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Increased sales with a new networking feature

Challenge: Design a new feature for Beauhurst which shows users their connection to any person on the platform.

My role: Research, interaction design, visual design.

Result: Increased sales and upsells of the platform and add-on, for new and existing customers.

Reasons I'm proud of this project:

  1. Time was carved out to release version 1, identify areas for improvement, and release a version 2
  2. This new feature gave Sales a better chance to sell the Networks add-on
  3. It also gave Account Management more reasons to upsell existing subscribers on the add-on
  4. It allowed us to take advantage of a massive opportunity for value on our platform
  5. Adding data to so many different places on the platform was a visual design challenge, and I succeeded
  6. My designs were flexible enough to be used as the basis for other features

The Networks add-on

We offer an add-on for the Beauhurst platform called "Networks". Our base platform gives you rich data on tens of thousands of companies in the UK. The Networks add-on gives you rich data on the people at those companies. This includes their jobs, shareholdings, and directorships.

The opportunity

The work we put into the Networks add-on created a massive opportunity to add value. The platform now had a large amount of people, as well as a built-in set of connections between all of them. If Person A works at a company, then they're connected to Person B who also works there.

The opportunity was for us to let the user take advantage of this in-built network of connections. If users could tell us who they knew on the platform, we could tell them who those people were connected to.

This could help our subscribers focus in the right places when they look for companies they can easily get in touch with, and get them the result they want faster.

Our advantage over LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the elephant in the room. When it comes to networking, that's what everyone uses. I realised we had an advantage over LinkedIn, however: Our pre-built network of connections meant that with just a small amount of input from the user, we could show them many more potential connections than LinkedIn could. This was possible thanks to our existing data on key positions, shareholdings, and directorships.

My role

I was the only designer on this feature, and I worked directly with the CEO who is the acting head of product. This meant I needed to design the feature from end to end.

Research

There was not much time for research on this project. I managed to speak to subscribers who rely on their connections to get their work done. I found that they were relying on a lot of different methods to manage their connections, including their Outlook address book and walking down the hall to ask a colleague if they know so-and-so.

My hope was that this new feature would add another source of connections for these users.

Early validation

I pushed for some early validation of the value of the feature. To do this, we took 100 contacts from our CEO's LinkedIn account and fed them into our platform. I found that there were 11,000 people that those 100 contacts could introduce our CEO to. This was a much better result than I expected, and spoke to the potential of the feature.

Platform-wide problem

"Mark names with their connection to the user" seems like a simple problem. In practical terms, you need to display an icon or similar next to a name. In reality the challenge is not that simple.

We show people's names in a lot of places on the platform. Each of those places is formatted differently, offers different amount of visual space around the name, and is implemented with different technologies. For example, we show people's names in emails we send out from the platform. Would we be able to put an icon next to a name in an HTML email?

Platform audit

To understand the scope of the problem, I did an audit of the platform and found all of the places where names are shown. Here's a particularly tricky one that shows a long name, and doesn't leave much space around the name for extra elements:

In your network

Next, I needed to design a way for users to add people around the platform to their network. Luckily, each person on our platform has their own profile. I designed a button for the header on this page. When tapped, this person would be added to the user's network.

I had considered a few different options for the appearance and language of the button:

Branding and information: The icon

I decided to design an icon that could be associated with this feature. It would show on the buttons the user tapped to add people to their network. It would also show next to each person that they were connected to. This was useful for two reasons: It provided something visual they could easily notice. It also branded the feature. Even though these elements are scattered around the platform, I knew the icon would help them understand that they were all connected, because of the icon.

I designed lots of different options for the icon, and talked through it with the rest of the company. I settled on number 16.

Find your profile

We wanted to give some users a way to jump-start their experience with the feature, so I designed the "Find your profile" feature. If the user themselves had a profile on the platform, they could mark that profile as them. Then we'd be able to suggest connections we thought they would know based on their involvement with the companies we have data on.

From me to you

Finally I designed a feature that would show you how you were connected to a person if you visited their profile. I considered a few different ways to show potentially confusing/busy information:

First release

We released the feature to subscribers, and got good initial feedback. There were some improvements we knew we wanted to make, and had carved time out for, and this first release helped us to learn more before I put the design time in.

Upload contacts

The first improvement we made after the initial release was to make the feature onboarding experience even better, especially for people who did not have a profile on the platform already.

I designed a feature that would let the user upload their contacts in a CSV file, after which our platform would try to match those contacts to people on the platform:

This also helped people who have a lot of contacts, and do not want to manually mark each of them as "known" on the platform.

The Networks graph

Next, we added data to a Networks graph we show on the platform, so that the user can see at a glance if they're connected to any of the people in the graph. Here are a few options I designed for how that data could be shown:

Commercial results

Subscribers are impressed by this feature. It takes an already valuable set of data and makes it that much more useful. The Sales and Account Management teams have been able to sell the platform more easily, and upsell existing subscribers on the Networks add-on, as a result.

Engineering efficiency

We also saw a development benefit. I designed the "Upload your contacts" flow so that it could be used for other features where the user needs to upload data to our platform. The development team has used the code they wrote for this flow to create another feature, "Upload companies", which lets users upload company details and match them against profiles on our platform.

What I would do differently

If I were to repeat this project, I would want to do more research. A few more insights into how people manage their connections, and what problems they need to solve, would mean I could have helped deliver even more value. With such a powerful set of data, it would be a shame not to.

I would also have liked to set up more structure to learn the results of the work. Anecdotal data from the commercial teams is encouraging, but being able to link changes to increases in revenue directly would help prove that features like this are worth the time.

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