The biggest challenge facing the world’s largest companies is product compliance. Staying on top of an avalanche of strict regulations from around the world and keeping consumers safe has never been so difficult and important. 👏
We hear news reports of kid’s toys being recalled for safety issues or charging cables melting or catching fire. These events are costly for companies that make them and endanger lives of consumers. Therefore, companies need to keep track of how their products comply with the strict regulations of any country, and they looked to us for an industry solution called Product Compliance Specs.
How do I know if I can sell my product, say my coffee machine in to the UK without risk of violating the regulations of the UK and making sure this product is safe so as not to harm the consumer? There are so many moving parts, it can be an impossible job. Product compliance officer, top 10 multinational
1. The challenge
How do I stay compliant?
The question our clients are asking is, ‘how do I know if I can sell my product, in to the UK without risk of violating the regulations of the UK and making sure the Coffee Machine is safe so as not to harm the consumer’? It's a massive challenge, with thousands of regulations to keep track of, with each one potentially affecting how a coffee machine company can make their coffee machine.
Product compliance is only now maturing, and currently there are no efficient ways for compliance teams to do their work. They communicate over email, through large spreadsheets, and paper-based files which is an absolute pain to keep up to date and collaborate on. 🤯
2. Our goal
Centralising the work
Centralise all this work in one system, and provide the company with critical alerts. The Product Compliance Spec is central to this, being an up-to-date report on the state of a product.
3. My Role
Lead product designer
I was the design lead on the project, alongside some great people, including my design colleague, Celia and product owner, Anbu. I was involved in customer insights, where I was on calls with customers, planning and structuring the project and executing the vision.
4. Research & discovery
Jobs to be done
Jobs to be done focus on what the needs and motivations of the user are. Instead of focusing on the solution, we create job stories to guide us to a solution.
These jobs let us concentrate on the goal, which gives us a better insight into the personas that use the C2P platform. We began by interviewing users about their experiences and what challenges they faced daily.
Pain points we found while talking to users
It’s difficult to know what are the most important regulations to focus on
I need to keep up to date with new regulations, but it’s difficult to get these updates in time
Providing and exporting all the testing certification to prove product safety can be time-consuming when these certs are spread out between different teams.
When we gathered as much data as we could, we created job stories in this simple format below.
Storymapping is a powerful way to map and visualise the user’s journey through your product or service, in a visual and dynamic manner. Taking the job stories as a base, I diagrammed many possibilities becasue of what we learned about users’ motivations. I outlined the steps the user might go though, plus issues that arise and then add behavioural techniques that will keep users on track.
Once I had created storymaps and I discussed with the wider team, and we move on to conceptual work. This stage is where I explore design patterns and best practice. I like to research academic databases to see if there is anything of interest that I can use, like new scientific and psychological findings.
Nielsen Norman Group, ACM Library and Baymard Institute are all great resources to start with. Some design questions I asked myself were; what is the best way to select from an extensive list of items, how to show an infinite list of products without images, and what behavioural strategies could I employ to help the user?
The product team working with the complex content we must design for.
5. Design principles
Starting with design principles
I revisited the eight design principles I had created sometime ago and refreshed them based on the fact that we were more experienced and had grown as a product team. Our user's experiences also fed into these principles. The principles were front and centre in our new process to guide me and the team.
The question was ‘how to list many items in a readable manner, that is easily scannable and searchable?’
Cards versus lists
I tried many lists based approaches. From early feedback, users wanted to see as much data as possible in each row. I prototyped different variations in InVision and showed them to a select group of users. The feedback was that using cards felt more efficient than rows. Also, the fact that keyword search was the first thing user said they would do made the choice easier to make.
I created abstract wireframes based on what the main content would be. The darker, heavier elements, the higher in the hierarchy and importance the content is.
I settled on an expanded card list approach for the MVP. Search was easy to find and always expanded and was live filtering to make the experience feel responsive. I split the sub navigation into sections, allowing the user to filter by less accessed sections more easily.
Creating an efficient wizard
By far the most challenging design was how the user selects a large range of items easily and efficiently. I did some deep research on academic sites, looking into the most effective ways of selecting from large lists. Going back to first principles, I wanted to keep things focused, hiding the inherent complexity.
Best selection technique
I decided out of the many display options to go for tree like menu, and without using the conventional pattern of checkboxes to keep the visual as light as possible. There was enough affordance to let the user know that these rows were clickable. Since there was not a lot of information in these rows, I kept it to a list based view.
Step through interface
As there are different types of content to add, I used a step through the interface. It might reduce the speed of completion, but going back to first principles again, it focused on the job at hand. We tested early prototypes on users and found that they welcomed the step through approach.
Finally, I found from user testing that the step through worked well for adding disparate and complex types of data and that the slight reduce in speed from a scrollable one-page list worked by allowing the user to make better decisions about what items to include. We completed the final step through version and added product imagery to boost recognition.
7. Visual approach
Palette and typography
I worked off our existing palette and used the same typography with a few tweaks. I am now using a heavier weight of typeface, especially on white on coloured background, to give more weight.
8. Design solution
Bringing it all together
After more testing with hand-picked and engaged users and the internal team, we felt we had a strong user flow and end product.
Happy customers 😊
We trialed Compliance Specs six months ago, and the uptake was immediate. Being a new concept for many companies, and knowing their needs, we were still amazed by the enthusiasm. The feedback is that our Compliance Specs platform is the way forward for all Product Compliance teams, and it will be the future to their success.