David Gee

Interactive Design & Development

Enterprise Sourcing

Freemarkets’ Enterprise Sourcing application provided complex workflow management and multi-phase sourcing capabilities, but suffered from usability problems.

The Supplier Management interface, with improved wayfinding and status.
Before the redesign.

The Problem

Freemarkets’ ES app was intended to meet the complex needs of large-scale manufacturing. Unfortunately, the initial release suffered from poor usability, most notably due to poor wayfinding and state insight. A large, expensive investment, the app wasn’t signing customers. My first task with Freemarkets was to work with a cross-disciplinary team to improve the situation.

Challenges

We faced many hurdles along the way. Visual redesign was out of scope, so we had to work with the existing style and iconography. Internationalization was a major consideration — any new design had to accommodate multiple languages. Technically, the UI was very data-centric. Developers had limited front-end skills, and no experience with dynamic, AJAX-style interfaces.

Solutions

I created a custom, XML/XSLT based prototype, allowing us to iterate quickly on design ideas over the full lifecycle of a project. This had the added benefit of seperating project data from the UI, enabling us to quickly tailor usability scripts to individual customers. Systematic review of the app revealed many redundant interaction paths. We implemented a persistent sidebar navigation scheme, which greatly improved both the wayfinding and state insight. I worked with our developers to incorporate basic AJAX techniques, and created a custom Javascript grid control, enabling fixed columns, client-side sorting, and search-as-you-type.

Results

As we iterated through the redesign, we incorporated multiple rounds of usability testing. By project end, we had reduced page count by over 35%, and usability ratings had increased from 60% to over 90% across multiple factors.