Auufa: Professional Architectural Platform

 

initial observation & problem statement

The lack of standardization and open communication in the architecture industry leads to inefficiency and wasted time, which ultimately decreases productivity and job satisfaction for architects. Consequently, Auufa asked us to design a platform to streamline communication and foster collaboration, thereby reducing time spent on repetitive administrative tasks and allowing more room for the creative process. Our challenge as UX Designers was to identify insights and pain points, and to determine what features would be essential to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with buy-in from the industry. 

 
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Team

Cora Books
Sydney D.
Faith M.

role: data analysis & communications lead

While this was a highly collaborative process, we each took ownership of certain aspects. Capitalizing on my strengths in writing and data analysis, I took a lead role in synthesizing our findings and ensuring that our communication with the client was consistent, professional, and productive.

 

UX Design Process: An Overview

 

1. Discover

Through comparative analyses and contextual inquiries, we sought to gain understanding of the experiences of architects, designers, and manufacturers, including how they use existing digital tools and technologies. 

2. Define

Auufa’s overall aspiration is far broader than what could be supported in a single design sprint. Additionally, the client was finding it challenging even to identify the most useful starting point. By synthesizing our research and developing a focused problem statement, we would be able to define an appropriate and productive scope for phase one.

3. develop

Our analysis allowed us to identify features and flows that would be useful to the industry, and through iterating and testing we were able to refine our product into one that is also easy and enjoyable for  users. 

4. deliver

By applying the Double Diamond UX Design process to the challenges posed by Auufa, we designed a MVP that addressed the initial needs laid out by the client. The MVP proved useful and usable through successive rounds of testing. Deliverables included a clickable prototype, annotated wireframes, and a robust research/testing report.

 

Discovery

 

research: Contextual Inquiry

Some users were identified by Auufa. We collected additional users through social networks, as well as snowball and guerrilla recruiting. All interviewees were experienced professional architects, architectural project managers, or relevant product manufacturers.

Interview Process

We captured data via manual notes, as well as audio recordings which were later transcribed. Interviews lasted 30-40 minutes per session, and were conducted primarily in-person.

Interview structure

1 interviewee 
1 interviewer 
2 note takers

We conducted interviews with both architects and manufacturers to better understand how they communicate. This allowed us to identify key flows and pain points of the current process, without leading the interviewees to any preconceived notions we may have of what would best suit their needs.

 

Definition

 
Architects, I think, also aren’t necessarily great in their firms about going in at the end of a project and saying ‘Let’s put together all the documents in a really clean and concise way, so that someone three years from now can come in and pull the key facts out of this project in a useful way.’ They usually rely on the the institutional knowledge and people who are in the firm to kind of steer them in that direction, which is really unfortunate.
As an architect it would be nice to have access to specialized knowledge… and to know where to look for it.
— Matt, Senior Architectural Project Manager
 

Data Synthesis

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Affinity Mapping

We analyzed interview transcripts, summarized observations into succinct statements, and then grouped these statements into categories to highlight trends and reveal insights.

 
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Pivotal Insight

Initially we expected to design a portfolio-based sharing platform, through which architects could upload their work. We imagined this as a site for learning and inspiration. This, we thought, would be the feature that would attract the initial users while the platform continued to introduce new features and grow. Our analysis confirmed some of our assumptions, including the need for both filing documentation and sharing within firms. 

However, established architects weren’t interested in sharing or willing to share their information. Understandably, they were concerned about intellectual property and/or security, and many truly just didn’t see the point. 

 

revised Problem Statement

Most established architects would like an organized way to store and access the projects within their firm, but are reluctant to share their own work publicly due to protection of their own intellectual property.

How might we create a network for them to store shared information internally, without exposing information or resources they would prefer not be made public?

 
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Feature Prioritization

Using the MoSCoW Method (Must/Should/Could/Won’t Haves), we determined the following features would be essential for our MVP:

1. Project Name & Identifying Details
2. Specifications Library
3. User-Generated Materials Library

 

Design

 

First Iteration

We started with a mid-fidelity prototype, focused on a visual organizational structure that allowed for easy refinement via filters and keywords.  

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Second Iteration

Our first round of Usability Testing was positive overall, but with such a detailed project there were many edits. Our second iteration included the following updates:

  • Improved internal navigability by adding the Project Name to Side Navigation

  • Created Footer for further navigational consistency

  • Expanded File Upload options for users, integrating Google and Dropbox Application Program interfaces (APIs)

  • Created option to start a project directly from interface

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Third Iteration

After our second post-test Usability Survey and some discussion with our client, it became clear that we needed to rethink the navigational categories. We were designing the prototype to organize a massive amount of information, which was not yet intuitive to  architects. We decided to conduct a round of closed card sorting, which allowed users to decide into which categories each card/page should be grouped. 

 

Closed Card Sort

New categories are in the far right column. If they differed from the original category, they are in bold.

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Following Usability Testing and Card Sorting, our third iteration went up to High Fidelity and incorporated the following changes/updates:

  • Clarified the role of the homepage in the Internal Firm view, keeping in mind public/private views

  • Refined file upload features, including options for auto-filled fields if user is adding files to existing project

  • Improved navigation with more robust sort/filter options to organize information

  • Optimized screens for developers with “Empty States” created

  • Created profile page 

  • Made navigation more consistent site-wide, with nomenclature consolidated to minimize confusion

  • Built out keyword/filter functionality, explained in annotations

  • Improved logic regarding Manufacturer sorting and filtering options

  • Built out additional functionality on the Manufacturer Detail page

  • Improved breadcrumb visibility

  • Added option to add Project to Product screen

  • Improved visibility via font size/weight consistency

 

Final Sitemap

 

Delivery

 
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Prototype

 
You made something difficult surprisingly comprehensible
— Julien, Usability Testee
 

Prototype is designed to be viewed on a Desktop Device, and may be distorted on Mobile

 

Thanks for reading!

 
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