I was brought onto this project to enhance the Buy-To-Let (BTL) experience, which was complex not only from Nationwide's perspective but across the entire property industry. The industry faced challenges in communication, criteria understanding, and a decentralised mortgage application process.
Overcoming legacy systems while innovating and simplifying processes for both clients and lenders was a shared struggle. Recognising untapped opportunities was challenging in an industry accustomed to operating in a traditional manner.
Upon joining the project, I noticed that Nationwide (TMW) already had some wireframes and an MVP concept prepared for the desired journey. After reviewing it, I realised that the wireframes were not based on prior research. Given the absence of solid UX practices, I suggested thorough research to fact-check the design approach, validate known issues, and identify additional pain points/opportunities. This would not only result in a more user-centric design but also better address issues not initially recognised.
After discussions, the team embraced my suggestion, and we started afresh. I led the project end-to-end, adhering to the Double Diamond approach.
Due to several strategic pivots and changes initiated by senior management, the research phase extended to approximately 9 months to align with the new nuances introduced into the project.
Following a comprehensive understanding of the requirements through team meetings, I developed a proposed research schedule, outlining tasks and timelines for each phase. This encompassed conducting user interviews with two user groups, engaging with stakeholders, and holding informal conversations with internal teams to map their entire journey, both for customers and internally.
Collaborating closely with a service designer, we synthesised a total of 19 hours of interviews, collected notable quotes from transcripts, and presented the findings in a PowerPoint to the senior management. This presentation included over 200 UX recommendations and proposed strategic business changes.
Additionally, I played a key role in defining three main personas within one of the user groups, prioritising MVP features in collaboration with the team using a Feature Matrix, various competitive analysis and initiating the ideation process.
In this design process, I didn't create user flows. I proposed a method that was entirely different from anything done previously to address the new pain points and opportunities uncovered during research. Therefore, I aimed to swiftly sketch a Proof of Concept for discussion with the team before entering the full design phase.
Despite the drastic change, my Product Owner wholeheartedly embraced the vision and successfully pitched it to higher-ups, who also adopted the idea. Following approval, I began designing a fusion of low and high-fidelity wireframes on Figma, subsequently prototyping it for presentation to the team. This work continued over several months. However, it remained untested as we continually expanded on the concept, deviating significantly from previous approaches. Consequently, we explored various design routes to address specific design thinking problems.
It is important to note that developing this solution would likely take at least five years to complete. Thus, this initial design phase was highly theoretical and conceptualised. The goal was to present a comprehensive (high-fidelity) journey in Figma, through prototyping, to gain senior management buy-in. Only then would we commence the user testing phase.
During certain discussions faced in the initial design stage, several questions arose regarding the clarity of the information architecture, the optimal way to portray it, and even the comprehension of the copy and industry terms. Consequently, in this phase, I began planning two main user testing phases (interspersed between different sprints) to understand users' Behavioural vs Attitudinal methods of navigating through the content.
The first phase aimed to assess the quick interpretation of the information architecture. The proposed testing methods included Card Sorting, 5/10/20-second tests, iconography, and semantics testing. While phase two wasn't formally drafted, I intended to conduct qualitative surveys, heatmapping, and more generic journey tests. All these activities were planned to be executed on User Zoom and our own user testing panel.
Unfortunately, due to the property market crisis, Nationwide's CEO temporarily suspended the project, reallocating resources to projects with quicker return on investment.
As there was no clarity on when senior management would revisit the project, I have been assigned the task of preparing a video (using Adobe Premiere Pro) to explain the created journeys, principles, and correlate them with the pain points and opportunities revealed by the research. This ensures that my vision can be implemented when they decide to resume the project.
Had I continued, I would have followed the second half of the Double Diamond approach, involving design, testing, iteration, and handover to developers for every feature.
Subsequently, until the end of my project, I was entrusted with a different task—enhancing an existing Nationwide journey. This involved addressing UX/UI inconsistencies, recommending best practices, and analysing it from the Heuristic Design Principles point of view.
When comprehending the impact and disruptive nature of my proposed solution in the BTL market, I was excited to delve deeper into it, especially considering that, according to the Product Owner and some analysts' estimates, it had the potential to bring an additional £200 million year-on-year revenue to Nationwide (TMW).
Unfortunately, the current market conditions did not align with such a lengthy project. Nevertheless, witnessing Nationwide renew my contract three times, extending for over a year, demonstrates the teams' support to my approach and vision along with recognition of the value my work provided.