IBM Cloud CatalogImproving the discover & buy experience on the IBM Cloud
Although the Developer Experience had improved our users’ getting started experiences on the IBM Cloud Platform, that experience was still confined to one area and not easily discoverable. The main place for a user to discover offerings on the platform, the catalog, had discovery issues of its own. Items were categorized poorly, and users couldn’t find what they were looking for through searching or filtering alone. The styling was outdated and not suitable for the length and type of content we were presenting. In addition, the internal product teams weren’t familiar with the process of updating their content (and the process itself was time-consuming and difficult), leading to outdated and unhelpful information.
I saw an opportunity to use my knowledge to improve the catalog, and to consolidate the ways a user could discover offerings on the Platform as a whole. While the catalog was not my immediate team’s responsibility, we had been collaborating with the designers responsible for a few months. They also wanted to prioritize improving the UI and UX of the catalog, and so we worked out a way to collaborate and get a dev team together.
As the lead designer, I worked with the product management team and development team to deliver value to our users in a few short months. I helped determine our priorities, communicated and managed expectations with our many stakeholders, oversaw the implementation of UI changes, and continued to develop our future strategy.
To kick off our efforts and get the entire team aligned around our priorities, we held several 1-2 hour working sessions with key team members. In these sessions, we defined our main user groups and listed their individual needs. We mapped those needs to a timeline in order to discuss what we could accomplish in the given timeframe. This helped determine our scope, which we then wrote into concise goals to be communicated to our stakeholders.
Our priorities were to improve discovery of offerings in the catalog, provide more specific guidelines for the internal product teams, and deliver a clear strategy for the future of the catalog to our stakeholders at the end of the quarter.
To address our first goal of improving the discovery of products in the catalog, we decided to narrow down the over 20 categories to a more manageable number. We did some competitive research and together with our stakeholders came up with a list of 14 categories (see top image for comparison of the before & after). Our hypothesis here was that the new categories would improve conversion for poorly categorized products (such as our most common database hidden in the “Data & Analytics” category), and would not negatively impact the conversion for highly promoted products (such as Watson services).
To test our hypotheses, we worked with our dev team to implement an A/B test to direct a portion of our traffic to a version of the catalog with the new categories. After monitoring traffic for several weeks, we determined that our hypothesis was correct (and conversions were even better than we had hoped in some cases), and delivered the experimental categories to 100% of traffic.
Human Interface Guidelines
To address our goal of improving the internal product team experience, I worked to create a catalog section in IBM’s Human Interface Guidelines. This gave teams guidance on things like character count for every section, images & media, and how to better address users. We determined our top 20 services, and I worked with the product managers to update their listing to comply with our guidelines.
Overall, I was blown away by the positive reactions we got from the teams — they truly wanted to create the best listing for their offering but many had no idea how to update or change their content before, and all appreciated the reminder to give their listing a refresh.
Finally, we also gave the catalog a visual refresh, updating the cards to accommodate another line of text, improving the appearance of the search bar, and making the page completely responsive.
Across the board, the conversion funnels were either unaffected or improved from our shortened list of categories, in keeping with our hypothesis. A few products even saw statistically significant improvement. Additionally, several of the product teams who updated their content to comply with our guidelines have seen improved traffic and conversion.
The catalog work is ongoing and we plan to continue monitoring and updating product listings. The team has also started to coordinate efforts with our marketing teams to further consolidate content and improve the user’s discovery experience.