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REVU (/rəˈvyo͞o/) is a performance management app that people actually like. It facilitates on-going, constructive feedback from peers, the ones that know you best, and fosters a digital environment of growth and accomplishment.

Role

Product Designer

UX Researcher

Type of Work

Academic - Capstone Project

Time Frame

10 Weeks

Tools

Pen & Paper, Sticky Notes (lots of them), Sketch, InVision

How might we increase employee satisfaction ratings in their current roles by reimagining the performance review and feedback processes within companies?

Design Process

Navigating through any new challenge can usually be made easier with a plan. My plan for this? Follow the Double Diamond framework.

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Problem Space

When choosing my Capstone Project, I looked at the experiences I had in the past that were less than ideal. I wanted to find a real problem to solve. I looked back at my professional career and realized that across all of my roles, the one common process that didn't run smoothly was annual performance reviews. Every year, the managers would complain about the time commitment, they would have to chase after their whole team to make sure peer and self reviews were submitted on time, and my peers and I felt the whole process was uncomfortable and didn't reflect our contributions to the team effectively because we were trying to sum up our efforts for an entire year into a few paragraphs. 

I wanted to know if I was alone in thinking this process could be executed more effectively, so I did some secondary research to jump-start this project. This is what I found:

 As of 2019, 69% of companies still used traditional annual or bi-annual performance reviews, but only 14% of employees agree that these reviews inspire them to improve or that they add value to their experience as an employee. Current performance review solutions do not work because they involve an uncomfortable process that puts pressure on managers and doesn’t provide employees with what they actually want: actionable, valuable, and real-time feedback about how they’re doing in their role.

Market Research

In order to better understand the current landscape of this problem space, I conducted a competitor analysis. I looked at 5 different companies and the benefits they offer to their users.

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I discovered a few opportunities to explore, but I needed to hear it from the users themselves. This led me to the next phase of the Double Diamond framework.

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Interviews & Insights

I conducted interviews with young professionals working in the Toronto area that had experienced annual or bi-annual interviews. I wanted to know what they liked about the process and what really ground their gears - what was missing from the process that could make it better?

I discovered four themes from these interviews that allowed me to narrow my focus on what I could solve with a native app that would make the biggest impact for these users.

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Direct quotes from interview participants (click to enlarge).

5 Interviews

Recruited from my professional network

24 - 39 years

Conducted remotely over Zoom

20 open-ended questions

Peer Feedback

People find feedback from their peers to be most valuable because they are the ones that work the closest to them and can give an accurate review of their efforts.

Timeliness

People do not enjoy the review process because it does not happen often enough and takes up too much time when it does happen.

Rewarding Hard Work

People want to be rewarded for their hard work through career advancement or financial gain because it makes them feel valued.

Tracking Accomplishments

People do not feel that performance reviews accurately depict their efforts because no one is tracking the work they have accomplished on a regular basis.

Persona

As a way to synthesize my interview findings and really tailor my solution, I created a primary persona to represent the needs, wants, goals & frustrations of my user. Meet Stella Bryan!

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Experience Map

With Stella as my reference point, I wanted to understand how she currently experiences the performance review process. I mapped out her current state in an experience map and used this to identify areas of opportunity to best help her.

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At the beginning of this project, I set out with a "how might we" question that I would use as my north star to guide my solution development. It asked, "How might we increase employee satisfaction ratings in their current roles by reimagining the performance review and feedback processes within companies?"

At this stage in the Double Diamond, after thinking divergently and working my way towards a convergent action, I revised my "how might we" question to better suit the needs of the users that I interviewed.

How might we help employees get the actionable feedback they crave in order to increase their overall job satisfaction?

Develop-Detail

Task Selection

With a new HMW question and our Primary Persona, Stella, at the forefront, I crafted user stories under four main epics that started to direct the functionality of my solution. After crafting these user stories, I revisited the persona, the interview insights, and the experience map and decided that core epic the minimum viable product would focus on was “quick and actionable feedback”.

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Sketching

The core task has been chosen and solidified. What's the next step? Begin the divergent process of ideating by starting with the tried and true pen & paper. I started with organized doodling, moved on to "crazy 8" sketching, and eventually landed on three concept sketches for the chosen task flow.

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Wireframing

I presented my sketches to the users I had initially interviewed and discovered that Concept 1 was the most effective way to solve the problem for those users. From these sketches, I created a mid-fidelity prototype that could represent the functionality of my solution in order to get feedback from usability testing as quickly as possible.

