Shape a long-term strategy using informed design practices
TackleBox is a suite of online tools created to ease the burden of game operations for many of the employees of Big Fish Games. The tool replaces other SaaS we were previously reliant on by being faster, easier, and more robust than its competitors. It’s also a more cost-effective solution.
Research existing tools, define user needs and expectations, design tools that work within technical limitations, conduct various types of usability tests, and support developers through integration.
The success of the first iteration of TackleBox Messaging increased demand for similar solutions from our team. TB Messaging was originally created to provide a homogenous solution for all BFG games, but there were many other problems that likewise needed to be addressed. Other online tools were therefore created to:
- Ease the burden of game operations for Big Fish Games employees
- Replace other SaaS we were previously reliant on
- Improve upon competitors’ tools by being faster, easier, and more robust
- Automate a number of processes and services
These tools became part of TackleBox, which is the name for our online toolsuite. I am responsible for much of the design work for this product line, but I also manage two other designers who contribute a variety of design deliverables. I create consistency by reviewing their outputs, providing feedback, and owning the overall vision of the product. I also collaborate with VPs, directors, product managers, engineers, researchers, and an assortment of people who work on our games to ensure cohesion across the board.
After successfully launching our first product, the product design and product management teams were tasked with understanding the vision and intended trajectory of the product line and its dependencies.
We wanted the disparate tools to feel cohesive, consistent, and unified. Some of the actions I took to accomplish this included:
- Reviewing & prioritize roadmap
- Consider permissions and access restrictions
- Redesigning global navigation & IA to be scalable and flexible
- Validating design with usability testing (card sorting and tree tests)
Overall, the new design presented a frictionless way to see all available tools and to navigate between them.
Documentation created for TackleBox to date includes:
- Tool Style Guide & Conventions
- Help Guides (wiki)
- User Personas
- UX Debt Catalog
While I didn’t personally create all of the documentation for this project, I had a hand in shaping them. One of the most valuable initiatives I’ve done for TackleBox is collecting and managing what is known as UX Debt. I was originally introduced to the concept when watching a webinar presented by Jack Moffett, which you can read more about here: https://www.uxpin.com/studio/ebooks/eliminate-ux-debt-enterprise-products
You can go to the Design Process page on my website to learn more about cataloging UX debt, Product Talks, and other parts of my process.
Next steps included:
- Evaluate & improve existing tools and services (discriminately)
- Onboard and/or cross-train other designers on team
- Add supplemental features to support existing functionality
Moving beyond the MVP meant providing features that were secondary, or “nice to haves”. Following a content strategy meeting I lead for v1 of TackleBox Messaging, we created a product feature backlog of such feature requests. I’ve provided some full color comps created for one such feature: prioritizing interstitials against one another. After all, only one message can pop up at a time!
The benefit of having multiple eyes on these projects was we could share findings and solutions with one another. It also meant that I had more hands to share work as demand for these projects increased, which allowed me to balance workloads more equitably.
The conventions and style guide helped us create visual parity, yet there were still a number of inconsistencies in functionality. We used multiple research techniques to identify issues and determine users’ preferences and expectations within the tools. Research done for TackleBox to date:
- Focus Groups
- Rapid Prototyping
- Card sorting
- Tree tests
This was another opportunity for me to mentor my teammates. I introduced most of these techniques to the people I work with, and most of them are still used on a frequent basis. One of the best parts about testing internal products is the flexibility and availability of our users being coworkers. We were able to do a number of things that would have been more tricky with an NDA.
I realize I have been describing the toolsuite as TackleBox. Yet it wasn’t until fairly late in the process that it had a formal name. It was awkward when trying to add a label to projects, meetings, and documentation. The project needed to be officially named and branded. This process involved me doing the following:
- Leading a brainstorming exercise to generate name ideas
- Sending out a survey to a wider group to vote on finalists
- Generating a logo with new name
- Designing t-shirts for internal distribution
Since I have a background in visual and graphic design, it seems these sorts of projects inevitably find themselves on my to-do list. That said, I saw the value in perpetuating a sense of pride and ownership in the work we were doing. It also provided us an opportunity to promote our products internally. This has since helped increase product exposure and adoption.
I take part in kick-off meetings for new initiatives to ensure consistency between products, adherence to priorities and roadmap, and an understanding of the complex interactions between tools and services. I provide support and guidance to the PMs and designers working on TackleBox projects as needed.
I’m part of the backlog grooming and prioritization process. In these meetings, I represent the voice of the user and provide an explanation how initiatives will create a better experience for our consumers. This is especially valuable when there is pressure to produce outputs rather than outcomes. A few examples of tools we have designed include:
- Profile Moderation
- Deep Linking
- Promo Codes
- Measurement URLs
- Game Configuration
- Custom Game Data
- A/B Testing for Interstitials
Our line of products continues to provide value to our game studios and other teams. As I mentioned in the previous case study, one of our game teams has reported saving $12k a month by using the Push Notifications tool we have created. I also hope to soon have data showing the impact of addressing outstanding usability debt.
Overall, I am very proud of the work that has been done on our products. It has been extremely rewarding transforming this vision into a cohesive and usable experience. I have learned so many new processes and procedures while working on TackleBox. Foremost, I’ve gained a much better understanding of the product management process. I now better understand the significance of creating a business case for design tasks.
My team and process has also benefited from the formalized documentation of UX debt. More than that, I have grown as a leader by pushing myself to create these new systems and processes to deal with the complexity of these products.