Research-driven UX Design
January 2017–March 2018
Principal UX Designer
What is LawPay?
An AffiniPay product, LawPay is a delightfully simple digital payments solution tailored specifically for the needs of law firms and trusted by 50,000 attorneys.
LawPay merchants are typically solo attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, bookkeepers, law clerks, legal secretaries, and office managers for whom managing payments can burn valuable customer time.
The LawPay app was rebranded as CPA Charge and AffiniPay for public accountants, association treasurers, association executives, etc. Together, all three apps moved payments through the AffiniPay payment gateway.
The LawPay user interface was dated, disorganized, and suffered from many usability and navigation issues. Tasked with improving the product’s design and working with the team to research what should be built next to meet customer needs and foster growth. The CTO, CEO, and Architect had strong opinions on what features to add but needed a lot of help validating the priority and design of product features.
We kicked off with defining outcomes, researching, forming hypotheses, then moved onto designing, prototyping, testing, and learning. Collaborative discussions were key in creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that we could learn from.
I was tasked with improving the product’s design and conducting research as to what might be built next to meet customer needs and foster growth.
Personas are crucial in keeping the end-user at the forefront of our decision-making. Instead of spending months on research, we efficiently created proto-personas in a few hours. Initially, AffiniPay had no documented customer personas, only fragmented research and limited marketing/buyer insights.
User Interface Design Refresh
Before the user interface design was refreshed.
After the user interface design was refreshed.
Inclusive Visual Design
Updates to the user interface included an energetic color palette, inspired and extended from core brand colors.
The color palette was designed to be both visually appealing and with accessibility in mind. Color contrast helps everyone see the differences between functional components, words, and images. Color contrast also helps partially or completely color-blind users see differences.
Consistency & clarity in a design system reduces the time customers invest in learning how to use a product.
"LawPay is very easy to use, clean and modern. I appreciate it, the legal industry isn’t known for that."
— Solo Attorney and LawPay Merchant
Personas are important and serve as an effort to keep the end-user front and center in our thinking when making assumptions. Rather than spending months doing research, we spent a few hours creating proto-personas.
When this process began, AffiniPay had zero customer persona documented, only scattered research and limited marketing/buyer information.
“We had very limited data. Looking back, Russ’s impact was huge. I have no idea what we would’ve done without his user research.”
— AffiniPay Senior Software Engineer
User Interviews & Resulting Personas
We refined proto-personas by periodically validating designs with selected participants, and learning from each iteration. Our customer development research, focused on users' needs, goals, and expectations, and directly informed our product design decisions during engineering sprints. This research included interviews with a diverse group of legal professionals: 10 solo attorneys, five from small law practices, and two from medium-sized law firms. I strongly believe that this approach ensured our design deliverables were grounded in real user insights.
Insights from User Interviews
A lot of data was generated by usability interviews and various forms of research. After each interview, we created brief reports to capture findings and inform proto-persona development. From seventeen usability interviews, we organized feedback into themes, ranking them by severity to highlight the most pressing issues. As research patterns emerged, we documented these in a usability report for stakeholder review. This structured approach was crucial for distilling insights and guiding our design process.
Supporting User Needs & Goals
Research showed that the majority of LawPay merchant needs would be best met with the following:
• Enhanced Quick Bill feature
• Recurring Payments
• Improvements to merchant statements
Enhanced Quick Bill
Ultimately, enhanced Quick Bill now provides users with the ability to easily send, view, adjust, customize, resend, and track the status of payment requests.
Merchants may not always accept payment through the AffiniPay payment gateway. Enhanced Quick Bill affords merchants the ability to mark payment requests as paid/unpaid by other payment methods.
Merchants can use Enhanced Quick Bill to monitor payments as they come in, stay on top of unpaid Quick Bills, and get a better grasp of their cash flow.
“Quick Bill is professional and fast. Gives us a great ‘Johnny on the spot’ first impression with new clients.”
— Owner Medium-sized Law Practice
In environments where sales drive the organization, such as AffiniPay, marketing often dominates. Initially, there was hesitation in allocating sufficient resources to expand the Product Leadership, onboard a comprehensive Product Team, and strengthen the User Experience Design headcount.
Leadership decided to transition individuals with Product Marketing experience into Product Management roles. This marketing-centric approach necessitated the Principal User Experience Designer to play a pivotal role in advocating for design thinking and research methodologies. It was imperative to educate the teams about the significance of iterative design, user-centered product design, and strategic product roadmaps, highlighting the integration of cross-functional collaboration and strategic thinking.
Our team successfully rejuvenated the UI of several branded payment products, integrating research, user interviews, and usability testing into our process. This approach not only aligned with project management best practices but also ensured that our deliverables met the highest quality standards.
We documented a comprehensive Design Language System, which proved instrumental in facilitating efficient and consistent collaboration between engineering, marketing, and design teams. This system was a testament to our commitment to strategic thinking, innovative problem-solving, and seamless cross-functional collaboration.
Additionally, we designed, validated, and launched new product features grounded in authentic research. This process demonstrated our strong research and analysis skills, as well as our capacity for innovative thinking in solving complex design and product challenges.
What could have been done differently?
The leadership team's initial reluctance to fully embrace design thinking and user experience methodologies presented a significant challenge. While efforts to shift the company culture and internal processes to incorporate comprehensive product methodologies yielded mixed results, support from my manager was a key factor in driving gradual change. Enhanced communication skills, both verbal and written, would have further facilitated this cultural shift, particularly in articulating the value of user-centered design to stakeholders and across teams.
In retrospect, a more robust strategy embracing cross-functional collaboration and a clearer vision for integrating user experience design practices into the company's fabric from the outset could have accelerated the cultural transformation.