Adobe | Service design and research
Design and advocacy for users and employees
Gauge, a boutique research and strategy agency in Alameda, CA was hired to assist with the ongoing efforts of Adobe Project Parkour, and I was hired as a design researcher and strategist for an 8-month engagement.
The project, set to launch at the end of 2018, is a rollout of a completely new Creative Cloud Admin Console support portal. Gauge was asked to conduct comprehensive research — both on the customer end with System Administrators, as well as the Adobe Support Agents and Support Managers. Gauge also worked closely with the Design team, who were tasked with redesigning the Admin Console in a more user-friendly, intuitive way — for both the agents and the customers.
Our goal was to find insights and validation on Adobe’s Creative Cloud Admin Console customer experience through user testing and recommend a strategy and rationale on design decisions.
The feedback from the customer-end System Administrators and the Support Agents and Support Management team, including a round of user-testing helped inform the design and desired functionalities of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Admin Console. Set to launch late 2018.
Gauge engaged in recruitment, research, and strategy for the hard-to-reach demographic of the System Administrators for Adobe Creative Cloud Enterprise customers. We conducted nearly a hundred (and counting) qualitative interview sessions, guided by an experienced moderator with self-recruited, screened, participants.
All remote interviews were able to be observed internally at Adobe through shared calendar and teleconferencing software. Research covered routes and methods of support, processes in submitting and managing support tickets and finally, usability testing through prototypes of the new Admin Console build.
The interviews and testing were conducted in phases with regular findings and reports to key stakeholders with the Creative Cloud Admin Console support portal scheduled to launch at the end of 2018.
Prototyping an usability testing
Gauge created an interactive digital prototype using the Design Team’s wireframes as reference. Participants were asked about their current role and work as an administrator for their organizations, as well as details about how they create support cases and their general experiences using Adobe Support.
A brief explanation of the Admin Console prototype was shared and participants were asked to imagine that they were Deanna Troi, an Admin at WeTravel, Inc and their users are confronting an issue with Photoshop when trying to import files from their camera.
Participants were then asked to complete a series of tasks going through seven workflows, and share their thought process, questions, and feedback on what they were seeing and accomplishing.
1. Sign in / Summary
2. Create Case
3. Case Details
4. Request Close / Reopen
5. Request Escalation
6. Support Summary / View Other Cases
7. Wrap Up
Users appreciate a comprehensive portal. The overall reception to the updated Admin Console was positive. Participants commented on how they prefer to be able to perform all the tasks they need to in one place, and appreciated that the Admin Console was designed to allow for licensing permissions, support case creation, and case tracking. Even if they prefer to start or follow cases through different communication channels, participants expressed the desire to be able to check on case statuses, licensing, and other administrative issues in one comprehensive location.
Users want digital experiences to be comprehensive and intuitive. They look for visual cues, consistency, and context clues when navigating. Based on participant feedback, there are a few areas that can be improved to better support user understanding.
In some instances in the usability testing, participants were unable to find context clues or felt confusion around word choices or verbiage. Many users are unfamiliar with the concept of Expert Sessions, for example, and in-page descriptions or hover-over elements would be fairly simple ways to assist users.
Clearer communication is needed. Users are aware that they may not understand all terminology in a digital interface right away, but there are ways to lower the barriers to understanding by providing microcopy that is clearer and more active. A content strategy plan that includes active language that indicates who the actor is will not only help users better navigate the support process, but it will also help them more easily learn new information through context clues.
Small changes can have a big impact. Users are generally familiar with Adobe design conventions and can look for cues in the Admin Console design to guide them, however, there are ways to make the cues more obvious by making small changes to the design, such as color, font size, and demarcations.
Remote ethnographic fieldwork
Not constrained to researching just the US-based Administrator side of the support experience, Gauge conducted a two-week ethnographic study with Support Agents for multinational companies in the New Delhi area. Our goal was to better understand their daily responsibilities, their workflows and how their experiences may align with or differ from Adobe agents. We felt that it was important to get a holistic sense of the agent experience and that by selecting participants not affiliated with Adobe, we hypothesized that they may feel more comfortable with speaking freely.
Working with local fixers in India, over two dozen participants submitted daily journal entries via mobile device. Their stories of their homes, their commutes, and their workplace provided an understanding of their frustrations, pressures, and roadblocks of their daily professional lives. Our envisioned usage scenarios of provided support tools deviated considerably from real-world conditions.
Insights from India
Support roles are unpredictable by nature with rotating shifts, unforeseen issues, and overtime. Agents enjoy collaboration and knowledge sharing, and often share their personal workarounds and fixes for the greater good of the team. Agents look for stability in their processes and teams and they're having to create their own workarounds to get it - including making team chats on a variety of social media apps, or creating their own templates to copy and paste responses.
Flexibility is key. While many agents wish they could work remotely, most wind up bringing work home anyway; fielding calls, chats and emails from managers and colleagues. Their main frustration lay in software and technology constraints, not necessarily in being on-call. Agents want flexible work tools and consistent communication, rather than having to maintain multiple channels. They want to be able to communicate in the medium that makes the most sense for the situation, whether in the office or out.
Usability matters to employees too. What makes a CRM software interface "good" can be subjective. Several agents expressed they’d like to see more automated processes and friendlier user interfaces in their support software. This includes incorporating features of many modern web suites. More support software needs to be designed with the agents in mind.
Service design blueprint
With both front-stage and backstage research in place through the System Administrator and Support Agent efforts, Gauge began the process of developing Service Design blueprints to illustrate the end-to-end lifecycle of a support ticket. This involved cataloging not only the actors and personas involved, but also indexing all of the technology and platforms either prescribed for official use, or discovered as unofficial workarounds to team workflows.
We were surprised to uncover the breadth of the manual nature of a support workflow by the Agents. The amount of text selection, followed by copy-and-pasting between systems that were supposed to be integrated, created multiple opportunities for errors and inefficiency. Furthermore, many of the intended support tools were replaced by sticky notes and word processing documents. Often, the off-duty Agents handle tickets remotely via chat application or non-official laptops. Yet, the Adobe platforms are not currently designed for these workflows.
View the full service design blueprint