Designing products for multiple users: How we built Qubit Aura's business dashboard

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When I was 14 my parents bought me my first mobile phone. I’d been badgering them for one for years. I was losing hope. All reasonable arguments and tantrums got me nowhere. But eventually, one wonderful birthday, I unwrapped the most adorable little phone in the world. My dad went all out and paid for my contract too. Best birthday ever.


Mobile phones

Every so often I’d get a call from my network trying to sell me some kind of upgrade. As I wasn’t a man called Tim, they couldn’t discuss anything with me. This happened a number of times. It appeared that the upsell process of the network only worked effectively when the main phone user was also in charge of the contract.

Qubit Aura is a consumer facing experience, so we design and build it to cater for a consumer’s needs, but the eCommerce teams are our users too. They’re the people that buy the technology and work with it on their sites.

Understanding impact

Right from the start we had in-depth monitoring of Aura and could see how website visitors were interacting with it, but this was not available in the Qubit platform. The eCommerce teams we work with have to answer questions about all the technology they invest with, and without detailed reporting that is pretty much impossible. So it became a priority to help them understand how their end users were benefitting from Aura.

Aura reporting

Look and feel

Aura has been designed to be as neutral as possible in order to work across our diverse range of clients. The beauty of Aura is that you can use it straight away and don’t need an engineer to configure it. But we always knew that there were some options that needed to be customizable.

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When we were first building Aura, all of our customisation was done internally. Any changes the customer wanted to make would have to be requested. This was far from ideal, and didn’t work for businesses that had fast changing campaign materials, where Aura needed to be updated to match.

Designing the configuration environment was a careful process of balancing a custom experience for each brand against the ability to maintain and develop Aura in a sustainable way.

Right product, right time

Part of a merchandiser’s job is to make sure that new products get promoted to customers. After all, there’s no point bringing out a new range of t-shirts if you hide them in the back corner of the store.

There are a number of different reasons for products being shown in Aura. Often it’s based on previous actions of the user or because an item has been viewed a lot. But a new product doesn’t necessarily have those big views yet, so could end up remaining hidden. Not good for regular shoppers that want to see the latest styles! So we took two approaches to remedy this:

  • We introduced a trending style feed to include products that were being viewed dramatically more frequently.

  • We added a merchandising section to allow brands to promote and badge a selection of products as “Featured”.

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Product design literature often talks about users being number 1. You learn that you should never rely on your opinions alone and to design the most effective products you need to be constantly validating with your end users. That’s definitely true, but it’s important to take a step back and get a better look at the broader impact of a product; understanding how it may indirectly impact a much larger audience.

Whether it’s B2B2C software or a teenager’s mobile phone contract, there are frequently users on the side that have different needs to the core user set. The real challenge we face when designing is to work out how to create the right balance that allows each user to get the most out of a single product.

This post gives an overview of the development of Aura’s business facing interface. Stay tuned for more detailed write ups on each section in the coming weeks!

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