Education eCommerce

THE BUSINESS BRIEF

The organization wanted to increase their event sales and their member base while remaining relevant and valuable to its members by growing their brand.

THE PROBLEM

The organization had been experiencing a constant decrease in events sales (their main source of revenue) over time and their member base is aging as most younger professionals don't rely on the organization to get their mandatory continuing education. The older members vastly outnumber the younger ones. The main reason behind these issues is that the means by which they sell and provide their content to their members is no longer relevant to some of their members, especially the young professionals that don't find the value ​worth it as compared to their other providers of continuing education.

Managing Professionals / Executives (Over 46)

Professionals (30-38)

Managing Professionals / Executives (39-46)

Young Emerging Professionals (YEPSs) (Under 30)

THE SOLUTION

Provide members with a personalized experience based on a recommendation engine that populates the most relevant content to their members based on their search and buying behavior.

 

The search options are minimized to the users most relevant search criteria reducing the cognitive overload while displaying the key information needed for quick a purchase decision making.

 

An alternate user flow was also implemented to help new and undecided users find relevant events faster based on their priorities.

 

As a result, the new platform duplicated conversion rates while increasing member engagement measured not only by the increase in purchasing but also by the time spent on the platform as compared to the old one.

THE PROCESS

This project was highly iterative as I worked on multiple iterations that explored new ways to provide content on an eCommerce platform.

Understand

Define

Ideate

Iterate

Prototype

Test

Interviews

Competitive Analysis

Comparative Analysis

Exploration Phase

Problem

Personas

Definition Phase

Concept Ideation

 

Sketches

Low & High Fidelity Wireframes

User Testing

Multiple Iterations

Final Design Mockups

Design Phase

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

During the interview process I gathered insights on what other sources of continuing education they were using. Most people also realied on sources like Becker, Surgent or Checkpoint by Thomson Reuters. The common element these platforms have in common is the short (1-2 hour) webinar courses that allow greater flexibility to professionals to take their courses instead of the longer in-person courses and conferences that CalCPA is well recognized for.

 

Taking shorter online courses is a growing trend that lead us to our next project with CalCPA. To see all the details about the BitLearning project click here.

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

Based on the premise that the organization struggles to get the attention of part of its members and prospective ones, especially the younger professionals I analyzed how other platforms collect their user needs and information in order to deliver them a simple and personalized experience.

Lemonade

Looking for insurance is often perceived as a tedious process where the user needs to gather a lot of personal information from different sources to get a quote. The way Lemonade takes on the challenge is by asking the minimum required information to provide an accurate quote and it does so by breaking it into pleasant simple steps that reduce the cognitive load transforming a stressful situation into a bliss.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon populates relevant content to the user based on her interests. When the user signs up she is prompted to select the topics she is interested in from a wide variety of categorized choices. 

GAINING INSIGHTS FROM THE USERS

During the exploration phase, I interviewed 12 Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) at different stages in their careers. The interviews consisted of two parts. The goal of the first part was to understand their situation, needs, and priorities around finding events to learn and remain compliant with their CPA license. While the second part consisted of performing usability testing on the iterations that had been done before the start of the project. Each of the iterations had a heavy focus on a particular attribute: aesthetics focused, location-based search, information heavy and instructor based search.

Insights summary:

  • The location-based search was found irrelevant to most users as the location within a city does not affect their choice of events.

  • Some people found interest in connecting with instructors and occasionally search courses based on the speaker. 

  • The most interesting insights came from the aesthetics focused and the information-heavy iterations. At a quick glance, most people were impressed by the visually appealing pictures. However, as they tried to browse through the courses they found the images misleading as they did not correspond to the topic of the events and there was very little information displayed upfront to give enough information about the course.

  • The opposite reaction happened to most people with the information-heavy iteration. At first glance, the felt overwhelmed by the amount of information, but as they browsed through the courses they were able to identify what courses they were interested in based on the information displayed.

  • The must-have search criteria are subject, format, location (city) and date followed by the type of credit awarded with each event, the number of credits and lastly who is the instructor.

  • Multiple users pointed out how they tend to search directly for keywords on the search bar to get to the specific content they want quicker.

  • Some users prefer having more control over what they see so they only see events in their areas of interest.

Location-Based Search

Aesthetics Focused

Information Heavy

Instructor-Based Search

PERSONAS

YEPs

(<30)

Looking for growth and development in the earlier stages of their careers

 

Looking to find courses that can help them learn new things and form their networks

Professionals

(30-38)

Wants to balance their CPE requirements with their schedule

Timing and location of courses just as important as CPE credits and learning

Executives

(39-46)

Looking to learn more skillsets to help develop their practice

Wants to be able to network with other members and instructors

Executives

(>46)

Concerned with fulfilling their CPE requirements quickly

 

Wants to be able to find CPE with as little trouble as possible

  • YEPs:

    • They find event recommendations valuable and helpful​.

