In this case study, I walk through how I, along with three other user experience folks, used design research and strategy techniques to directly influence short- and mid-term product strategy decisions for the Jobs by CareerBuilder mobile app. This project took place between December 2016 and January 2017. I was part of a small team alongside Renee Reid, Steph Lewis, and Amber Soley.
I led the conceptual design of some of the potential (and actual) solutions that emerged from this work and collaborated with my other team members on research synthesis, workshop facilitation, and producing major deliverables to share with stakeholders. I primarily functioned as a strategist, and other designers eventually picked up this work once it made it into their backlog.
Broken information trails
For more than 20 years, CareerBuilder has built up a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data about job seeker and employer behaviors. However, this data wasn’t being utilized to its full potential: the two lines of business, Consumer and Employer, were very siloed, and product teams didn’t know when, where, or how to adequately supply one another with relevant data and insights.
Our goal was to highlight breaks in the omni-channel experience and surface friction in overlooked process steps in order to help product teams understand these problems and view them as opportunities.
Research download & goal definition
We cordoned ourselves off in a corner conference room and each took turns sharing key information about the project (user research findings, key personas, competitor data, and tribal knowledge) in order to get everyone up to speed. We also took this time to establish some design- and research-focused goals that we wanted to accomplish through this project:
• leverage existing research, journey maps, and knowledge to create a broader “ecosystem” map that connects the different stakeholders and products of CareerBuilder,
• create a reference guide that summarizes our knowledge to date, and represents the complexity of our “Ecosystem” to make it clear how different products and stakeholders impact each other,
• identify opportunities and act as a springboard for brainstorming sessions and a catalyst for user-centered design,
• understand where our knowledge gaps are and identify areas for further contextual research and,
• create a livable journey map that can be modified with future research and provide a structure for engaging with research deliverables and findings.
Research synthesis & insights
Connecting the dots
While we were doing our research download, we started drafting the map, breaking it out into two high-level journeys, job seeker and employer, and then subdividing it from there (passive job seeker, active job seeker, hiring manager, recruiter, etc.). While the two groups are unique, our goal was to highlight the communication and interaction points between them and identify moments where communication breaks down or where expectations are not met.
I developed a legend to help us quickly categorize different moments and their meanings. We used colored sticky notes to highlight process steps, interaction points, and emotions. We used round stickers to call out areas for opportunity, pain points, moments of delight, and knowledge gaps.
At the end of the 4 weeks, we had a first pass at an end-to-end visual representation of our users’ journeys inside and outside of CareerBuilder. At about the same time, the Mobile Apps Team was preparing to review their roadmap for the upcoming year. Because we had marked areas for opportunity and pain points as we were building out the maps, we were able to hone in on some key areas to improve upon and present to this team. Perfect opportunity to put our maps to use!
Improving the job seeker experience
Amber, Steph, and I worked to consolidate our key findings and pulled them into a deck. The three of us planned and facilitated a collaborative ideation workshop with the Mobile Apps Team (developers, PM, scrum master, etc.), where we walked through our journey maps, reviewed our key findings, and brainstormed opportunities.
Findings readout & ideation workshop
Based on key job seeker pain points identified from past research and highlighted through our map, the team generated a large amount of ideas with the goal of improving the job seeker’s job search experience. Dot voting helped surface the strongest ideas that would later be grouped and categorized.
Following the workshop, Steph and I grouped common ideas together, and prioritized them based on how well they scored according to User Value (how well they meet the needs of job seeker), Business Value (how well they align with CareerBuilder strategic goals and meet business needs), and Implementation Complexity/Effort (how much time and resources they would require to implement).
By the end, we were able to clarify themes and identify Quick Wins (low effort and high value, top left) and Big Ideas (high effort, high value, top right) to share with product leaders.
We scheduled and delivered a presentation to the Mobile Apps Team and product leadership on the results of the brainstorm session and our recommendations. I sketched a few quick ideas of some of the Quick Wins and Big Ideas in order quickly and effectively visualize some initial concepts. Sketches were helpful in signaling that the work was still in progress, which meant less fixation on the details and more focus on broader ideas and themes.
Because we were able to get a head start with the Mobile Apps Team, several of our ideas, a mix of both Big Ideas and Quick Wins, made it into the backlog and were later developed. Some of those concepts are highlighted below (Note: I did not produce the final designs).
Ultimately, our goal was to increase knowledge across the organization so that we could deliver the optimal user experience across all products and services within the CareerBuilder ecosystem. We accomplished that, at least in part within the Mobile Apps Team, and we were able to see the results of a few weeks of hard work in a matter of weeks.
Our “ask for forgiveness, not permission” approach to taking on this project in addition to all of our other work gave us the confidence to take what we learned, share it with leadership, and then apply some of these learnings to a core product. We all made time between our respective projects to work on this endeavor because we knew how much the organization could benefit from having this knowledge and perspective. As a result, we were able to show how good research and strategic thinking can inform and guide product strategy.