Where to start with a mind- bogglingly complex design task

Here at Lighthouse, we typically work with businesses that have mature products.

Like DrinkAware, and their massively popular DrinkCompare Calculator web tool.

It was one of the most visited areas of their site but suffered from some usability issues until we came onboard to give it a makeover.

50 thousand people completed the calculator the year before we started. Mature products of this type already have loads of users, years of previous work and untold lines of code to pick apart.

What they don’t tend to have is a dedicated UX team, and so often features can mushroom out of control without much thought to usability.

The tricky thing when it comes to tackling this is that once your product goes past a certain point of complexity, the task of redesigning everything becomes too large.

And with largeness comes unpredictability:

  • How do you approach a complex product that’s never been viewed through the UX lens?
  • Where do you want to end up?
  • Where do you even start?

It can all seem too much to take on.

The art of ruthless prioritisation

With an overly complex product redesign, it’s best not to look at the project as one huge thing.

You need to be strategic about it and break the project into components.

Your aim is to find the elements that will make the biggest difference and that can be overhauled within a) the time and b) the budget available.

This means first understanding your key goals for the product and your business.

Consider the following:

  • Do conversions matter the most to your business? Or is revenue your top priority?
  • Do you need to improve your brand perception? For example, do you want to seem friendlier?
  • How much value does each feature provide? In other words, how important is it your business?
  • How much use does it get? But, remember to take into account that certain features get a lot of use but have minimal value. Case in point, the ‘forgotten password’ function.

Having established your goals, you can then audit your product and its features in relation to them, and work out which need redesigning first.

Auditing with traffic lights

We find a traffic light system a handy way to work out which elements to tackle first.

Here’s how it works.

Weight and score each potential feature (with red, amber or green, of course) on a set of criteria. Here are a few ideas:

  • By complexity
  • By value
  • By user demand
  • By usability
  • By design consistency

You can also make up unique criteria that relate to your business goals – e.g. Does it improve conversions?

The result? You can see your high-priority tasks and build them out into agile workflows and design sprints.

Tackle complexity with agility

A fundamentally good product that has become bloated with features, bolted on with every good intention but no specific UX considerations, is out of control.

Breaking things down and adopting an agile approach to your product redesign de-risks the process, allowing you to audit and appraise the areas you can make positive changes to.