Helping Event Attendees Build Their Own Schedules

Informa Markets tasked me with designing an interface that would allow their event attendees to build, share, export, and otherwise interact with their schedules. Because over 300 events would need to make use of this solution, it had to be flexible in applying the branding for each event, and had to accommodate a huge variety of event types – from single session virtual conferences with a few hundred attendees to multi-day conferences and expos with 100,000+ attendees. Working closely with the engineering and data teams, I was able to design a highly modular, fully-featured schedule builder that could adapt to any event’s branding, size, and data formatting.

Role

UI/UX Director
Product Design Lead

Skills Applied

UX Research
User Flow Diagramming
Prototyping
UI/UX Design
Product Design

Tools

Miro (User Story + Wireflow)
Adobe XD
Adobe Photoshop

Timeline

June – November 2019

Problem Statement

This project presented a multi-faceted problem for me. I needed to design a usable, attractive, and engaging interface that would allow our event attendees to build, share, and export their schedules. Any solution would have to be incredibly flexible from a design perspective, as it would need to be able to quickly and easily be ‘re-skinned’ to match the branding of a parent event, of which there were over 300. The difficulties of this project were compounded by back-end considerations; events used different 3rd party vendors to store, organize, and serve the information about their conference sessions, which made it difficult to develop a unified solution that would work with these different data streams. I would need to conduct an audit of these data streams in order to determine a baseline of information that I could then use to design with. I’d also need to get buy-in from a majority of event stakeholders to limit their expectations to that baseline, so I wouldn’t have to interrupt my work to design use cases for specific events and unique pieces of information.

SB User Flow
Schedule builder user flow created with Miro and Adobe XD

Project Goals

Conduct a comprehensive audit of 3rd party vendors’ data streams to determine what information is being served, where, and in what format. Use this data to inform the design of features in the interface, and get aligned with engineering on the differences that would need to be accounted for during the development phase of the project.

Conduct an audit of existing schedule builders on Informa Markets websites to determine what information is currently being used, why, what is necessary, and what is extraneous. Determine a functionality baseline and get stakeholder buy-in on an MVP, with the expectation that new features and functionality will be built as needed in the future.

Develop a detailed user flow that maps out the steps a user will need to undertake in order to build, share, and export their schedule. Map out the components and functionality required to make this happen, and develop interactive wireframes to test assumptions and behaviors before going to code.

Using atomic design principles, build out a modular design system that can accommodate any branding elements required for the schedule builder, while incorporating the features and functionality into a cohesive interface design.

Workshop
Schedule Builder workshop

UX Research

Vendor/Development Audit

Working with the engineering team and a marketing liaison, I conducted detailed content audits of the top fifteen 3rd party vendors that were being used by various Informa Markets events. We categorized each vendor by what information they housed, how they organized that information, and what format the information was in when they exported it to our sites. We used this information to determine what features we could reliably produce in a standardized interface that could accommodate every vendor we reviewed.

Site Audits

I conducted audits of nearly three dozen Informa Markets event websites to get a better understanding of how their users interacted with show content and schedules online. There was an unfortunate amount of variance between events, with some simply listing content and affording no interaction, and others allowing entirely too many methods of interaction – leading to confusing and unhelpful experiences for the user. It immediately became clear that the company could benefit from some standardization.

User + Stakeholder Interviews

We conducted a series of user interviews during Informa Markets’ summer events in 2019. Users were given pass discounts to fill out surveys regarding their use of existing schedule builders, and some were offered additional perks if they agreed to have their interaction with schedule builders recorded. I then conducted marketing team workshops for the same events, asking our internal team members to describe the decisions they made in developing their existing schedule builders, how they expected their users to interact with it, and what they thought were the most important features. We uncovered large disconnects between what the users said they wanted, and what the marketing teams thought they wanted. We also were able to show marketing teams how their users were interacting with their schedules.

Market Research

I asked stakeholders to provide me with the websites of their direct competitors and favorite event websites, in order to conduct a review of existing scheduling paradigms in use. I presented my findings to the marketing teams, and used them as an opportunity to discuss what features needed to be considered ‘critical’ to launch, what features would be ‘nice to have’, and what features we wouldn’t pursue at all. We found a huge variance in what other websites were doing, but it served as an excellent discussion point to inform what we wanted to do, and how we could go about getting there.

User + Wire Flow
User + Wire Flows

Starting the Design

User Flows + Wire Flows

Using information gathered from our UX Research, I was able to develop detailed user flows and wire flows that mapped out each screen of the interface, what options would be presented to the user at each point, and the results of each function at every step. We first created the user flows, with interactive options simply listed out, and then translated them into user flows that imagined a low-fidelity interface to accommodate what was needed at each step

Low-Fidelity Prototyping

Using Adobe XD, I was able to translate our wireflows into interactive wireframes, plotting out some of the initial animations that would occur within the interface, and get the developers working on some of the larger structures that would need to be built. This also gave us an opportunity to present to stakeholders and get buy in on proposed functionality and animation.

Style Guide
Schedule Builder atomic style guide + component library in XD

Defining our Design System

With our user flows and wireframes mapped out, I started breaking down each element of the proposed interface into its base elements, developing a library of design atoms I could reconstitute into a larger, more consistent interface. Every element was documented in the design, with each piece of functionality provided to the developers as a combination of elements. This allowed for us to develop a shared language, and rapidly build the first working prototypes of the new schedule builder. On the design side, we were able to set up a ‘master’ schedule builder style guide document, which could be used to ‘skin’ the builder for any event in a matter of hours. Designers would use the master to apply new branding, and provide the generated elements to the developers. This workflow was absolutely vital for us, considering the volume of sites that would need a schedule builder implemented while respecting the parent brand.

The System in Action

With our component library in place, and our sitesmaps and wireframes completed, the next step was to put together a proof of concept for stakeholders. So as not to bias anyone’s reactions towards our proof of concept, we decided to make a version of the site keyed to the main Informa Markets branding, using the components and page layouts we had developed in previous phases of the project. This was very well received, and we were given approval from our stakeholders to proceed with building our first event websites using our new system.

Results and Next Steps

As of this writing, COVID 19 has put a pause on future development of this feature suite within Informa Markets. We are currently working on expanding the number of ‘skinned’ schedule builders and apply them to sites, but until the situation with live events is resolved, most shows are currently on hold or switching to a virtual schedule that doesn’t require an in-depth session scheduling solution. Our initial feedback during targeted, internal user tests has been spectacular, but we won’t know what the results of our efforts will be until we are able to launch ‘live’ versions of the schedule builder on our major event websites.

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