ELENA GAMMEL
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Zyxel project

dealing with complexity of network equipment interfaces

 

The Main Goal

Our customer, Russian branch of Zyxel Communications, decided to refresh the user interface for home network equipment administration and to make it look more modern. This redesign had to preserve existing (and very rich) functionality, but also to enable majority of users to solve simple tasks related to router setup.

 

My role

I was in charge of initial user research and finding the main concepts for interface, based on this research. I worked with the support of the team of analysts, organizing interviews, performing testing of the products and writing the reports.

 

Process

Our work began with mere brief description of the idea to improve and refresh the user interface of Keenetic devices. We had to learn about the networks, routers and internet providers and identify possible ways of improvement, choosing the right tools and approaches for this seemingly complicated task. We tested the devices, interviewed domain experts and power users, googled and dig up Wikipedia articles, to summarize our findings in customer journey map and later in the interface design concept. 

 

 

testing the product

In this project I had an opportunity to work with real product, the hardware that I had to unbox, plug in and start using. Our client gave us five devices from different vendors to compare the user experience: is it easy to turn it on and connect all the wires? Can user understand how to connect to the internet or set up wi-fi? How easy is it to discover the user interface, log in and change device settings? I recorded the whole process and my observations, which became the part of the following user journeys.

 

documenting findings

Creating user journeys for such a complicated interface is a big work, so I worked together with our analyst to map the user experience from turning on the device, to user interface and interactions with internet provider and vendor customer support.

As a result we had a wider picture of possible user interactions, pain points and barriers, that helped us to determine the better structure of the interface to make the information architecture and create a concept of the main parts of our interface. 

Instruments: MS Visio, Balsamiq

 
 

The Challenge

The most challenging thing of this project was to deal the complexity of the area of knowledge. We had to become familiar with it in very short time to propose a concept of interface, that would work both for power users and non-professionals.

 

Solution

We took the systematic approach to make sure we didn't miss anything and understand the problem. We conducted lots of interviews with domain experts - engineers in our client's office and power users, performed our own testing of devices with different network configurations and structured the collected knowledge in information architecture. 

Finally, we came with an idea of modal interface, that presents only the common and most needed functions in a way, easy to walk through, with the rest of functionality being reached in Advanced mode.

 

Results

We've provided some valuable insights and the interface concept was fully approved by our client. We successfully completed the research stage of UX design process and the team began working on prototypes of the UI. 

In this project I've learned that there are no strict rules when it comes to the user experience. Common heuristics can be violated, when your audience can handle this complexity and treat it as something natural and expected.

The interfacebased on our concept was successfully launched in 2017.

See Zyxel Keenetic Interface screenshots