Party plan ordering system
User research and testing helped to build a usable, time saving product

The client

Chocolate Craft are an artisan chocolate company who manufacture chocolates and run chocolate making themed events. They had recently started a party plan arm of the business.

 

Project scope

The initial brief gave me enough information from the client about what they were after. The main objective from the admin side was to reduce the reliance on paper work to get orders moving so agents didn't have to constantly return to head office or post paperwork in but could, instead, supply paperwork when was convenient to them. Agents were based all over the country so continually heading down to rural hampshire or posting off order forms was slow and cumbersome.

 

What I did

I was able to quicky ascertain despite that what they had originally envisaged wouldn't really work for the users. I was able to interview some of the agents directly which allowed me to work out how this system would fit with the way they worked, what the problems were and how they could be solved. I also found that the initial idea from the client didn't really provide the information that they themselves wanted at a glance so researched their needs further so we could marry up the two.

It turned out to be quite simple functionally, but quite complex technically to build. Keeping the user experience simple and functional required a lot of work behind the scenes to bring together relevant data and address user needs.

Through frequent visits to the client to meet the admin staff and agents I was able to test on an ongoing basis and make sure that the solution I was designing worked. There were a couple of times where I had to step back and rethink some of the processes, especially when dealing with the complexitiy of an agent running a party with several end customers and having to split shipping between themselves and some of the customers. The initial process of placing an order and then working the delivery didn't suit the users so the process was turned around so that all customers were added first and then orders could be arranged later on and that made it more manageble for them. Working an interaction at a time enabled me to iterate fairly rapildy and maintain focus.

I also found that working out what discounts and rewards were available, which sounded an easy process, was pretty cumbersome as a manual task so worked to automate it, which made the job much easier for the agents (even though the maths nearly broke me).

 

Further iteration

The next stage was to build in payments so that a whole party could be reconciled on the fly but sadly, the party plan part of the business didn't take off so that part of the project was shelved. It was a fun project though, and I learnt a lot about party plan businesses, and users attitudes to filling in forms.