Role: Product Designer
Tools: Sketch, Invision
Methods: Participatory design, high fidelity prototypes, contextual inquiry, and usability testing.
Since 2019, I have been working as a product designer at Ford Credit, primarily on its customer facing portal, Account Manager. As a result, I have been able to touch all aspects of Account Manager, from registering an account to paying your bill. Along with my day to day activities of working on Account Manager, I have also started working on creating a new Account Manager experience. Creating a new Account Manager experience is something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile, and I’m quite pleased that it is coming into fruition.
Working On Account Manager
I was the first hire for the newly formed Ford Credit design team, and as a result I was placed on the Account Manager product. Account Manager is how millions of Ford Credit customers who are leasing or financing a vehicle can access their account in order to take actions such as paying their bill and viewing their remaining balance. During my time on Account Manager, I have been responsible for performing heuristic analyses, creating interactive prototypes, and performing usability testing in order to identify existing issues and validate new designs.
When I received a new feature request, I would try to do the following: dig deeper into the request to really understand what was being asked, once I gathered enough information to start designing, I would either start working in Sketch (for smaller features) or make sketches with pen & paper (for larger features). If I made paper sketches, I’d bring them into Sketch, and then do usability testing on them in order to gather feedback. I’d then take that feedback, make changes to the mockups, and then repeat the usability tests. After completing the testing, I would then upload the screens to Invision, and talk with the PO and developers in order to let them know that the feature was available to be worked on when they got the chance.
Redesigning Account Manager
As I had been working on Account Manager, I noticed that there were some structural issues that could not be easily fixed outside of a major redesign, such as a tab bar area that was too small to contain all our main pages on mobile, and a sidebar that was overly optimized for mobile, which meant that we were forcing users on the desktop to manage their preferences in a sidebar that was fixed to a width of 375px. Around the same time, business had made comments about potentially redesigning Account Manager, so I figured the time was right to start doing some initial work on how Account Manager could be redesigned.
The first step that I took was to create a survey, and send it out to a group of Ford employees in the United States. For this, I utilized an in-house group that had a collection of email addresses, as using their pre-existing address book would be a lot easier than trying to connect with users myself. Some of the questions that were asked were whether they leased/financed, how they felt about their current lease/finance management site, and whether they were willing to be contacted about participating in future design workshops.
While we were collecting survey responses, I sat down to come up with a structure for the design workshop. The workshop ended up being split into two different parts. The first part was a collection of questions designed to gather information about their lease/finance term, as well as what they would expect to see when logging into their vehicle financing website, and any positive/negative pain points of their current vehicle financing website. The second part was an activity using Invision Freehand where we asked them to build their ideal lease/finance website, and asked them to complete certain tasks such as building out a homepage and making a payment. Using Freehand for this task was a bit of a learning curve, as many of our participants had never used Freehand before. While I was hoping that this could be done in a dedicated UX testing lab, the pandemic caused those plans to be disrupted, so I had to use the tools that were available.
Work Outside Of Account Manager
While my primary day to day activities are focused on Account Manager, I’ve also taken the time to apply my UX skills outside of Account Manager. One activity that I partake in is teaching classes. I’ve taught 2 main series of classes, the first being a design thinking course, and the second being an introduction to design tools course. The design thinking course is primarily designed towards those who are interested in user experience work, but will not be designers in a constant role. For the introduction to design tools course, I teach aspiring product designers basic features of Sketch and Invision. For Sketch, I teach them how to do actions like creating symbols, masks, and text styles, while I teach Invision features such as hotspots, fixing headers, and adding comments.
A second activity that I’ve worked on besides teaching classes is working on coming up with new product features, and then writing PRDs (product review documents). PRDs are a fairly new introduction to Ford Credit, and are used to give a holistic overview of an upcoming feature. A PRD gives a high level overview of the feature, feature details, how it could be executed, mockups, and technical implementation considerations. Along with writing the PRD, I had to make mockups to show a potential UI, as well as create a user journey that showed the path of the user, our front end systems, and our back end systems. I was also the first designer to submit a PRD for review, which was both scary and exciting.