    • Mostly interested in webinar offerings.

    • Appreciate aesthetics, but without sacrificing the display of relevant event information

  • Professionals (30-38):

    • Care about scanning through the important basic information about the events being displayed up-front.​

    • Appreciate a clean presentation with a good balance between visuals and search criteria.

  • Executives (39-46):

    • Care about scanning through the important basic information about the events being displayed up-front.​

    • Appreciate a clean presentation with a good balance between visuals and search criteria.

    • Find searching by instructor interesting especially if they could contact instructors before the events to raise questions.

  • ​Executives (Over 46):

    • Care about scanning through the important basic information about the events being displayed up-front. 

    • Appreciate a clean presentation with a good balance between visuals and search criteria.

    • Focused on the quality and content of the courses.

NEW ITERATIONS

Taking into consideration all the insights gathered from the interviews I created three new iterations in low and medium fidelity:

  • A personalized view that assists new customers to easily find relevant events quicker through a series of quick questions.

  • A customized view where users can select what event subjects always want to be populated on their profile.

  • A quick search view oriented to users that prioritize the use of the search bar over the filters.

Personalized Iteration

The personalized view assists new customers to easily find relevant events quicker through a series of quick questions. In essence, it guides the user to select their search criteria instead of showing them all the event offerings and filters at once reducing the cognitive load and confusion by the number of choices. This iteration came from the concern that some younger users voiced that they don't know what is out there for them to learn. This user flow responds to this need so new users can get exposed and familiarized with the range of content offered.

Customized Iteration

The customized view where users can select what event subjects always want to be populated on their profile. This is especially relevant to professionals that want to focus their continuing education in specific subject areas while saving them time from browsing through irrelevant content to them. The slideshow below shows both low and medium fidelity wireframes.

Quick Search Iteration

The quick search view is oriented to users that prioritize the use of the search bar over the filters. This search pattern is especially common among the younger professionals as they are used to search by keyword in other platforms like Amazon. The key differentiator factor on this iteration is the recommendation of similar topics to the keywords being searched that appear just below the search bar so the user can refine their search further intuitively. The slide show below shows a progression of the initial versions of this iteration.

FINAL PRODUCT

The quick search iteration resonated well with all user testers so I worked on adding more improvements and developing the high fidelity mockups. The screen below is the main page of the eCommerce platform where users can search and filter through the options to find their events.

The "Recommended For You" provides a personalized experience based on the user's past history

Color-coded subjects help users to quickly recognize and browse through the subjects they are interested

Minimized the filtering criteria from 11 to 7 by prioritizing the most used and helpful attributes 

Subtopics of the main subjects selected help narrow down the search

The images displayed on each event card correspond to the subject of the event

Most important information is displayed on the course card

Events offered in different dates and formats are accessible through the card. This allows users to find and select the offering that fits them best as well as decluttering the results page with all the other offerings for one event

Users are curious to know what else is interesting out there that they may not be looking for and that they could be missing out on. Providing them with a section for popular courses would allow them to discover new content that other professionals are taking. However, on a second round of interviews, I discovered that popular courses may not be relevant to everyone as accounting professionals specialize in a variety of different service areas and industries. Based on this discovery I created a section for recommended courses specific to the user based on previous purchases and searches. Also providing them with a section of all new courses recently added so they can still explore the latest offerings. 

The upper section summarizes the key event information like subject, level of difficulty, credits awarded, pricing, date, location, and instructor

Direct links to Calendar, Google Maps, and email to contact the instructor facilitate preparing for the event

The event's decsription and other information is displayed on a single page to avoid fragmenting it into different tabs which would discourage users to click into missing important information

Recommendation feature to keep users hooked and wanting more by providing offerings that other people who registered for this event have also purchased

Confirmation of a new event added to the cart keeps the user informed at all times to avoid double purchasing (which had happened to some users on the previous platform)

Remember the personalized search? Even the focus was placed on the quick search iteration, in order to fulfill the need for a guided search for newer and younger members the personalized view was included as an alternative user flow. Both options are available from the organization's website homepage. The only difference that lay between the two options is that the quick search takes the user directly to the ecommerce homepage displaying all the events and the personalized walks the user through a set of quick questions before taking her to ecommerce homepage displaying the events that fit within the interests she selected as she completed each question. 

eCommerce Platform Site Map

On the final release, the names of the two user flows changed from Quick Search to CPE Finder and from Personalized Search to CPE Wizard

CPE Finder

This gallery contains most of the final mockups including error management samples for loading time wait of it happened and no results found as well as the card design for all subjects

CPE Wizard

MOBILE

CPE Finder

CPE Wizard

CPE Finder

CPE Wizard

RESULTS

2x conversion rate

Decreased bounce rate from 40% to <10%

Increased user engagement from spending 2 minutes in the platform to 5

Increased membership

Happier members

Before

After