The ability of a large organization to fulfill its business objectives depends on the effective and efficient use of its information assets and timely access to current, complete and accurate information. An international financial institution reached out to FFunction to redesign its enterprise search, a rich and complex information environment. Its information content had various forms of documents, including emails, memos and presentations which embodied expertise, projects and research reports, formal publications and knowledge products, news carrying informations about the business environment and the activities of their clients.
To support the retrieval and access of its knowledge, the organization wanted to consolidate the content from their databases and intranets. FFunction’s main role was to review the work that had been accomplished and make recommendations for improvements, both in search functionality and in usability and aesthetics to provide a functional and pleasing user experience.
In the first phase of the project, we met on-site to establish the needs of the project, discuss the available material and design solution approach. FFunction envisions UI design as being driven both by data and real-world use cases: in this case, it cannot be successfully executed without experimenting with the actual search data. Real-world search queries give designers a first-hand experience of what works and what does not. We carefully analysed the data (a backlog of search queries, personas and a spreadsheet of user feedback) to see how the key use cases were currently served by the existing system.
Discovery phase and the UX Assessment
Our UX experts jumped knee-deep into the latest research and best practices for intranets and enterprise search applications. They mapped all of the individual search platforms in order to suggest a more effective information architecture. Based on this solid understanding of the materials and context, FFunction uncovered nine key insights that were specific to the client’s environment and that would guide our audit of the interface. This theoretical research was delivered as a 75-pages document with challenges to address, highlights of the successful existing elements and strategies for changes.
This in-depth research resulted in the identification of four areas of improvement for the redesign of the interface:
Smart search fields: we wanted users with little domain or technical expertise to be able to formulate good queries right away. For this, we introduced a smart query field that analyzed the query to suggest improvements and disambiguation and make the result more accurate.
Rethinking filters from the ground up: we re-organized the filters, integrating them with the search query and making them more visual and interactive.
Visual language for content types: we introduced a visual language that helped quickly identify different types of content, but also surface some of their key properties to help inform the search process.
Visual exploration: because intranets search is more a knowledge base than a simple search interface, we introduced visual exploration components that supported both search and browsing use cases.
Second phase: UI design
Through an iterative process and weekly meetings with the client, we designed visual, information-rich representations of the search results, ensuring that they had all the information for a user to make a decision. Our final concept presentation included solutions for both desktop and mobile devices, mock ups informed by best practices and a uniform, consistent formatting, respectful of the organization’s branding and visual guidelines.