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Exchange • Spring 2013 > Thought Leadership > The Importance of Keeping It Simple

The Importance of Keeping It Simple

By David Bard, User Experience Manager

Justin Farmer

In his recent column for BBC Sport, Formula 1 racecar driver Lewis Hamilton discusses a philosophy, which can be applied to not only to racing, but also to the world of software, as well as to life in generalkeep things simple. “One of the key ways I like to approach my life is to keep things as simple as possible because when it's not simple, it can be stressful, and when you're stressed you're not working at your best,” Hamilton explains. "…One good example would be the steering wheel in my Mercedes Formula 1 car… There were 26 switches and buttons compared to my previous steering wheel, which had about 10. I was thinking when am I ever going to get on top of all this… and what can I do without?”

Hamilton sheds light on one of the most common user experience challenges; to reduce the complexity of a physical or software user interfacein his case, the F-1 steering wheelto make the experience simpler and more efficient. In working on the redesign for its flagship product, 3E, Elite’s Product and User Experience teams grappled with similar challenges.

3E is known as one of the most robust platforms on the market, thanks in equal measure to the stellar product, sales and engineering teams. Generally, clients choose 3E for the abundance of functions it provides and how well it addresses every scenario within the lifecycle of a firm. Though it remains the market leader in legal and business management solutions, Elite 3E had the same challenge with its user interface that Hamilton described having with his steering wheel—it was complex and unintuitive. In discussing potential improvements to 3E, clients requested a simplified user interface that was not only relevant, but also easy to use.

To tackle this request, over the last year, Elite placed a greater emphasis on user experience. Along with this new focus came a culture shift in the organization, from a functionally focused product development mindset to one that today is more holistically user-centricequally focused on the experience of its products.

A key component of this new strategy is partnering with clients to collaborate on product enhancements. To this end, during our beta-testing program for 3E 2.7, Thomson Reuters Elite worked closely with selected clients to flesh out critical changes to the user interface. The collaboration ultimately resulted in a user interface that reduced client frustration, because it allowed users to focus on performing tasks faster and easier.

One example of this was in the redesign of 3E Time Capture where we listened to how clients’ wished they could manage their time. The redesign proved to be one of the biggest, most well received improvements in 2.7. A second example was to reduce the distraction of displaying too many search criteria options in the advanced search process for a matter. Before 3E 2.6 displayed 10–15 different potential criteria, though clients only used 3–4 at a time. The display of all these options made the screen look far more complex than necessary. By simply reducing the number of initial criteria options displayed, clients commented that the screen appeared easier to use and with less clutter. A third change to the user interface came directly from clients’ comments. Many wanted the ability to access any area within 3E from where they were currently working within the system. Recognizing that this was a relatively easy fix, we placed this feature which previously clients used from their dashboard in the upper navigation bar ubiquitously throughout the system. When we presented this solution to clients, they literally cheered. Sometimes, the simplest solutions can have the greatest impact.

With the recently celebrated launch of 3E 2.7 and the upcoming beta launch of Elite Workspace, these enhancements to Elite products are greatly increasing user satisfaction and making it easier to demonstrate the benefits of our product innovations. In addition to delivering an enhanced user experience in 3E 2.7, we have also successfully shifted our corporate culture. In keeping things simple, Thomson Reuters Elite has been able to meet clients’ needs better, smarter and fasterultimately putting them in the driver’s seat.

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