Instructables is an Autodesk company that unites a community of DIY enthusiasts by managing a massive collection of user-generated content and offering online courses.
As an intern at Viget, I redesigned the Instructables site with an emphasis on learning about information architecture methods, streamlining user flows to promote user engagement, and defining a strategy to address both user needs and business objectives.
My Role: UX Intern at Viget (Solo Project)
Tools & Methods: Usability Testing, Interviews, User Flow, Site Mapping, Content Audit, Card Sorting, Treejack Testing, Strategy, Persona Creation
Deliverables: Wireframes, Clickable Prototype, Mockups, Findings Presentations & Reports for the Client
The proposed solutions addresses issues in key user flows. It reduces the occurrence of user mistakes and streamlines the process of crafting value-adding content. The redesign also restructures content to align with users’ priorities.
The client missed out on opportunities to create valuable content that drives users to the site because of its reliance on user flows that cause mistakes, frustration, and don’t prioritize user goals.
In order to determine where to focus redesign efforts, I conducted usability testing to identify painpoints. Participants were DIY enthusiasts, representing a sample of Instructable’s target audience.
Inconsistent terminology and unclear calls-to-action made users' options unclear
Lack of guidance during content creation process caused users to backtrack in user flows to fix mistakes
Poor discoverability of additional content prevented users from finding pertinent information
Inability to reuse uploaded photos and customize content caused users to abandon user flows and restart
Inconsistent visual design of menu items created undiscoverable options
User Interviews & Personas
After interviewing artists and and handymen who use Instructables, I identified two key personas that would play a role in the redesign strategy:
1. The Maker — A hardcore DIY enthusiast, “The Maker” often posts their projects on Instructables. “The Maker” contributes value to Instructables by creating content that other users enjoy.
2. The Visitor — A busy person who likes to make crafts during their limited free time, “The Visitor” comes to the site somewhat regularly, but doesn’t make valuable contributions to Instructables like “The Maker”.
1. Transition "Visitors" into "Makers"
Makers add value to Instructables by creating the content that brings in users. Visitors have the potential to become Makers, but aren’t doing so because of the difficulty of creating content on the site. Let’s shift these Visitors into Makers by simplifying the process of creating content.
2. Improve the Browsing Experience
Finding enjoyable content takes time, backtracking across separate pages, and some content even remains undiscovered by users. Let’s reorganize how content is browsed and presented to align with user needs.
Instructable’s massive collection of user-generated content combined with its own content presented an organizational challenge. Treejack testing gave insight into how users navigated the website content and highlighted pitfalls of the site’s nomenclature. Doing a content audit provided a documented overview of all the site’s existing content. Card sorting identified themes of organization according to users’ mental models. The culmination of all these research methods included findings reports, recommendations, and a new site map for the client.
Proposed Site Map:
User Flow Analysis + Wireframing
Usability testing revealed that a crucial user flow was causing users to backtrack, make mistakes, and wasn’t giving users the flexibility to use photographs how they wanted. This constituted a major pain point. Reimagining this user flow to minimize users mistakes, save users’ time, and promote site engagement became a focus of the redesign strategy.
User Flow Documentation:
My visual design utilizes colors and typography that retain the brand’s fun and vibrant mood, but give the UI a clean modern feel. I also restructured the visual hierarchy of content to highlight the information that users want most.
This marked the end of my internship at Viget, but I went on to continue the project, this time working with Instructables directly...
Working with the Client - UX Research Project
After my internship at Viget, I approached Instructables, showed them my work, and asked if they had any projects I might work on. They gave me a user research project to tackle on my own. Instructables had recently launched online classes for the first time, but they hadn't followed up with any customers to see how their experience was. It was my job to get in touch with users to understand their needs and to make design recommendations that could enhance their online class experience and boost course completion.
Managing Client Expectations
At the onset of the project, I had a Skype meeting with my point of contact, Anna. We discussed her goals and research questions for the project. I put together a research plan outlining the competitive analysis, survey, and user interviews I would do so that she knew what to expect from me. Once she agreed to the plan, the project started. I kept her updated on progress along the way, she let me know of any changes or new research questions that came up, and she passed along what I needed to complete the project (like analytics, user data, etc.). Check out the recommendation below from my point of contact, Anna.
I put together a simple slide deck presentation outlining the offerings of their competitors, like Skillshare and Craftsy. This provided inspiration for design changes and improvements that could make Instructables more competitive.
Surveying 500+ Users
Using SurveyGizmo, I created a survey that would be sent out to users who had enrolled in classes. I first launched a pilot survey to work out kinks and ensure that data would be collected in a manageable way. Doing the survey first also allowed me to handpick interview participants based on their responses.
Interviewing 10 Users
I screened interview participants based on their survey responses to find the people that the client was most interested in hearing from. Using a handy interview scheduling tool called Pow Wow, I setup a dozen Google Hangout interviews.
- The cost and inconvenience of acquiring highly-specialized class materials was the largest barrier inhibiting student users from completing classes.
- Difficult-to-use software led users to try and "hack" together their projects using simpler software (which didn't turn out well).
- Class/project requirements weren't tailored to meet users' needs/expectations, leaving them feeling unsatisfied.
- Students who interacted with instructors or who had subject-matter experience were more likely to complete a course.
Anna Sergeeva, Product Manager of Instructables & my point of contact for this project
"Michael is a motivated self-starter who is an absolute pleasure to work with!"
"Michael is a motivated self-starter who is an absolute pleasure to work with! He is able to synthesize research findings into actionable insights through polished presentations and planning documents. For the Instructables project, Michael provided us with valuable insight into our user base and how they react to new features. The goal of the project was to use insights from our users, via surveys and interviews, to see how we could improve our classes offering to boost enrollment and completion. We had a variety of theories going in and Michael's work was absolutely helpful in confirming these theories and solidifying feature changes. Overall, Michael helped us gain a better understanding of pain points and needs, communicated these findings professionally and effectively, and had a positive, go-getter attitude the whole time!"
- Test information architectures structures comparatively. Half of design is a science, and scientific methods require a control/baseline to compare against your results.
- Card sorts are an art form, not a science. As mathematical as they are, card sorts still require designers to make inferences.
- Be aware of biases during participant research. Most design researchers know about “please the experimenter bias”, but I experienced what I would call “please the participant bias.”