using just their email addresses - no more product key hassles.
The new portal launched in January 2018, supporting over 96,000 School Admins. Users rated the ease of use of the new portal at 4.7 out of 5.
My team received a company award for our work on this project.
- Role: Lead UX Designer
- Tools: Sketch, InVision, Zeplin, Balsamiq, Confluence
- Timeline: February 2017 to January 2018
- Alison: Lead UX Designer
- Dan: Technical Program Manager
- Mugdha: Dev Manager
- Laura: Product Support Analyst
- Serena: User Researcher
SMART has invested greatly in understanding the needs of teachers, students, and parents, but the portal was aimed at a different set of users: School Administrators, District Administrators, and Resellers. I pushed for us to do user research at the beginning of this project since these users - Resellers and School Admins - are not ones that we understand well.
I developed a user survey tailored to these users, then worked with our User Researcher to analyze the results. Users told us unambiguously that they HATE dealing with license keys. They also ranked the features that are important to them in a portal.
We employed early-stage user research to evaluate the design of two wireframe prototypes that I created; one for Admins and one for Resellers. This validated that we were heading in the right direction with the portal design.
- Users rated the new design as having a perceived ease of use of 4.7 out of 5
- Users rated their comprehension of the new design as 4.6 out of 5
- As a comparison, users rated their comprehension of the old portal as 2.5 out of 5
The requirement for the portal’s first release was to simply replacing the 3rd party portal with an in-house version providing the same basic functionality: allowing admins to view license keys and expiration dates.
But then, something dramatic happened. A few months into our work, the portal was suddenly cancelled by our former CTO. He was trying to cut costs, and didn’t fully understand the value of it. He changed his mind a few days later when he realized we couldn't sell software without it.
The PM and I decided that if the project could be killed at any moment, we needed to be much more aggressive in our scoping, and address our users' biggest pain points first. I designed an MVP that focused on the most important feature for our users - getting rid of product keys. This was always on our roadmap, but it was originally scheduled for development 2-3 releases later.
Pivot and Changing User Flows
This graphic shows the pivot in requirements and design after the project was nearly cancelled. The design and functionality was simplified, and the focus changed to the users’ biggest need.
After the requirement flux settled, we determined that the key design goals of the new portal would be to provide an Admin with easy ways to:
- Add / remove teachers to the software license via email (teachers won’t need product keys anymore)
- Add teacher emails in bulk via CSV (and later by other methods)
- Aggregate the total number of licenses across product keys (account consolidation)
- View the total number of licenses available
- View all software subscription end dates
- View details of any product key (for reference)
As a non-retail product, this project allowed me some creative design freedom, but it still needed to be recognizably on-brand. I had the choice of making it match our retail software products or our marketing materials. We selected a design from the top row based on the following factors:
- It matched our product visual design.
- It shows a clear hierarchy of functions with separation of areas and a visual promotion of the action area for users.
- It has contrast ratios that allow us to meet accessibility standards.
- Additionally, it's less busy, with fewer competing visual elements.
The new SMART software portal provides renewal dates at a glance, and allows admins to view product details or manage users.
Before launch, we reached out to a small group of Resellers and Admins to have them beta test the new portal. We incorporated their feedback and made some changes and improvements to the design before launch.
The new SMART software portal focuses on subscriptions and users, rather than product keys and activated computers. Since SMART completely owns this service, we can adjust it in response to customer needs. The new portal, licensing framework, and account-based entitlement enable more control and flexibility for our users. It’s streamlined and easy-to-use, to ensure the best customer experience, while minimizing confusion and support calls.
Entitlement by email rather than product key means that the software works for the teacher no matter what device she is using. It gives the teacher flexibility in where she can access our software and what device she can access it on. This will also allow us to customize our software offerings with greater personalization.
When the portal launched, the internal company messaging stated, "We hit so many obstacles in this project, but the team diligently and persistently kept on working through, and it shows in the product. Great work everyone on building an impressive system and conducting an exceptionally smooth release! This is a big milestone for SMART that will be the enabler of lots of future success."
A few months after completing this portal, our team was presented with the President's Club Award - a semi-annual award that SMART gives out to a select number of employees. Below is the company's official description of the award:
The President's Club Award recognizes an employee or a team who exhibits exceptional performance, exceeds job requirements, displays innovation / initiative with drive and positive influence and outcomes to our team and customers.