How can we make it easier for teachers to start using our software?
SMART's software licensing portal wasn't meeting our customer or business needs. We were using an expensive 3rd party licence management portal that required School Admins to track and distribute individual product keys. Admins found this system time-consuming, error-prone, and difficult.
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 was launched in January 2018, supporting over 96,000 School Admins. Users rated the ease of use of the new design at 4.7/5.
- 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 user groups - Resellers and School Admins - are not ones that we have a good understanding of.
I developed questions tailored to these user groups, then worked with our User Researcher to understand the survey results. Users told us unambiguously that they HATE dealing with license keys. They also ranked the features that are important to them.
We used our 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 4.7/5
- Users rated their comprehension of the new design as 4.6/5
- As a comparison, users rated their comprehension of the old design as 2.5/5
The product's requirements changed significantly during the early stages of the design process. The initial launch requirements called for simply replacing the 3rd party portal with an in-house version that provided the same basic functionality: viewing license keys with expiration dates. The project was nearly canceled by our former CTO, who changed his mind after a few days once 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 - managing software entitlement using email addresses rather than product keys. This is a feature that was originally scheduled for development 2-3 quarters later.
Changing User Flows
The first graphic below shows the user flow for the original requirements. The second graphic shows the user flow for the final requirements. My MVP design evolved into this second user flow.
After the requirement flux settled, we determined that the new portal will provide an Admin with easy ways to:
- Add and remove teachers to the software license via email (this links the teacher's email to the software subscription, so a teacher doesn't need a product key to start using it)
- Add teacher emails in bulk via CSV
- See all software subscription end dates
- See all subscriptions broken down by product and account
- See the total number of licenses available
- Aggregate the total number of licenses across product keys so Admins can more easily manage entitlements (account consoidation)
- See details of any product key (for reference)
As a non-retail product, this project allowed me some creative design freedom, but 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 has contrast ratios that allow us to meet accessibility standards.
- It shows a clear hierarchy of functions with separation of areas and a visual promotion of the action area for users.
- Additionally, it's less busy, with fewer competing visual elements.
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 improvements to the design. They also gave us ideas of larger features and workflow efficiencies to add to our backlog for future releases.
The new SMART software portal focuses on subscriptions and users, rather than product keys and activated computers. Since SMART completely owns this service, we will have a better ability to add new features in response to customer needs. The new portal, licensing framework, and account-based entitlement enables more control and flexibility for our users. It is designed to be streamlined and easy-to-use, to ensure our customers have the best experience, while at the same time 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 greater flexibility about 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."