Our client is an innovative organisation that creates world-class products and research. With a strong international presence, they were looking to understand how to better support their diverse users and provide a more relevant experience for different countries.
Their strategy has focused on moving fast and scaling their website to establish a digital presence around the world. Although they’ve produced a website that introduces their products well to the US market, it hasn’t been designed to fully consider their users’ contexts and needs across different regions. The site has been translated into a variety of languages and duplicated for almost 100 countries. Since then, some of these local versions have been iterated and adapted by internal teams according to their assumptions.
Trying to scale an experience with so much content for so many different users has resulted in an unwieldy digital presence across the globe. Their international teams are not aligned around a common vision or common goals. Their users are not getting an experience that matches the values of the brand. This undermines the organisation and its goals. Fixing their site is an enormous challenge. It’s also a great opportunity to switch their mindset and approach. They’ve decided to start by focusing on the safety products section, embracing a human-centred and data-informed process.
The Full Story
How do you approach multinational research?
This was the first time that this team led a human-centred redesign of their website. They knew that they needed to incorporate local views from both inside and outside the organisation to make things work. This was a lesson learnt from their previous US-centric approach which proved unsuccessful in other regions.
We began by meeting with stakeholders in different countries to talk about their perceptions and challenges around the website. The team examined the organisation’s business strategy and collaborated with stakeholders to define priorities and narrow down a shortlist of specific products and locations to study.
With these priorities in mind, we designed a research study to learn about their users’ contexts and needs when making decisions about relevant products. We planned a phased approach in high-priority countries. First we approached the UK and Canada, two countries where the brand has a strong positioning. Then we conducted research in India, Malaysia and Japan, where the brand is not as strong. During the interviews, we used a combination of the US and local versions of the site to get different perspectives and assessments of their relevance.
We planned our research sessions taking into account language barriers and cultural differences. With the help of local partners we adapted our approach on a country-by-country basis while still having a common research goal. In the UK, Canada, India and Malaysia we conducted interviews in English. We allowed more time to discuss topics with non-native English speakers in case they needed any support. In Japan, we conducted all sessions in Japanese. Multilingual research requires more than just direct translation so we worked with a local researcher to facilitate interpretation. We collaborated together to review our discussion guide and research goals before facilitating any sessions. This helped us to align as a team and conduct research in the most appropriate way for each context.
How do you keep a remote team engaged, aligned and collaborative?
Our client has multiple locations around the world. The team and stakeholders are based in North America, Europe and Asia so the project was planned to be remote-first. One of our main challenges was the significant time difference. We couldn’t meet and collaborate with everyone at the same time. We intentionally planned for synchronous and asynchronous involvement of the team in our activities to promote participation.
All of our research sessions were remote. We know that observing real people and learning from them first-hand can have a great impact on teams, especially those new to the human-centred design approach. We streamed each interview and made private links available for everyone to watch either in real-time or at a more convenient opportunity later on. This facilitated quick access to raw data.
Using shared interactive online whiteboards was key to enabling asynchronous collaboration during the research and design phases. After each research session, we led structured debriefings with the available team members. We used a board to document the notes taken during the interviews and to map the journeys of participants when using the website. We also used the boards to conduct brainstorming sessions, design explorations and competitor analysis. This allowed everyone in the team to access our observations and add their thoughts and questions at their own pace.
We also created project postcards to keep stakeholders informed. We shared them every week to make sure the team were updated about our activities and progress.
How do you capture and communicate regional differences and commonalities to inform design?
During the research phase we uncovered behaviours and needs around product decision-making in different countries. We visualised these findings in journey maps to make comparisons and identify key differences and similarities between them. We were expecting big differences but were quite surprised to actually see many commonalities. This might be at least partly due to the highly regulated nature of the industries and products we studied.
Also, we asked participants to perform a couple of tasks using our client’s website to identify specific information gaps. Observing people exploring the website was fundamental to assessing its content strengths and weaknesses based on the participants’ key decision-making criteria. Throughout our engagement, we noticed that people from different regions have different levels of comfort and preferences when asked to describe their negative perceptions. Reviewing more than one site and comparing them was really helpful to facilitate those conversations.
We used these findings to define goals, principles and a new structure for the redesign. Then we implemented these changes in prototypes to better support users by providing the right content at the right time. The new design includes two categories of content. One is global content that is relevant for people across countries so it can be provided consistently in each version of the site. The second category refers to local content that aims to support the needs of people in specific regions.
How do you ensure stakeholder buy-in in a large international organisation?
Pushing for a new approach to redesign a website in such a large organisation requires a lot of effort to establish common ground and buy-in. We worked with the team to identify the key internal audiences that we needed to engage with, and the core messages to get across to ensure support for improvements in the future.
As well as our content and design recommendations and artefacts, we wrapped up the engagement by collaborating on specific documents for the team to advocate with other stakeholders. We designed documents with different levels of detail for each of them, from an executive summary to an explanation of the process and findings. Our main goal was to explain the value of a human-centred design process in a way that resonated with the stakeholders. The team will use these documents to support their own journey as they embrace this new approach.