User-Centered Design Insights: Integrating Lead Accelerator into our Core Campaign Manager Platform

February 23, 2016

The success of our members and customers is one of the most important priorities for our employees. This enables myself and my User Experience Design (UED) peers to bring design strategy and member value into every conversation. Unlike other product teams who feel the pressure to fight for their designs, we collaborate and find common ground, knowing our partners also embrace the cultural value: Our Members Come First.

We recently shifted the product roadmap of two major products in our Marketing Solutions offerings. I’m deeply proud of the collaboration and intelligent risks the cross-functional team took together and I’m excited to share some details on how we came to our decision to integrate LinkedIn Lead Accelerator into Campaign Manager.

Evolution and Iteration
To help our customers reach audiences, acquire customers and measure success, we are ever-evolving our Marketing Solutions products, adding capabilities and making it easier for customers to take advantage of them. We launched Lead Accelerator in the Spring 2015 and completed a major redesign of our core Campaign Manager platform which supports Sponsored Updates, Sponsored InMail, Text Ads and other LinkedIn ad products in the Summer of 2015 (figure below).

  • Figure 1

Design evolution: Campaign Manager 2014 versus 2015

Listening to Our Customers
In the months that followed the launch of Lead Accelerator, we conducted customer interviews to observe and listen to our customers. These are usually led by our Product Marketing team, but anyone on the team can listen in. We heard telling signs of user experience (UX) concerns and it became clear that we needed to take a closer look. In anticipation of the 2016 planning process, the product design team began reviewing the challenges and opportunities collected over the year and framed a research study.

In December 2015, our team conducted a user study of Lead Accelerator customers, led by Carolyn Chang, which provided insight into several areas where we could improve the Lead Accelerator from a usability perspective, but chief among them was the opportunity to unify the experience across products.

During the interviews, we learned that many customers also used our Campaign Manager to manage their other LinkedIn marketing programs. While they embraced Lead Accelerator’s retargeting, sequential messaging, and other capabilities, they found it challenging to run campaigns through two separate platforms, which created hurdles to getting the most out of Lead Accelerator.

Secret to Success: Sharing the Designer’s Journey
It's critical to include the whole team in the process of a research study that is aimed at informing product strategy and roadmap priorities. We find that it's critical for team members in a range of functional roles to participate so that they can better empathize with our customers. Only by listening and observing can they put themselves in the users’ shoes. We invited Product Management, Engineering, Marketing and Sales to attend during the interview sessions via live video streaming. At the end of each interview, we hosted a debrief session to share and discuss what we learned. As more interviews were conducted, additional themes emerged which helped inform the design direction. After all the interviews, the whole team was invited into a working session to review and discuss the themes. We were able to coordinate an in-person visit by our engineers in remote offices so they could participate in this critical part of the process.

By creating an inclusive research process rather than delivering a report of recommended changes, the design team was able to leverage the shared understanding of our partners and quickly align on a plan.

  • Figure 2

Researcher, Carolyn Chang with Lead Accelerator R&D team

Managing Constraints
The next step was to expand on the key themes that emerged. We wanted to help inform the direction as the 2016 product roadmap was being prioritized, so we didn’t have the luxury of a lot of time for deep design explorations. We also needed to continue to juggle product design support for near-term engineering sprints. With these constraints in mind, the design team planned a one-week design sprint to explore and validate our hypotheses. 

  • Figure 3

Designers Lisa Chen, Diane Cronenwett, and Jason Wilkens sketching out design concepts

One Week Design Sprint
The design sprint was led by the design team, which included Lisa Chen, Diane Cronenwett, and Jason Wilkens. The format was three designers, one conference room, 381 sticky-notes, a dozen product partners, meals and snacks. We followed a highly condensed user-centered design process:

  • Designers were 100% dedicated to the sprint. No other meetings or interruptions happened during the week (and yes, they worked long into the night for the entire week).
  • Pre-Sprint: The designers selected a group of customers who had participated in the December user study. Our research team scheduled the participant interviews via video conference for the week of the design sprint. The design team also reviewed the competitive landscape and all the prior research for both Lead Accelerator and Campaign Manager. 
  • Day 1: Define, Frame & Sketch - Crafted a mission statement and defined success metrics; mapped the UED product Design Principles to the themes we heard; reviewed our customer audience segmentation; and sketched wireframes into user flows.
  • Day 2: Wireframes & Prototyping - Created a test plan, continued wireframing, and created a clickable prototype using Invision.
  • Day 3: Validate - Customer interviews via video conference (recorded). Each participant was asked to complete a task while stepping through a clickable prototype and describe their impressions (think aloud method).
  • Day 4: Refinement - Synthesized what we heard from our customers and our partners, iterating the designs again.
  • Day 5: Refinement continued - Created a storytelling presentation to share the customer stories and design strategy with broader product partners.
  • Post Sprint: Shared the story of our users and what we learned to get buy in from our cross-functional partners and product team.

Retrospective: Core sprint team met to discuss the design sprint process, what worked, what didn’t and what we’d do differently. We are sharing these best practices with other product teams who are interested in using design sprints in their work.

  • Jason Wilkens in the Design Sprint Room

Jason Wilkens in the Design Sprint Room

In the spirit of collaboration and transparency, the design team held a daily stand up meeting to share the work that was done with the cross-functional team, which included 15 people including product management, product marketing, and customer support. We leveraged all of our product partners’ expertise by sharing and critiquing our current concepts and sketches. We had deep discussions around what was working or not, as well as observations from the participant interviews. After discussing, the design team iterated a little more, continuously refining and improving.

The conceptual designs we shared with the research participants included the best features of Lead Accelerator integrated into Campaign Manager. The research participants loved the concepts we shared and offered valuable feedback on how to iterate and improve upon them.

What’s Next?
Armed with a solid understanding of our customer’s needs, and given our members first approach, we are aligning our priorities and collaborating with our business partners to create a plan that integrates key Lead Accelerator features into our core Campaign Manager platform. 

It's an exciting time for the Marketing Solutions team! It’s invigorating to work on such a technically challenging project, but knowing we are improving our customer and member experiences makes it worthwhile. We look forward to continuing to work with our customers to help evolve and improve our Marketing Solutions products.