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Testing

With an initial mid-fidelity prototype ready to go, I conducted 5 usability tests with users that fit my target audience criteria. I recorded their responses, iterated on the design, while also marginally increasing the fidelity. I then took the second version of the mid-fidelity prototype and conducted another round of usability tests with 5 new participants. Below are crucial changes that were made between versions 1, 2, and 3.

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Visual Identity

Once I had the functionality of my product defined, it was time to start exploring the visual identity of what I wanted this native app to be. I created a mood board based on the adjectives professional, simple, & friendly. Through the creation of this mood board, I created a colour palette that was simple with multiple accent colours to portray the "friendly" side of the brand. I then began developing a brand name and logo mark to really drive home the branding of this solution.

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Wordmark & Logo Development

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Final Logo

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Hi-Fidelity Prototype

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After deciding on the visual identity of REVU, I injected colour and branding into the hi-fi wireframes and created this version of the solution. When I was transitioning from mid-fidelity to hi-fidelity, I realized that the neumorphic design I had chosen for my mid-fi design would present me with accessibility issues. Due to this, I veered away from this type of design and ended up with the following prototype that will be accessible to all.

Marketing Site

After creating the hi-fidelity prototype, I created a responsive marketing site for both desktop and mobile. I created this as a way to communicate REVU's value proposition and create buzz around the product. As REVU is corporate software, I positioned the messaging on the site to be speaking to Human Resources teams and professionals responsible for choosing performance management systems for their respective companies. The user is then able to read about the functionality of REVU before booking a demo with one of the product experts at REVU.

Multi-Platform Adaptation

After designing the native iOS app for REVU, I looked further into what the users would need. As this is an enterprise software solution that would be used mostly in a work setting, users would benefit from having a desktop application for flexibility of use. I designed a dashboard that Stella could use when she is working at her desk if she decided that was better for her in the moment.

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Conclusion

Design Impact & Future Thinking

As young professionals navigate their careers, I hope that REVU can help them to understand their abilities in the eyes of their peers. I hope that REVU can facilitate those meaningful conversations between peers, but also between employee and manager. The peer feedback and the accomplishment tracking was built because there is a need in the industry, as proved by user interviews, but also because these functions can help to beat imposter syndrome in young professionals and can act as a jumping-off point for those difficult "career progression" conversations. With REVU, any young professional can be confident in their abilities without having to sit in an awkward unnecessarily long meeting once a year, which saves time for everyone involved.

The-Forgotten

As I look into the future of REVU, I can't help but think about the question posed by The Forgotten Tarot Card - "whose perspective is missing from product development?"

When designing REVU, I focused on solely the employee side of the performance management exchange. I chose to do this based on time constraints and to ensure that my solution solved the problem of one type of user. However, as with most enterprise software solutions, there's more than one party involved. I would need to consider the management side of this solution. Does this solve their problem? What would the management interface look like? What are the biggest issues in feedback and performance reviews that managers are facing today? 

Ideally, every product would be designed to work seamlessly for every user involved. That is my goal for the future of REVU.

Key Learnings

Throughout the entire design process, I found insight in many experiences, but the ones that stood out the most were:

1. I am designing for the user, not myself. Just because I discovered this problem space because of personal experience, does not make me the intended end user. In every aspect of this process, I made sure that I kept referring back to Stella, my primary persona. I wanted to make sure that my biases were not coming into play. There were moments where I faltered, but in the end, I believe I have created a solution that is designed for her, not me.

2. Feedback, a once intimidating and scary concept, is your BEST friend. Design is not meant to be a solo effort. A product will not be designed well or perform well if it is only designed with one perspective. Get feedback from peers, classmates, mentors, USERS, friends, family - the more eyes the better. However, know when to take that feedback with a grain of salt. Is the person giving feedback just to be nitpicky or is it a legitimate usability issue? Does the person just not like that colour or are they an expert at UI design? Getting feedback on your work and knowing when to implement it is a crucial skill to being a good designer.

3. Making something "look good" is not easy. It takes effort, it takes practice, it takes reasoning, logic, trial, error, and so much more before it will all come together. Do not lose sight of the end goal, and don't forget to try many different things. In the end, your design will be better because you have so much work to stand behind that one particular design (and don't be afraid of white space, it's your friend).

Wow, you made it to the end! Did you like what you just read?