MyACT Responsive Portal & Test Registration

An ongoing 2-year project with regular agile releases, MyACT is ACT.org's responsive e=Commerce portal where ~3m students per year will register for the US and Non-US ACT tests, view scores, and explore careers, colleges, and majors. Task time was shortened, user feedback is excellent, and revenue-per-registrant is expected to increase.

Collage of screenshots and user research tools from the MyACT project.


Problem

ACT's outdated non-responsive 40-minute test registration process was hurting the brand experience, and the crumbling platform limited future progress.


Goals

Redesign and replatform it into a modern, efficient, intuitive, value-adding experience that helps cross-promote other relevant ACT products and improve our brand.


Constraints

  • UX Debt: I started after a vendor design was poorly partially implemented.
  • Tight launch deadline for Non-US registration forced us to manage UI change carefully.
  • 60 years of business rules and edge cases in the "MVP."


My Role

I'm the sole designer, working remotely on:

  • Product Vision
  • UX Design
  • UI & Visual Design in ACT's design system (which I co-manage)
  • Writing all UX copy and email notifications
  • Usability testing
  • Product Managment for a few months

The Team

I worked in an agile process with:

  • 2 product managers
  • 2 product owners
  • 3 business analysts
  • 1 enterprise architect
  • 3 agile scrum teams, each with a scrum master, ~6 developers, and a few testers
  • Various subject matter experts as needed (e.g. Customer Care, Test Accommodations, legacy systems)

Process

First, I documented the current system and started learning the many business rules.

Our Customer Care agents and user surveys informed me of users' frustration with password resets, the length of registration, and not understanding why ACT collects so much data.

Some screenshots of the current system.

Competitive analysis showed that our sub-par system was only somewhat worse than our main competitor's barely-par system. Always nice when the bar is low.

Screenshots of a competitive analysis.

I reviewed ACT's relevant existing personas to get insight on their varying needs and desires.

Screenshot of a couple personas.

An empathy / needs map that our other designer and I created to delineate both the business needs and the users' needs and feelings, which helped us explore ways we could meet them.

An oboarding / empathy / user and business needs map, co-created with our other designer.

I ideated on flows for various use cases such as requesting test accommodations and registering for various tests with different data-gathering needs.

Screenshot of user flows.

I designed interactive prototypes in Axure RP, iterating based on feedback from PMs, tech leads, and subject matter experts.

Thumbnail view of 8 of the new prototypes created in Axure.

I conducted unmoderated usability tests on Validately.com (shown here), which helped me tweak labels for intuitiveness and reduce visual noise.

I assisted our user researcher with moderated usability testing, which confirmed we were on the right track!

Screenshot of usability test done in Validately.com, with a user quote of 'I like the way this is laid out. It's very easy to figure out what you're doing.'

Results

I designed a new Cognito-based user account system for login, verification, and forgot/resets. Other than lots of nitty-gritty UX details, I added aspirational imagery to remind students of their purpose for engaging with ACT.

Screenshot of the old and new versions of user sign in.

I wrote all UI text for MyACT, including tricky user migration from User ID to email login, with 'Forgot User ID' still in the old system. Ugh. Also, non-US testers used the new accounts a year before US testers, so we had to fork traffic appropriately from the public site.

Screenshot of the Forgot User ID tooltip.

Test option selection was spread out awkardly across several pages in the old system. The new intuitive responsive one-page design reveals questions one by one, flexing based on each answer. I usability tested and iterated this design quite a few times and it is working well.

Annoted screenshot of the ACT test selection page.

Course grade entry's 60 questions are the most tedious part of registration. I couldn't remove any questions, so I made entry faster by using bigger buttons and reducing finger/mouse travel by displaying grade entry just below the "Took or Taking" button (Fitts' Law ). Header images were eye candy to improve user perception of the tedious process.

Annoted screenshot of the ACT course entry page.

The 72-question career-interest survey was another tedious process for users, so I made it more fun with animated emoji buttons. I mocked up the animation in Axure RP, and it looks much smoother than this choppy GIF screen recording.

Screenshot of the top of the career-interest survey.

College selection in the old system was a cumbersome multi-step process with 8 different look-ups to find a college or agency, so I redesigned it as a single federated search box with overlaid results. The interactive prototype was made in Axure RP.

Screen recording of the college selection process.

Although most of the work was on the long registration process, it's still an e-Commerce site that sells multiple products and has the usual complexities of terms agreement, taxes, shipping (for some products), and payment.

Screenshot of the checkout page.

After registering, a persistent To-Do-ish status widget appears on the user's dashboard (aka Home) so they can clearly see their test status and easily perform any necessary actions, which should reduce support call volumes.

Screenshot of the ACT test widget on the user's dashboard.

The "extras" (up-sell) page design has been iterated a lot based on usability testing and PM feedback. My plan is to do A-B testing soon after it goes live.

Several different iterations of the Extras page.

I redesigned and rewrote all transactional emails to improve their tone, clarity, and brevity. The mockup also lets our Developers, BAs, and reviewers easily see each email and when it occurs by clicking it in the timeline view to the right of the email.

One of the emails shown alongside the email timeline.

The printer-friendly HTML test admission ticket sorely needed a redesign, so I chunked and rewrote the content for easier reading and faster visual processing for test proctors.

Screenshot of the new and old test admission ticket.

Learnin'

This was a big, long, ongoing project that didn't start well. They didn't have a user/design-centric process or culture, and when developers needed UX guidance, they went to the BA who had been designing mockups. It reinforced my belief in the importance of strong relationships beween designers and developers. It took awhile, but the whole team now happily comes to me for any UI problems or changes needed to my mockups.

Working in ACT's SAFe Agile process across multiple teams definitely improved my skills in Agile, Jira, and product management (which I did for a few months).

My Axure RP prototyping skills improved as I learned how to use its variables and adaptive (responsive) views. Axure doesn't get much pub, but it's a pretty good tool!

Finally, the tight launch deadlines and 'UX backlog' mentality taught me to know when to be patient with UI changes (or lack thereof) and when to push for the most important UX improvements, all while trying to educate the company on how to move user-centric design earlier in the process to improve coding and implementation efficiency, removing the need for so much rework. As John Wooden says, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

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