Helping workers make better career decisions
General Assembly UX project
Spartacus was a gladiator who led a slave revolt against the Romans around 71 BCE. He was a man who mobilised masses of people to resist the Roman Empire. A man who struggled against incredible odds to achieve big things.
This project does not set out to overthrow any empires (I'm not an anarchist!), but it does aim to empower people to resist everyday injustices and make better career decisions, so they can be happy in their workplace and achieve their full potential.
A special note to prospective employers and recruiters – I'm a very hard worker, this is a purely academic project!
During the summer of 2016/2017 I undertook a UX course with General Assembly. I had to find an everyday problem to solve; I looked at work-life balance, and thus this case study was born.
The assumed problem: workers have poor work-life balance; people work long hours, sometimes taking work home, impacting home life.
Conducting phone interviews, face-to-face interviews and online surveys I was able to get to the root of the problem and test my assumptions. Is unpaid overtime the key issue here? Should I build something that focuses on that, such as a timekeeping app, or are there other problems that should be explored further?
Some key learnings about what makes people unhappy at work
- 43% of people left their last job because they were bored
- 35% of people left their last job due to personal difficulties with manager or other employees
- 52% of people work more unpaid overtime every week
Open ended questions in the survey delivered responses that really highlighted the complexity of work-life balance issues. Some people gave very impassioned responses, such as the ones below:
The results showed that work-life balance issues are broad and complex.
As anticipated, working long hours and working unpaid overtime was indeed a significant problem in the workplace. However, it is not the most significant problem. Many participants in the survey sighted conflict in the workplace as a problem; 35% left their previous job due to conflict, whilst only 13% left due to working too many hours.
Thus, the Problem Statement needed to be revised from the original "assumed problem".
Nigel, 45, full stack web developer for a law firm
Nigel receives impossibly tight deadlines and unrealistic requests from the partners and marketing department, forcing him to work back late or take work home. This compromises his relationships with his family.
Nigel’s boss has a partner who does not work. He also has a live-in nanny and does not fully empathise with Nigel’s work-life balance problems.
Nigel is competent at his job but is being performance managed. He feels he is being bullied. Nigel is shy and does not deal with conflict well.
By providing a website where workers can review their employers, Nigel will be able to research new jobs and find a place with better work-life balance.
In the meantime he will also find resources
to help him cope with his present job.
Employers will be encouraged to improve workplace relations if more people hold them to account. Workers need references to get a job; why shouldn't exmployers need references too?
A responsive website makes more sense than an app, which would be expensive and get lost in the App Store.
The site would contain blog articles on work-life balance and links to resources and organisations that can help with industrial disputes and conflict. This is what would set it apart from the usual job review / job ad site.
Monetisation was not a requirement for this General Assembly assignment, however I wanted the end result to be something that could be developed for the real world, so this is what I proposed:
The site will not have traditional banner ads, as the average click-through rate of display ads across all formats and placements is 0.06% (Source: Display Benchmarks Tool). Ad blocking grew by 41% globally in 2015. (Source: PageFair). Rather it will have links to law firms, unions and NGOs and Spartacus will receive payments for click throughs / referrals. It will also host blog articles from its partners; often referred to as "native advertising".
LO-FI PAPER PROTOTYPE TESTING
Validating assumptions and honing the details
Sketching out the prototype into a life-size mockup helped solve layout problems, such as what to include above the fold. Insights gained:
- More content above the fold will invites users to scroll down.
- Tunneling was very helpful for users to write reviews in a step by step manner, rather than filling out one long overwhelming form.
AXURE DESKTOP WIREFRAME
Time to transform the rough sketches into a tidier wireframe on Axure. Noting the feedback on the paper prototype more content was moved above the fold – the top of the first review will now be in view to encourage users to explore further down the page.
Testing revealed that moving more content above the fold encouraged users to scroll down as expected.
Testing also revealed the opening phrase “Find your dream job” was misleading and gave the expectation that the site was a job ad search site, so the title was changed to “Search for your dream place to work”. Also “Getting the balance” was found to be too obscure and was changed to “Work-life help”.
AXURE INTERACTIVE MOBILE PROTOTYPE
The next phase of testing would focus on mobile. It was anticipated most users would be mobile users (the survey results showed nearly 70% mobile use).
The filter was converted to a slide out menu, and the main nav also made use of a slide out menu with a hamburger icon.
I wanted to test how well users would use these menus and if the user journeys had a nice flow to them. I gave users two different scenarios and set specific tasks for the users to complete.
IMPLEMENTING USER FEEDBACK
Testing showed making a few minor tweeks would have a big impact on usability. Changes included making the "WRITE A REVIEW" button more prominent. Users also prefered to have an "APPLY FILTER" button, rather then just have the filter automatically update the search results. Other changes were made to streamline the review writing process, such as having one textbox that automtically converted into bullet points, rather than multiple text input fields.
CODING IT UP
Taking the project beyond a monochromatic prototype was not a requirement for the General Assembly UX course, however after the amount of work I had already put into it, I was keen to see Spartacus as a finished product.
Normally the next stage in the UX design process would be to flesh out the wireframes into highly detailed mock-ups in Photoshop or Sketch and hand them to a developer. However I had a clear idea of how the site should look and since it was me doing the coding, I went straight into HTML5/CSS3 starting with a Bootstrap template.
I have coded a few one-page microsites with Bootstrap before, however none were quite as complex as this one; I learnt quite a few new CSS tricks. It was a good opportunity to become familiar with the latest responsive coding techniques, so I can truly call myself a UX Unicorn!
JUST A FEW UX TWEAKS
On some small mobile screen sizes such as iPhone 5 and early Android phones, things got a bit crammed in the header nav, so the LOG IN and JOIN buttons were moved into the dropdown hamburger menu. This was the only significant UX change. Check it out now; see what other companies are like to work for, and let the world know about your own work experiences!