How can we make it easier for teachers to start using our software?
SMART's old software licensing portal wasn't meeting our customer or business needs. We had an expensive 3rd party license management portal that required School Admins to track and distribute individual product keys. Admins found the old system difficult, time-consuming, and error prone. We had over unnecessary 5,000 customer support calls each year related to actions on the portal that should have been easy. This was a low value expense for SMART plus a poor customer experience.
I led the design of a new licensing portal that is the gatekeeper for SMART's software profits - we can't sell software without it. The best part of the new portal is the ease of use for Admins and teachers. It allows Admins to entitle teachers to software licenses using just their email addresses - no more product key hassles.
The new portal launched in January 2018, supporting over 96,000 School Admins.
My team won the President's Club award, an internal company award, for our work on this project.
- Role: UX Designer
- Tools: Sketch, InVision, Adobe CC, Zeplin, Balsamiq
- Timeline: February 2017 to January 2018 (12 months)
- Alison: UX Designer
- Dan: Technical Program Manager
- Mugdha: Dev Manager
- Laura: Product Support Analyst
- Serena: User Researcher
At SMART, we've done extensive user research on teachers and students, and we know them pretty well. But the users of the portal are a whole different set of users: School Admins, District Admins, and Resellers. These are user groups where we historically didn't have much user research data. I developed a user survey tailored specifically to these groups, then worked with our User Researcher to analyze the results. One clear result was the feedback that these users strongly dislike managing product keys.
As part of our initial user research on this project, we asked users to evaluate the design of two wireframe prototypes that I created: one for Admins and one for Resellers. This validated that we were heading in the right direction with the portal design.
The requirement for the portal’s first release was to simply to replace the 3rd party portal with an in-house version providing the same basic functionality: allowing Admins to view license keys and expiration dates and manage other Admins. We had future releases planned that would introduce more functionality.
But then, something dramatic happened. A few months into our work, the portal was suddenly cancelled by one of our top executives. He was trying to cut costs and didn’t fully realize how painful the existing system was for our customers. He changed his mind a few days later when he realized we could serve our customers better, and sell more software, by replacing the legacy system.
The PM and I decided that if the project could be killed at any moment, we needed to be much more aggressive in our scoping and re-prioritize the roadmap to address our users' biggest pain point first.
I designed an MVP that focused on the most important feature for our users - getting rid of product key management. This feature was always on our roadmap, but it was originally scheduled for development in Release 3.
After the requirement flux settled, we determined that the key design goals of the new portal would be to provide an Admin with easy ways to:
- Add / remove teachers to the software license via email (This is the biggest impact - it means that teachers won’t need product keys in order to access our software)
- Add teacher emails in bulk via CSV (additional time-saving methods are on the roadmap)
- Aggregate the total number of licenses across product keys (fewer expiration dates / account consolidation)
- View the total number of licenses available
- View all software subscription end dates
- View details of any product key (for reference)
As a product that isn't part of our educational software suite, this project allowed me a degree of creative design freedom, but it still needed to be recognizably on-brand. I had the choice of making it match our retail software products or our marketing materials. Below are some of my visual design explorations. We selected a design from the left side of the top row based on the following factors:
- It matched our product visual design.
- It shows a clear hierarchy of functions with separation of areas and a visual promotion of the action area for users.
- It has color contrast ratios that allow us to meet accessibility standards.
- It's less busy, with fewer competing visual elements.
The new SMART software portal provides renewal dates at a glance. On the backend, it consolidates license keys to provide fewer dates for the Admin to keep track of. But most importantly, it allows Admins to entitle teachers by email, so that they don't have any more license key hassles.
Before launch, we reached out to a small group of Resellers and Admins to have them beta test the new portal. We incorporated their feedback and made improvements to the design before it was released.
The new portal launched in January 2018, supporting over 96,000 School Admins. Entitlement by email rather than product key resolves the primary user need and removes biggest pain point. The new portal is streamlined and easy-to-use, to ensure the best customer experience, while minimizing confusion and dramatically reducing support calls.
This service replaces the old, expensive, 3rd party solution. It saves money for the company, and it allows us to customize and adjust our portal in response to customer needs.
Entitlement by email rather than product key means that the software works for the teacher no matter what device she is using. It gives the teacher flexibility in where she can access our software and what device she can access it on. This will also allow us to customize our software offerings with greater personalization.
When the portal launched, the internal company messaging stated, "We hit so many obstacles in this project, but the team diligently and persistently kept on working through, and it shows in the product. Great work everyone on building an impressive system and conducting an exceptionally smooth release! This is a big milestone for SMART that will be the enabler of lots of future success."
A few months after completing this portal, our team was presented with the President's Club Award - an internal company award which recognizes an employee or team who exhibits exceptional performance, exceeds job requirements, and displays innovation / initiative.