What UX means for Seal
UX (or user experience) has been a trendy acronym since the early 1990s, encompassing everything from product design, interaction, usability, and customer support. UX is a term that is often mentioned as something to be improved upon and constantly made better. But what does UX actually mean when user experience can mean several things? And specifically, what does it mean at Seal?
For us, it can mean how we’d like our product to be perceived, which in part also represents how the company is perceived. If that’s true, then it could also mean that how we experience the product isn’t solely determined by the sum of its parts (ex. a delightful interface, predictable workflows, etc.) but other facets as well – pre-sales, support, customer success and more. Often it isn’t just about a platform or a nice-looking user interface; in the long run, a product also needs a vision that is scalable, profitable and competitive. So, when we talk about UX, we also need to think about the big picture – and for Seal, that means focus and execution.
Transforming an Application
Every so often in the life of a product, new advances in technology need to be reflected in its representation. At Seal we have been running a project recently to take our user interface up to a higher level, a project codenamed Aurora. Back when Aurora started, improving the UX meant focusing on the user interface by improving the user experience within the product itself. We, the UX team, had a good idea of what needed to be enhanced and/or re-worked but we also needed to get in touch with our users more frequently to understand their perspective. We had to keep current functionality and features while, at the same time, allowing for new ideas to be brought to the table. Transitioning from old to new can be challenging at times, especially when it involves major changes within an application. Users also find their own ways of working inside an older version of a digital product making change something that might not be perceived as necessary by all. From then on, we had to devise a strategy, one which meant implanting gradual changes in parallel with testing. Iteration was key (and still is) together with consistent feedback from our users.
We came up with an impact map which pointed out the features and the areas that would have the most impact in terms of improvements and desired result. This then guided us in prioritizing our focus and allowed us to take the correct steps in the right order. Seal’s search functionality was one such (big) step – how the user goes about finding a specific contract and starts the annotation, with ease. This involved several changes (both big and small) that users had asked for, as well as improvements we deemed necessary. We even created a product character which defined how the product should be perceived:
After the release of our new and improved platform in Spring 2019, another phase began. With all the new knowledge and features added we now had a better picture of how the product could grow and thrive alongside our users.
At the time of writing, we’re continuing to improve the user experience while adding new features, which is customary when developing a digital product. During project Aurora, we also spent time constructing a component library as a part of our Seal Design System. We did this to ensure consistency and scalability for our now fairly large application. Much like Lego blocks, we compose interfaces by using this library of components. This allows us to create the same look and feel throughout the system, meaning that users can recognize patterns and predictable interactions. The component library also allows faster UI creation and for external 3rd parties to white label and reuse our framework (quickly embedding Seal into their own systems). The key difference though, prior to project Aurora and where we stand now, is that we’ve started to build stronger relationships with our end-users (who’ve been really helpful and delighted). We’ve also realized that this is a much-needed part of our development process – continuous communication throughout, so we can keep empowering our users and make the Seal experience the best it can be.