Coming out of the MVP session, our team was able to define an initial user journey that tied together north-star features and their associated epics — those that were deemed to be the most desirable, feasible, and viable to stakeholders. I sketched out a first pass of this flow. The visual made it much easier to communicate this vision to team members and leaders.
Our team grew to include developers as well as a marketing and analytics specialist. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about Adobe Analytics and create my own dashboard. As the build began, we looked to remain client-focused and reduce pain points within the onboarding experience. We strived to test frequently and make design decisions based on client feedback and analytics. The scope of our MVP was limited to the first few steps of our north-star journey: a personalized landing page and a holistic financial planning tool. This let us promote our insurance products to users in a more relevant context. Our specific audience was new and expecting parents. Research indicated that retail insurance purchases were often prompted by a life event. New parents were a large opportunity space for us to explore. The design would provide education in a pressure-free environment with centralized tools. Users were often unaware of their specific needs and didn't know where to start when thinking about their changing finances — this led to insecurities when meeting with advisors. We wanted to fill those gaps and create a seamless hand-off to an advisor.
I conducted in-person interviews with new or expecting parents. These sessions included empathy and ideation exercises as well as some co-creation. The design was refined week-after-week with feedback from our stakeholders in Sprint Reviews and in-person design sessions. We kept the wireframes on the walls so that others could add sticky-notes, scribble on them, or comment in passing. I would collect these insights, update the designs, and a new iteration would be tested with users online using the UserTesting platform.
While we solved for client challenges, I encountered some of my own. Leading design in an agile room was new to me. This project pushed me to grow as a designer and professional, leading strategic conversations, compromising with legal and marketing teams, and reducing complexity while preserving our core features to meet tight development deadlines. We did an incredibly short build — about ten weeks. I would regularly test our assumptions and gather data to support our design decisions. This helped me push for the best user experience when having conversations with competing business interests or battling timelines.
We launched and our marketing campaigns started to drive traffic towards the site. I watched the analytics closely and made some key observations. Earlier in the design process, we had made a compromise with our business partners to place multiple CTAs at the top of the landing page — we saw this was causing traffic to split and go all over the place. The majority of users weren't even hitting our planning tool. This became one of the major problems that we had to solve in our follow-up release.
I re-tested the site with users and noted some major shortcomings. Failing fast was part of the process and our team had a second release scheduled to improve the design. The yellow tiles on the landing page were replaced with a single, actionable call to action. Illustrations were replaced with images of real, diverse humans. We also clarified what the Plan Builder was — users had no idea what to expect before clicking and needed their expectations to be set. These changes greatly improved site-wide performance. The majority of traffic now went towards the planning tool. Aesthetic upgrades also improved the users' general sentiment.
Our planning tool went through a number of iterations. The goal was always to create a holistic planning tool that enabled new parents to build a basic financial plan (and more easily provide advisors with leads). Early designs took a module-like approach, with each section broken down into horizontal steps. We looked to incorporate gamification to improve engagement and click-through. For our MVP release, we even looked at having just a list of prioritized goals. Eventually, we settled on a design that consisted of four sections, each containing a relevant article and calculator. Together they formed a financial plan.
During our first release, we ran behind schedule and the Plan Builder de-scoped. For our second release, we were able to re-define how Sun Life approached planning tools. I conducted user interviews, authored a competitive analysis, and looked at our existing capabilities. I noticed Ella, our digital financial coach, was under-utilized. I had the idea to explore a conversational UI where she led the client through the plan. When put in front of users, her presence greatly improved engagement. Ella brought a human element to the interaction and allowed us to use friendlier language. It performed eons better.
We improved the flow so that users now planned step-by-step instead of exploring on their own. Users were also able to skip sections. The content was improved to include common questions and remove unnecessary articles. We completely dropped the health-care provider section. This was intended to be holistic, but confused users who saw it as irrelevant among the other financial topics. In addition, we completely overhauled the design. We focused on a conversational interaction led by Ella — something that had never been tried before. We also modernized many of our legacy design system components.
Building, testing, and releasing the Starting a Family micro-site was an amazing experience. From a marathon of development, working overtime to stay ahead of our developers, to learning from failure and re-designing many parts of our experience, the process was a delight. In the end, we were able to re-imagine a key journey for clients, move the organization towards more agile ways of working, and push the boundaries of Sun Life design. I was not only able to play a role in the modernization of our design system but also pioneer new conversational styles of interaction with Ella, our virtual assistant.Back to Projects