Re-Designing the Calendar of Side-Events for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
Feb - May 2022
As part of my first UX Case Study, completed in the context of the IxDF UX Fundamentals Bootcamp, I redesigned the online side-event calendar for the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. In doing so, I produced five deliverables as part of my solution: i) a redesigned calendar page, ii) the creation of dedicated pages for each session, iii) the design of a registration process that allows users to register for more than one session simultaneously, iv) redesigned top-level navigation of the UN Women website, and v) a new user flow to reach the CSW65 calendar from the UN Women homepage.
In the context of the IxDF UX Fundamentals Bootcamp, I had to choose a feature within a digital product to redesign as a case study. As part of this, I would follow a UX design process from start to finish. The product I chose to improve was the online calendar for the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) hosted by UN Women, the United Nations body tasked with supporting gender equality and women’s rights worldwide.
I chose this product for a few reasons. First, it was a product I had experience using as a professional in International Development, indeed I had both attended and hosted events on the CSW side-event calendar. As such, I knew from my own experience that there were usability issues to address. Second, I was motivated to make the event more accessible to a broader audience as I believe the knowledge shared at CSW could support transformative change in many areas beyond Development and International Affairs.
There are a number of relevant personae for this product. These include development professionals, students, academics, government officials, activists, and philanthropists. Nevertheless, I decided to focus on international development professionals. I chose Alex as my primary persona to ensure that I was empathizing with these users throughout the process. Alex's profile includes the behaviors, needs, and motivations that were common across all of the users I talked during user research.
From the start, it was critical that I understood whom I was designing for. My goal for the research at this stage was to find out how users navigate through a conference program, and what their goals are for doing so. I needed to gain this understanding in order to decide how to reorganize the information on the calendar page and how to orient potential new features so they are helpful and relevant to real users.
In order to understand the calendar's users, I began by creating two proto-personas. The primary distinction between the two personas was their different behaviors when it comes to the program site. By focusing on distinct behaviors I was able to go beyond differences in demographics and attitudes and focus on the issues at the core of these users' experiences. While these proto-personas were based on assumptions and my prior knowledge, they served as a useful tool for orienting my selection of users to interview.
For user interviews, I chose to recruit professionals working in the international development field, who have participated in sessions for international forums/conferences. Experience with CSW was a plus, but not essential as the issues the CSW calendar faces are relevant to any conference. Furthermore, as I was designing a global product, it was very important that I talked to a geographically diverse group of people. I wanted to be sure that the solution I devised would be sensitized to the needs of a global audience. In the end, I talked to six users from five continents.
The interviews involved three phases:
First, I conducted a semi-structured interview to learn about their event attendance and how they find events that are relevant to them.
Second, I conducted a preliminary “lite” usability test with the site as it was to check my assumptions about the usability issues. Using this data I also created a Journey Map to visualize users' pain points.
Third, I asked participants to complete a card sorting exercise with the session details (e.g. session title, date, time description, organizers, etc.).
I began defining the scope by revisiting my notes and materials from the user research process. Specifically, I was looking to synthesize my findings in order to identify Alex's key needs. This led me to develop two Point of View Statements (POVs).
POV 1: A development professional with a busy schedule who works mainly from home needs to find events within the CSW side-event program that are interesting and relevant to them because they must stay on top of the latest topics within their area of expertise and often have their own interests in addition to those they address in their work
POV 2: A development professional with a busy schedule who works mainly from home needs information about the sessions because a certain level of information is required for them to determine if it is feasible for them to attend within their schedule and worth their limited time.
It was also at this time that I began to consider the journey to arrive at the calendar itself. The UN Women website is very large and while the Commission on the Status of Women is a flagship event, information about it is not easily accessible using the site's navigation. With the encouragement of my facilitator, I began mapping the site’s existing information architecture and used a card sorting exercise to reorganize the navigation bar to make it more intuitive and ensure that the CSW events were more accessible from the homepage. Ultimately I transformed the information architecture from a deep structure to a wide structure. Due to a lack of time, I was unable to conduct A-B Testing on the navigation redesign, but if I had more time this is something I would have liked to do.
