Context and background
EUROCAR was an Albanian car rental company based in Tirana. In 2004 they commissioned me to lead the development of a web application that had more functionality than the ready-to-use software they were using at the time.
The key requested features were:
- Entirely cloud-based, so it could be used from anywhere.
- Integration of:
- vehicle inventory with the booking calendar to avoid double or ghost booking.
- vehicle technical and administrative management.
- billing and client info.
- the back-end and the public website with no need for redundant updates and propagation.
I lead a small team of 4 talented developers and also personally designed the front-end HTML. The framework of the application was .Net.
Waring a few hats, all of us had to double in duties, so I was the product owner, product designer, information architect, UX researcher and other things that the developers won’t do, like cleaning the coffee machine and driving everybody around.
The project took a total of 3 months to develop.
- Discovery and preparation: 2 weeks
- Recruitment: 1 week
- Research: 2 weeks
- UX design: 2 weeks
- Coding: 5 weeks
- Implementation: 1 week
…and 6 months of monitoring, bug fixing and UI tweaking. I had an ongoing contract of support and maintenance till 2014, at which time the application’s life circle was ended when the company changed its business direction.
- Understanding the business goals.
- What were the requirements and the constraints of the project?
- Discover the needs and specificity of the users in particular Albania’s settings.
- Competition research.
- Evaluate the balance between short and long term needs and goals.
- Shareholders interviews.
- User observation.
- Card sorting.
For the usability research, I used the already extensive client database of the company, their complaint sheets and client support call logs.
USEr recruitment criteria were:
- Have booked not more than once.
- Have used the service frequently.
- Have used the call centre exclusively to book the car.
- Have used the online booking system exclusively.
- Age: 25–60
- Geography: Italy, Albania and Kosovo.
- Languages: English, Italian and Albanian.
After 1 week of user interviews, it was clear to me that the consolidation requirement by the management was the right approach, as the main problems were apparent in the slow data propagation between the business nodes.
The research showed also that the clients were not happy even with the booking systems of other companies, because of the lack of features and misalignment between choice and delivery.
- I reported the findings to the shareholders, giving them small hints of design outcomes that they could evaluate before making a decision.
- I built detailed personas and user paths.
- Offered a predesign concept of the application.
- Established the functional “done” criteria.
- This research helped the shareholders and the developers’ team understand how the clients wanted to navigate the processes, and how we could make their life easier.
- The management was happy to be quiet as long as their requirements of consolidation were implemented to the letter.
- The developers had a clear roadmap, detailed with milestones and precise functional requirements.
- The development and implementation were done in record times with very few resources.
What went well:
- The research was used as the basis of development.
- The methodology facilitated reaching all goals.
- Stakeholders participated in the research.
- Recruitment was challenging, as not all clients are as friendly as one may think.
- Shareholders were at the beginning very insistent in particular design elements, which made it difficult to focus on the task.
- Assumptions and biases cost time and redoes.
Clients would prefer to talk to a real person in booking, instead of navigating an application.
Clients are afraid to hand out their credit card information on a website.
The system is to blame for all hick-ups; some of the trouble came from lazy employees.
Clients have a clear idea of what kind of car they want before opening the website.