Research, concept creation and concept testing for two life insurance web applications.

A financial services client tasked my team and I with improving the design and functionality of two life insurance web applications critical to their business.

Previously, our design agency created a digital style guide for the client’s suite of web applications. The client wanted the design updates to be informed by user research and customer insight to help drive usage and adoption of the applications within the organization. Some of the client’s business goals included:

  • Create intuitive interface for the complex situations
  • Manage experience for basic vs. advanced users
  • Ease of access to information and reduce confusion
  • Deliver right content to right people


Research Goals: The client wanted a holistic view of the user journey for core user groups to uncover any unmet needs and wants with the current state of the web applications.

We set out to first get an understanding of the goals of each group based on their role, as well as any possible frustrations or obstacles they encounter when using the applications. Specific research objectives included:

  • Establish baseline system usability score (SUS) to determine KPIs for post design phase testing
  • Observe how the each user groups interact with the current state applications
  • Gain an understanding of user pain points, what works well and priority task flows in the current state of the applications
  • Provide information for prioritization of future redesign work based on actual user input

Tasks for User Groups

Qualitative Interviews: We conducted 16 qualitative phone interviews across both core user groups for each of the life insurance web applications to help us inform the redesign effort. Most interview participants spent a large amount of any given day working in the applications, in some cases more than 50% of the day.

Questions centered on the participant’s priority task flows in the current web apps, what features they rely on the most and which ones create issues or frustration, as well as how the apps fit into their overall workflow. For instance, we discovered that most participants create their own workarounds for producing and sharing the reports the web apps can generate.

At the end of each interview, participants were asked to score the current web applications using a System Usability Scale (SUS) system. This provided us with a baseline SUS score to compare against the SUS score we would obtain from testing the new concepts.

My role for the Qualitative Interviews:

I oversaw the recruitment of interview participants and kicked off the recruiting process by calling, screening and scheduling five of the 16 participants interviewed. This helped me become very familiar with our research objectives and protocol for interviewing, as well as develop a rapport with the participants I recruited. I assisted with moderating the interviews by jumping in and asking additional questions that arose throughout the interview. Afterward, I helped analyze and synthesize the results by pulling out themes and identifying supporting quotes.

Alignment Workshop: We held an alignment workshop onsite with the client stakeholders to review initial interview findings and began sketching ideas for an improved experience of the life insurance web applications. Spending face time with the client helped us prioritize research results based on business requirements directly from the client.


Alignment workshop with client stakeholders

Concept Creation: The information and data we gathered during the interviews and workshop session was used to create two concept designs for each web application aimed at improving the overall ease of use, learnability and flexibility of the applications. We created the concepts in sketch and wireframe form, but adhered to the styles in the client’s digital style guide to ensure a seamless transition for implementation of any improvements and changes.

My role for the Concept Creation:

During this phase, I took the information from the qualitative interviews and alignment workshop to sketch ideas for a redesign of each web app. I tried sketching a redesign of the first web app, which is used during the life insurance application process to prepare applications for underwriting approval, without worrying too much about the design standards in the client’s style guide.


My sketch of the landing page for Life Insurance Cases



My sketch of the Case Detail Page for Life Insurance Cases

My teammate and I combined our sketches to create an animated GIF, which we shared with the client to give them a sense of our initial ideas for one of the concepts prior to moving to high-fidelity wireframes. This helped surface any issues or concerns between the client stakeholders and our team. (Click the GIF to play.)


Concept Testing: We created four clickable prototypes of the high-fidelity wireframe concepts so that we could test the new concepts following the priority workflows for both applications (two prototypes for each). The goal of the concept testing sessions was to show the updated concept designs to the same users previously interviewed to obtain their thoughts and feedback on the redesigned versions of the application. Their feedback helped validate and inform the final design for delivery and implementation to the client.

Each participant was shown two prototypes and asked questions similar to the qualitative interviews, but this time questions were based on the new concepts and how users would anticipate them helping or hindering their workflow. They were also asked to score each concept at the end of the session using a System Usability Score (SUS) system. We conducted all of the tests remotely using GoTo Meeting for audio and screenshare, then recorded each session using QuickTime as well as an audio recorder. Participants were given access to the InVision prototype so that they could click through it themselves.


Concept Finalization: We pared down the concepts to two final concepts, one for each web application. We focused on making final improvements and changes to the concept that tested as the better of the two. Changes were based on everything we had done: user interviews, alignment workshop outputs, concept testing and stakeholder feedback. We delivered to the client a recommendations and summary document with annotations for the final concepts.

My role for the Concept Finalization:

I produced annotations and documentation for all of the screens and UI elements from the new design concepts. Due to the highly interactive nature of the new concepts, I described and called out interactive elements by showing mini flows and displaying how they connected. In addition to final annotations, I also provided a video walkthrough of the clickable prototype with narration.


Annotations: Flagging Individual Requests or Requirements



Annotations: Sticky Action Bar

Based on our redesign, we improved the baseline usability score from 68 (C) to 77 (A-) and the learnability score increase from 75 (B+) to 85 (A+). Overall we saw the SUS score increase from 69 (C) to 79 (A) based on the Sauro and Lewis scale.