Case Study

Community - SAP

Far too many of our long-term users are jumping ship and we're not sure why... could you help us?

Logo of SAP

The task in a nutshell

The team at SAP told me that their long established community was loosing members at an alarming rate.
They had some feedback from members, but hadn't implemented any of it.
My task was to validate the feedback, and suggest a fix for the problem.

  • Target audience were/are tech-savvy "geeks"
  • The belief that "geeks" actually enjoy parsing really complicated screens
  • Developers had been allowed to design the application for developers
  • Sprawling content & UI created a huge cognitive load, even for "geeks"
  • Analysis
  • Organic & uncontrolled growth of interface
  • Confusing & unclear UI
  • Streams of notifications made it extremely difficult to identify & re-find content
  • Solution
  • Re-organisation of content
  • Colours used to identify types of content
  • Daily changing showcase of content at top of search results
  • Reduction of UI elements and possibilities on screens
  • Grouping of thematically related elements
  • Different filters grouped together
  • Role
  • UX Designer
  • Researcher
  • + Interviews
  • + Focus Groups
  • + Usability Tests
  • Tools
  • Paper & Pen
  • Sketch
  • InVision
  • Deliverables
  • Customer Flows
  • Wireframes
  • Layouts
  • Prototypes
  • Screens showing the colour-coded pages

    The homepage has daily changing highlights.
    The blog section, in gold, also has daily changing highlights.
    The questions section, in blue, also has daily changing highlights.
    The discussions section, in blue-ish green, also has daily changing highlights.
    The color-coding becomes apparent, and useful, on the activities page.
    A blog detail page uses the gold color.

    Heads up about communities

    I think it's safe to generalise that most businesses offer community facilities (functionalities) so that customers and/or users can transfer knowledge. And that they offer a sense of belonging to members, from beginners through to advanced and very knowledgeable users.
    And that implies members uploading content, but also finding & referring to content.

    What's the issue with SAP's community?

    Although I'm no where near as geeky as most of SAP's community members, a few things were clear early on;
    #1, The community had a huge worldwide user base and frequent visits (with over 3 million registered users and more than 250k daily visits)
    #2, There was a massive amount of user-generated content (i.e. blogs posted at a rate of at least 4 per hour, 24/7, and questions asked at a rate of at least 20 per hour)
    #3, A monumental amount of text-heavy content combined with a developer's design & UI made viewing & finding content unnecessarily difficult
    #4, Most of the feedback had to do with viewing & finding content

    Improving viewing & finding content

    I studied the members' feedback, explored how the content was found (searched for), and tested how it was used.
    That allowed the identification of four major types of content type, in this order:
    #1, Questions - users dive quickly in & out for questions and answers
    #2, Blogs - users bring enough time get into a topic & to read a blog
    #3, Off-Topic - users are distracted & engage in off-topic discussions
    #4, Activity Stream - a display showing a mix of 1, 2 and 3 together

    The entire community needed to reflect those three major types.
    That meant they needed to look different, yet they were all predominantly text-heavy & user-generated.
    I needed an overview of the community, to see the connections, and to see the customer journey in action.
    I roughed up a user-flow on a whiteboard, discussing it within the team. Then digitalized it into the flow you see here on the right.

    Large section of the user flow, sketched on a whiteboard, then digitalized.

    How do newbies arrive?, how do members arrive?, what do they see?, how are Q&As related to blogs? and all those other questions...

    Colour differentiation of different types of content

    I'm a great fan of colour-coding different things, if it helps differentiate things, all the while asking the question, do things need to be differentiated?
    Yet I'm acutely aware of the "Smarties" effect (aka the "M&Ms effect"), where an overuse of color leads to a deterioration in legibility.
    Highlight everything and you highlight nothing.

    Examples of color-coding to differentiate between content types.

    The color-coding for SAP started out as an over-the-top amount. It was then reduced iteratively ("less is more") to just the right amount of highlight, supporting differentiation without getting in the way.

    Filtering that's easy to understand & easy to use

    Parallel to all other developments, the filtering needed looking at.
    The filtering was literally all over the place... sometimes at the top of the page and sometimes at the side.
    I insisted that it needed to be in one place, and of the two obvious places to locate the filtering, the side bar had more room for growth.
    Easy-to-use filtering isn't all that easy to conceive.
    But I did it... I found the common denominators which allowed very similar filtering, with similar terminology, in the same place on each page.

    Examples of filtering on different pages.

    The filtering for SAP was placed in the right hand side-bar and ran from top to bottom, and had the unique element for each page at the top, with the common elements below.

    Link to Alex B.'s profile on linked-in  Link to Alex B.'s profile on xing

    Alex B. - UX Designer & Researcher - Berlin based - Case Study - SAP

    Lean UX & iterative design
    Build - measure - learn
    Husband to a lovely wife
    Dad of two brilliant girls
    Fan of two-wheeled transport

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    • Made with TLC in Berlin with my very limited coding ability ¯\_(ツ)_/¯