A new way to organize your studies


A few months ago, we launched into a new phase and embraced what CEO Andrew called a “Discovery Project”. I’ll talk more about Discovery Projects in another blog.

At Optimal Workshop, we love to experiment and discover new things. It's always important for us to practice what we preach and embed our user researchers into our design process and our designers into the development process and to keep iterating.

So, our Product Manager Andy said we needed to build a folder system so that users can better organize their studies. But, we had to find out how, why and what it should look like.

Why did people arrange things in the way they did? Why did people name their studies in certain ways? Do people usually want to group their studies by client? Or by type of study? Do people who work in teams need to be able to group their studies together? Do people generally use one type of testing tool or do they use multiple? These are questions we wanted to find answers to.

The Optimal Workshop Suite contains five separate tools, which can make organizing your studies a little hard — especially if you’re part of a large agency or business. Before we embarked on our new project, the current design could only display studies for one tool at a time. This meant that if you wanted to view a tree test and a card sort for the same client, you’d have to open two separate pages to find the studies you wanted.

Our research and discovery process looked a bit like this:

Reaching out to people who will be impacted by this

We reached out to people who used our tools heavily, people with teams or people with lots of studies. We asked them questions such as:

  • Are there any particular naming conventions you use when naming your studies? If so, why?
  • How do you currently find what you are looking for in our app? (walk us through what you do)
  • What do you do with old studies after you have completed them?

Taking this feedback and creating wireframes

We reached out again to a different group of people who use our tools and showed them lo-fi mockups.

Hint: If you’re worried about showing unfinished work, you can do this easily if you use lo-fidelity techniques. Using low-fi makes it clear that it isn’t a final design. You don’t want feedback about design elements at this stage — you want feedback around concepts and comprehension.

Gathering initial reactions from other staff

We printed out our lo-fi mockups and stuck them up on a wall in our office so everyone could see how the project was going. We also took this opportunity to speak with colleagues and talk through the designs and gather initial thoughts.

Made our mockups minimally interactive

We uploaded our screens into Atomic and used the tool to create click throughs. We Skyped our customers, screen shared our Atomic prototype and asked our research participants a series of questions while they played with a prototype. We chose this type of method because I had specific concerns around how we were filtering, and I wanted to validate the interaction of how it might work.

Some of the questions we asked at this point

- How would you go about finding a specific study?

- How would you go about moving two studies into a new folder?

- What would you expect to happen after you move your studies to the folder?

researching-study-organizer.jpg Our user researchers spoke to staff as well as people who use our tools

Some of the things we discovered

- While our proposed folder structure was a welcome change, our users didn’t want it to be too prescriptive

- People have a strong mental model of how folder structures work, and in many cases, it’s best to follow common patterns

- While having a clear folder structure is useful, displaying folders when searching and filtering can easily become confusing, and make important research difficult to access

- Not being able to test detailed interactions can tell you a lot about the kinds of interactions that your users might expect from your design.

More designing, iterating and building

After solving a few problems that were raised during testing, we were able to refine a few features in development. Now that we had a fully working site and not a prototype, it was easier to get a better idea of how the finer interactions felt (not quite right to be honest). After more internal testing we were able to refine again.

In short, we collapsed all five tools in The Optimal Workshop Suite into one interface so that you can organize and arrange them to suit YOUR own work flow. All your studies are in one place and you can use the filters on the left hand side to help narrow down what you’re after. We didn't want to be prescriptive. Instead, you can use filters or the search function to find your studies, or if you like you can jump in and organize everything into nicely labeled folders.

Our new study organizer user interfaceThis is what our new Studies page looks like

Our new study organizer user interface in actionYou can easily click and drag studies into folders

This feature is currently available for you to try out on the 'Bleeding Edge' tab under 'Team Settings'. We'll be rolling out it out to everyone shortly, so stay tuned! In the meantime, we’re always listening to and learning from everyone who uses our tools, so if you have any ideas for how to make this feature even more awesome then get in touch!


Published on Feb 13, 2017
Kelly Kellective
  • Kelly Kellective
  • Kelly is part designer, part developer on the Discovery team at Optimal Workshop. In her spare time, she loves creating things like that portable rave machine in the form of a spaceship she made once.

Blogs you might also enjoy