Design Insights: Making Our New Search

Mariana KoudelaBy Mariana Koudela30th June 20209 Minutes

Over the past few months, the Perlego team have been hard at work on improving our search experience with the creation of the highly-requested filter functionality.

I took some time to sit down with Tiphaine, the designer and product owner who led this project. She joined the team a few months ago, after a stint in New York City, and is now designing the future of Perlego from her home in France.

1st – Can you first talk us through the design process, and what went into it?

Perlego’s product philosophy **always starts with our users. We listened, listened some more and knew that an improved search engine should be our next project.

Tiphaine explained that the first step was understanding what was most valuable to the user. We conducted several user feedback surveys and interviews that all went a long way to helping us figure out specifically how a user searched. For instance, if you search for ‘marketing’ do you intend to find books about marketing or a particular book called ‘marketing’? These questions contribute to narrowing down what kind of search experience would be most useful.

We discovered that 74% of users would browse the platform using the search function, but never via the browse-by-topic functionality. We also found that only 35% of users would look for a specific book title whilst the vast majority want to find the best book to suit their interests. The qualitative data we gathered pointed in the same direction – users were telling us that they needed to find books published in a specific year, or belonging to a niche topic, but that they were struggling to do this.

We then needed to understand from a technical perspective simply what was feasible. How we could use the book’s attributes (author, title, etc.) to improve our search results accuracy and then filter through these results. We wanted to keep the experience simple and intuitive, but as exhaustive as possible for our readers. The backbone of our search experience is powered by Algolia, so we also had to spend a bit of time researching how best to leverage their technology to improve the search results accuracy and develop the best possible filtering experience.

It was then time for Tiphaine’s real challenge – that of creating the wireframes. These are very minimal layouts that help visualise ideas and test the proposed logic. Once the logic had been validated (it needed to be both understandable and intuitive), the focus shifted to the UX/UI (User Experience / User Interface) and putting together a more detailed prototype. Once again we tested, gathered feedback and iterated to improve the experience. Finally, the team started work on the technical details that would become developmental requirements.

When it came to development, we noticed a few areas where the logic needed to be tweaked. As much as the search and filters were working in the design prototype, these features could only be fully tested once developed as they heavily rely on data and a dynamic interface. But when it was finally built, our motto was: “try to break it in as many ways as possible!”. This thorough testing was required to double-check the logic was working in every edge case possible. This is where our QA engineers prove indispensable as they test the quality of our designs and implementations through cross-testing on devices, browsers and environments.

2nd – What are you most proud of when it comes to the new filters?

“Taking this whole project from the start (with poor search results) to ideation, creation, testing, management… to see it live now and see that it’s helping.”

Some designers specialise just in the visual aspects or others just in UX, but Tiphaine explained that she tends to be very hands-on with the whole process and enjoys it all. She couldn’t ever choose between one or the other, whether that’s focusing solely on ideating, UX design or being just a visual designer – they’re all such integral aspects of the process that she feels a need to be involved with all of them. We think that’s part of what makes Perlego so special, that our designers are so holistic and all-encompassing.

3rd – If you could go back in time and change one thing about the process, what would you change and why?

Overall, Tiphaine tells me she is incredibly proud of all the work that her team has put into these filters. Whilst the designers may be responsible for the discovery of a new feature, this couldn’t have come to life without the great multidisciplinary squads that focus on quality and providing value to the users.

However, she does say she would have loved to include users (and not just Perlego members!) as testers during the development phase. Having as many eyes on a project as possible is always useful as they will help spot mistakes, inconsistencies, and areas for improvement.

At the end of the day, the best way to test it is to set it live and hear from our users on the product – which is why your feedback is integral to making Perlego the best it can possibly be.

If you would like to read more about product design then check out this reading list here.

And make sure to let us know what you think of the new search! Because little do you know, but by using Perlego and providing us with feedback you’re also helping us to improve the experience that we offer.

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