I worked directly in-house with Virgin Media to create and deliver a ‘My account’ mobile app for both iOS and Android consisting of Billing, Package, Service Status and Help information. I arrived at a point whereby primary research had already been conducted, along with an external review and the release of a pilot app to over a 1000 customers to gauge opinion. I was employed to substantially improve the experience and make it fit for purpose.
8 months later we had re-designed and rebuilt it, adding multiple new features whilst removing pain points to successfully launch in July 2017.
Gathering research insights, current state analysis, landscape and competitor analysis, experience mapping, experience principles, information architecture, scamps, wireframe flows and prototypes, user-testing facilitation and conclusions, developer feedback and documentation.
Virgin Media | 2016/17
UX / Service design / strategy and creative direction. My role was to work within a team consisting of a Product Owner, BA, Visual Designer and development team both in the UK and in Romania. We added a UX Researcher and copywriter to complete the team working within an agile environment within 2 week sprints to gather and utilise all research, analytics and personal evaluation to bring onboard all stakeholders across multiple teams.
My aim was not to just improve the app but to push it to a whole new level, to create a vision and use this app as a starting point to strategically raise the standard across all Virgin Media’s mobile apps and corresponding web experiences by continually iterating and solving pain points. After launch, my role changed to lead the UXD across all of Virgin Media’s app portfolio. Delivering a cross-apps UXD strategy to elevate and align all Virgin media apps going forward.
Discovery phase and research consolidation
Firstly I wanted to immerse myself with all existing research, to highlight and explore any further gaps and opportunities and to fully understand the current experience and customer behaviour. Virgin Media had already commissioned numerous research pieces both externally and internally. This included:
This was in the form of multiple documents, from this I collated and produced a ‘master’ deck whereby all separate findings were classified into sections based off the app’s information architecture and features. This helped me to then systematically approach each problem both individually and holistically. Examples of the individual research docs as follows.
Persona creation by EY Seren
External review by Chelsea Apps Factory
Testing a Pilot version with a 1000 Virgin Media customers
Top-level problems to solve
I then consolidated all insights from the above research into key problems to solve.
Positive intent – underwhelming outcome
Formatting and content challenges
Designing for the platform
Further research to inform the experience
It’s always important for me to get into the detail and personally evaluate current experiences, to validate previous insights and formulate further conclusions. Additional personal recommendations include:
Brand research and expression
One clear gap which was not evident in the previous testing research is the lack of brand expression. Virgin Media is mean’t to be innovative, fun, playful and exciting. The pilot app was dull to engage with and was similar to Virgin’s competitors showing a homepage with a list of conventional links. Rather than being the same, I wanted this account app to be original, not to follow the crowd but to deliver an account app which is truly distinctive and unique. Like it’s competitors, it’s primary objective/ expectation is to provide utility and solve account problems. However, a further challenge is to strengthen the customer/ brand relationship and emotionally engage with customers, something Virgin Media and it’s competitors are currently lacking.
To help with this, I approached the head of brand to understand the brand principles further and to see examples of how the brand has evolved over time and how material has been delivered more creatively outside of digital. A huge opportunity to add personality and feeling into digital products and services. This was the first time a UX designer had ever approached his team to understand the brand principles. This really helped to inspire the ideation phase and also build better relationships between brand and the delivery of experience design going forward.
Above, a cross comparison of account app homepages.
Creating 'Experience Principles'
I then created experience principles, to utilise the research insights, create empathy, build stronger relationships between customers, products and services and to further focus the project.
This was to help the team and the wider business to understand where we want to be, what makes a good app experience and to further challenge ourselves to deliver my overall vision.
Why experience principles?
This involved ideation through scamps, low and medium fidelity wireframes and journeys, flow diagrams, site maps, wireframe and visual prototypes using Proto.io to validate ideas through user-testing. Below are just a few examples from a large body of work.
Medium fidelity wireframes
Working within 2 week sprints, below is in example of a ‘show and tell’ session and UX/UI review.
Into the detail
Just one example was working directly with developers to show API data flows to inform specific experiences within the app. Below is an example of a webex conversation where we discussed, changed and adapted the flow diagram based on API success and failure for Service Status to agree on the best way to build the journeys.
Like any app experience there is a large amount of work that should never be noticed by consumers. These details include partial data, error screens, notifications for all scenarios across the customers the lifecycles.
Below is just one example of many prototypes. This one specifically looked at the billing experience for short, medium and long-term solutions. This enabled us to user-test iteratively and to create and inform discussion with the internal team and wider stakeholders.
Agile user testing
We achieved a sweet spot of user testing every friday to deliver constant insights to iteratively improve the experience.
Key insights from user-testing
Before we had even started our 2 week sprint cycle, I soon realised that the sign-in process was not good enough for the launch of a major new app. As this was the current web sign-in journey and not specific to this app, this wasn’t part of the initial requirements. However, we had to prioritise this, and with the backing of the product owner we rapidly improved this in a very short space of time.