I started to develop my solution by first brainstorming. Specifically, I did so by sketching, and then sketching some more. In the process, I revisited some of the domain research I did in the first weeks of the project with a keen eye toward features that I thought would meet my user’s specific challenges. Once I arrived at a place where certain ideas were well conveyed in my sketches, I shared these with my course facilitator and a few colleagues to get quick, informal feedback. With this feedback, I went back to the drawing board. Once I was happy with the sketches and my ideas were clear in my head, I moved to Figma to wireframe my solutions.
Using the wireframes I created in Figma as the starting point, I began building the prototype. I started with the Side-Event Calendar page, the center of my project, and expanded from there to the navigation on the home page and the session registration process. One of the challenges I encountered while transforming my wireframes into prototypes was the text length. In many instances, the text of titles, session descriptions, and topic names were longer than I had accounted for in the wireframe. This meant that I needed to make, at times significant, changes to my design to preserve the balance and usability of the pages.
Getting feedback from real users allowed me to iterate on my prototype. My mission for the usability testing was to conduct formative testing on the changes made to the site's navigation, the calendar layout, the sessions pages, and the registration process. I conducted tests with four people; two women and two men, who were from three different continents (North America, Europe, and Africa). Overall, these tests offered valuable insights and highlighted where I needed to invest more time. Here are my five key findings:
First, users still found the journey from the homepage to the calendar cumbersome despite the changes that I had made to the information architecture. Based on this feedback, I would like to spend more time streamlining the flow as well as conducting A-B testing.
Second, users confirmed that they want to have the ability to register for more than one session at a time. However, the way that I did it in the first half of my usability tests, with a "My List" feature, was not completely intuitive. After receiving this feedback, I renamed this feature “My Favorites” and added the star buttons at the corner of each of the session boxes so that they could quickly add sessions to their Favorites. I would like to do more testing in light of these changes to see if the way that I've done it is more intuitive to real users.
Third, all of the users successfully completed the registration process and said that it was intuitive. Nevertheless, going forward, I also want to consider what happens for users and the organization after the registration process.
Fourth, I learned that users have different preferences when it comes to navigation tools. During the usability tests, half of the users chose to employ the filters while the other half used the search bar to complete tasks related to finding sessions. This difference in preference confirmed my decision to offer the filters in a collapsible and expandable section to keep the page as clean as possible.
Finally, if I had more time, I would investigate the perspective of a secondary persona. Particularly, I think that the next logical persona would be someone who is working to organize or host an event as part of the side-events calendar, as their needs may be somewhat different from people who are looking to simply participate.
Insights from the process
Finally, I'll share some of my insights from the process. As this is my first time doing a UX design process, I learned a lot including using tools like Figma for the first time. However, when it comes to the bigger picture, I learned that things get concrete quite quickly in the design process. Thus if one is not careful one risks creating a lot of work to be done at the later stages. For example, when I was sketching and wireframing my solution, I was not paying close attention to the text length. Thus, when it came time for me to prototype, I spent a lot of time fiddling with the design so that long titles could be accommodated in various places in my solution.
In choosing an information-dense page to redesign, I also found that I was somewhat limited in my opportunities to make big changes to the design of the page. Nevertheless, I think that it still was possible for me to make some fairly significant improvements. That said, I look forward to working on projects that are less information-dense to see what kind of distinct challenges and opportunities come with the territory.
Finally, I learned that in the context of this case study, I had a tendency to rush the ideation stage. Specifically, I was beginning to target things for improvement before fully ideating. Part of this took place during my scoping exercises where I left myself too little room for creativity. In the future, I look forward to trying new ideation techniques like Worst Possible Idea, which might push me to move beyond my preconceived ideas.