EUROCAR, a car rental company based in Tirana, Albania, commissioned me to lead the development of a custom web application in 2004. The company required a more functional solution than the ready-to-use software they were using. The key requested features were:
- Entirely cloud-based application for remote access
- Integration of vehicle inventory with the booking calendar to avoid double or ghost booking
- Vehicle technical and administrative management
- Billing and client information management
- Seamless back-end and public website integration to avoid redundant updates and propagation.
MY ROLE: I led a team of four talented developers and also designed the front-end HTML. The framework of the application was .Net. I was responsible for product ownership, product design, information architecture, UX research, and other duties such as cleaning the coffee machine and driving everyone around.
TIMELINE: The project took three months to develop, including:
- Two weeks for discovery and preparation
- One week for recruitment
- Two weeks for research
- Two weeks for UX design
- Five weeks for coding
- One week for implementation
- Six months of ongoing support and maintenance until the company changed its business direction in 2014.
UX RESEARCH: RESEARCH GOALS: To understand the business goals, project requirements, and constraints. Discover user needs in Albania’s specific settings, evaluate the balance between short and long-term needs and goals, and research the competition.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY: I conducted various research activities, such as shareholders’ interviews, user observations, surveys, card sorting, and OSINT.
RECRUITMENT PROCESS: For usability research, I used the client database, complaint sheets, and client support call logs. User recruitment criteria included booking the service no more than once, frequently using the service, using the call centre or online booking system, age between 25 to 60, and language proficiency in English, Italian, and Albanian.
ANALYSIS: After one week of user interviews, I realized that the management’s consolidation requirement was the right approach, as slow data propagation between the business nodes was causing fundamental problems. The research showed that the clients were not satisfied with other companies’ booking systems due to the lack of features and misalignment between choice and delivery.
OUTPUT: I reported the findings to the shareholders and provided them with design outcomes to evaluate. I developed detailed personas and user paths, offered a pre-design concept of the application, and established the functional “done” criteria.
IMPACT: The research helped the shareholders and the developers’ team understand the client’s navigation processes and how to make their life easier. The management was satisfied as long as their consolidation requirements were met. The developers had a clear roadmap with detailed milestones and functional requirements. The development and implementation were completed in record time with very few resources.
WHAT WENT WELL: The research was used as the basis for development, the methodology facilitated reaching all goals, and stakeholders participated in the research.
CHALLENGES: Recruitment was challenging, as not all clients were willing to participate. Shareholders were initially insistent on specific design elements, making it difficult to focus on the task. Assumptions and biases cost time.
DISPROVED ASSUMPTIONS: Clients prefer talking to a real person for booking instead of navigating an application. Clients are afraid to provide their credit card information on a website. The system is to blame for all hiccups; some of the trouble came from lazy employees. Clients have a clear idea of what kind of car they want before opening the website.