I work for a company that specialized in software for car dealerships. With this Dealer Management System, or DMS, dealers can use it to keep track of their inventory, sales, paperwork, and much more. Despite the software offering so much capability, one of the draw backs is that it is not a SaaS based system. It has to be installed locally on a computer, and thus is only useful when the user is inside the dealership. If they are a salesmen out on the lot, they have to rely on printed reports for information such as available inventory, prices, and additional paperwork if they want to know specifics about the vehicles they have on the lot.
So in short, we had to:
To make sure that this was a feature that our dealers actually desired we first posed the question on our user feedback site. We framed it as a “Frazer Mobile App” and did not list any features it would include. This quickly became the most popular request on the site with users saying it was a severe need for their daily operations.
We began conducting research on what our dealers expected a mobile Frazer application to be capable of. Data was gathered through user posts on our feedback site, as well as through email and telephone interviews.
We developed user personas, as well as established the basic features that our mobile app should have. Working with our developers, we found the customer’s desires lined up with our expectations and decided to proceed with the project.
From here we developed workflows and low-fidelity wireframes. With the overall workflow and look approved by developers and stakeholders, we produced some high-fidelity wireframes to highlight an issue we believed may be present. The issue was management wanted us to produce a look and feel that mimicked the software itself. The software, while functional, exhibits an extremely dated look and has some usability issues to match.
Relying on customer feedback and comparative analysis with other applications in the industry, we presented management with a design according to their vision, and one that more closely aligned with what our customers experience in similar apps they could be using daily. Showing this, we were given permission to proceed with a design free of constraints of the current look of the program.
The design went through many iterations. It was done in Axure RP so we could do usability testing on the prototypes. This usability testing allowed us to refine the design and test various looks, navigation methods, and sitemaps within the app. This helped get us to our final design.
Through our user research and usability testing we were able to come up with a final design.
We decided to streamline the entire process and focus on the main point of the application - Inventory. This made the workflow more natural and focused, while reducing the sitemap and requiring less screens for the dealers to navigate to get to the data they need. We also decided to break from the color scheme of the software entirely and merely utilize blacks/greys/whites in the application for a modern yet minimalist look. The application was also renamed from “Frazer Mobile App” to “Frazer Sidekick” as the former name could be misleading in the applications capabilities.
What We Learned
Looks Matter: This was one of the first projects that the company had undertaken that broke away from the initial programs design. It provided a lot of insight into what our customers want, what improves their experience, and gave us a fresh lens to view the program from. With this information, we were able to develop a new layout and interface that is more modern and user friendly than the actual full program, and will provide a good starting point for the future SaaS development.
Research Helps: The user research we conducted really opened the eyes of management, who generally operated under the assumption “we know our customer”. This resulted in them having employees conduct more research before developing projects and we have now started planning for field studies.
Testing is Great: Many projects the developers undertook involved them being told the problem, them solutioning and developing it, the company releasing it, and waiting to hear back from customers if there are any problems. Through our process we were able to show the benefits that designing prototypes and conducting usability testing can have. This saved the programmers from wasting time, the company’s reputation from taking a hit with poor user experience releases, and the customer support from becoming bogged down. This all led to substantial financial savings.