Initially I scheduled 3 days to work closely with the visual designer (Marta Pogorzelska) to ideate and to create an overall creative direction. I wanted to break away from a legacy of constrained visual aesthetic, to implement brand and experience principles at the beginning of the process and target specific parts of the experience to help inform this e.g. On-boarding, Credit limit, Micro-interactions for default functionality. The challenge to aid utility and value by communicating information and feedback in a more fun, seamless, usable, engaging and delightful way that none of the other competitor brands can do. We continued this thinking specifically when we approached each problem within the sprint plan.
Educating and persuading stakeholders
Just one example is ‘show’ functionality for the password text field was met with high resistance from stakeholders due to security fears. I used landscape analysis to communicate the usability benefits, to show it is now an industry standard feature and if multiple banks and huge retailers have implemented it, then there should be no reason why Virgin Media cannot do it.
Enabling customers to view and pay their latest bills, provide bill detail and breakdown, recent charges to be added to the next bill, Direct Debit Setup and credit limit transparency if a customer has had this applied to their account to limit their expenditure.
Turning negatives into positives for when things go wrong.
Service Status allows customers to find out and understand any service issues in their area that might effect their TV, Broadband and Phone service.
New and previous visual designs
Visual design by Marta Pogorzelska and Abdulkadir Mursal (at konquer), creative direction by myself.
The app successfully ‘soft’ launched in July 2017 with no marketing.
There are so many different scenarios relevant to customers needs during their lifecycle that are only shown when relevant. Like many projects, this is a real ice-berg of which customers will rightly only see the tip of the work that has gone into this project.
Convincing the business that brand principles need to be intrinsic to experiences and be a part informing them thus increasing customer engagement. Within such a competitive corporate sector this is a USP that is a great opportunity to explore. To break away from fixed, structured, dated visual design to a more free-flowing, organic aesthetic which we can now see much more on all Virgin Media’s on and off digital delivery across all comms too. A small thing but a BIG win and vast improvement within the business.
Bringing in key stakeholders to expand my experience Principles into principles for all Virgin Media apps and not just one.
Re-designing billing across the whole company. Interrogating and improving the Service design to then enhance and solve the pain points for every sub-channel including web and apps.
Sign in journeys and designs implemented across all apps and web experience.
Within the first 2 weeks of launch it organically achieved 20,000+ downloads on both stores and had already achieved the same billing hits as the website. A 2nd release shortly followed to iron out technical bugs and additional experience enhancements followed.
Installs as percentage of eligible base steadily increased to 11% (Nov 2018). 800k downloads. All without any marketing.
To date the MyVM app has a 4.5 rating on iOS and 3.7 on Android. The highest achieved for a Virgin Media mobile app.
16 higher NPS points compared to non-app users (Aug 2018).
Call reduction estimated at 25k calls for 2018.
Going above and beyond
Additionally, educating the business on the importance of ‘experience principles’ and evangelising customer experience.
Presenting to the whole Digital department the project and processes.
Mentoring multiple levels of design talent whilst taking stakeholders and senior management along on our journey.
Being invited to presented to the brand team on their away day, to explain what UX is and how Virgin media’s brand should be intrinsic to the User Centered Design process.
Providing a 4 page document to senior management on how they can better enable great products and services.
Presenting to internal UI teams the value of UX, educating by showing key examples.
After launch, in the absence of a Product Owner for 3 months, I additionally assisted with many of the PO's responsibilities to continue delivering and driving improvements.
For customer feedback and opinion to directly inform the roadmap. Just a few examples include Touch ID, Improved help, Improved fully native billing information rather than pinching into a pdf bill, push notifications, more developed APIs to enable more detailed package and billing information.
A change of role for me, to look holistically at all of Virgin Media’s suite of apps handing over the reins to a new product team to drive continued improvements while I oversee and lead the UX and UI design, strategy and bigger picture thinking.
"Michael is a world-class UX professional. He played a critical role on our team in so many ways, including consistently showing:
– An incredibly collaborative working style, both within an agile product team and with a broad range of stakeholders.
– A positivity and determination in driving projects forward.
– An incredible attention to detail – always demonstrating a depth of thinking and designing for every scenario.
– A super clear communication style that always made it really easy to understand his thought process, through which his experience and intuition invariably come out strongly.
– A passion and relentless focus on user needs, while balancing decisions with real pragmatism.
I can’t recommend working with Michael highly enough."
Ben Zacharias, Lead Product Manager, Virgin Media.
"I worked with Michael on Virgin Media’s service application. I can truly recommend Michael not only as a great professional in UX and product design, but mentor and leader to others. He has really great work attitude, is open minded and thinks holistically about problems he is approaching. He stands out from the crowd as an exceptional design thinking professional that will bring this extra value to any team he will join in the future."
Marta Pogorzelska, Designer, Virgin Media.
"Thank you Michael for always seeing the big picture and flagging up ideas and concerns that are insightful, and often beyond your strict remit (i.e. your Quick Start strategy observations this afternoon). You are a credit to us and we’re lucky to have you.
It would be an absolute pleasure to work with Michael again.”
Adrian Taylor, Senior Product Manager, Virgin Media.
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