I worked for Brady as a designer. They manufacture and print on security products, such as lanyards and badge reels. Designers prepare artwork for customer approval then send orders to be printed. We did so using one form. Users fell into two groups:
- Printers: who needed it to confirm the print was correct
- Customers: who used it as a proof for their order
I saw an opportunity to make both user groups’ lives easier and drove the project of improving this form.
Recession = More Work + Less Workers
During the recession, the design department downsized workers and increased orders. We went from 20 orders a day to 50. From 5 graphic designers to 2. Those of us remaining were instructed to innovate.
The old forms featured a swatch of print, specs for the printers, and a product mock-up. The low-fidelity of the product mock-up occasionally caused unhappy customers. In the image below, you can’t tell if the text will be facing inwards or out or tell how far up the neck the print will be. This lead to surprised end users. Printers were blamed and customer service shouldered the job of apologizing.
New Printing Facility
The company bought a production facility in China, in addition to the one they had in Burlington. Previously, any hiccup in workflow could be discussed face-to-face by walking to the warehouse. But with an ocean in between, a language barrier, and time difference, more specifications were needed on the proofs. In addition, mistakes were more expensive because they involved a longer shipping time.
Thus, a third user group was added:
- Local printers
- Overseas printers
Apply Freelancing UX Knowledge
During this time, I was freelancing part-time and inhaling everything on usability I could. It made complete sense to make use of the principles in ‘Don’t make me think’ here. I broke the users into two types, both of which I was in a place to understood because I communicated with them both often.
For customers, I designed for an easy scan. They wouldn’t check every detail, but they’d appreciate a higher fidelity mock-up.
For printers, I used the “conventions are your friend” axiom. They was familiar to the way the job-ticket looked, so I designed the form to mimic that layout. It would be a simpler side-by-side quality check.
To understand how the customer was using these proofs, my current understanding wasn’t enough. I chose three representative customers to discuss their thoughts of early prototypes of new proofs. I promoted candidness and guided them on effective feedback, just like I’d learned from leading web projects.
I designed different versions and tested them with real jobs. The overseas printers were able to test our proofs thoroughly because they received more orders. One version had all of the information, but it was too long (two pages total). Another version had different layouts for domestic and overseas production, but that became confusing because some customers received two different-looking proofs.
Ultimately, I was part of a small team open to change and a testing platform with high numbers: a perfect environment for fast prototyping. As we promoted rock solid communication, the customers and printers let us know how things worked and what could be better.
I was proud to use UX methods and see them succeed in a non-web setting. The form was more readable, more professional, and more flexible. The outcomes were quantifiable;
- Problem calls decreased from both customers and printers
- Having one document for both facilities streamlined workflow
- Design time decreased due to having one proof for all products (only lanyards are shown here)