Aureka's core business is user referral to online poker rooms. They have the best online poker content platforms in Spanish –a school and a magazine/community– which required constant feature creation, update and tweaking.
My role as a UX designer and front-end developer touched many different areas where I had to coordinate with stakeholders and developers:
A product can change a lot in 5 years. Below is a highlight of the improvements added to EducaPoker.
But we're not talking only about trendy trends
The stakeholders were worried about the look and feel of the site, which was becoming obsolete. After analysing the site, we came to a conclusion that we needed a cleanup and to optimize for readability since the main feature of the the site were articles and forum discussions.
Some of the changes applied include:
More than just a media query
In those years, western mobile browsing was starting to rise. By then our analytics didn't show a big mobile use from our users, why? Maybe the site was unusable in a mobile device? Maybe our product wasn't suitable for such devices?
After research we concluded that our users did want to read our articles and watch our videos on the go. But we didn't just write a media query to make the layout single column at some resolutions. We optimized for mobile:
After the update set down, our users gave very positive feedback and our analytics showed a steady increase in mobile daily users. By the end of 2014, +50% of the visits came from mobile devices.
Design is never done
Like everybody else, we were learning on the go. Supporting hi-res displays meant blurry or bigger-and-heavier images. We had two ways of dealing with this issue.
We initially switched icons to custom-fonts, but we quickly changed to SVG assets because they were:
With photo-pictures we followed two approaches:
You are nothing without your users
Login forms are the most common system for identifying users but are a wall nonetheless. We implemented the now widespread user access via social media account with two objectives:
But the registered users metric actually meant nothing. Our major pain point was the dual-register system: in order to access the content you have to register on the site, but you also have to register in a poker room with us as a referrer and play in it.
The user-flow for referring users was the most challenging issue we undertook. To make things even more complicated, each poker room had a different system for their referral linking:
We ended up with several complementary solutions:
User growth per se isn't important as long as your users don't come back. Monthly Active Users metric was also a major concern. The stakeholders developed several systems to reward the user from using our services and collaborating with the community, strengthening the bond between users:
Copy IS the interface
When a product grows, its labelling must too. With each new feature we checked:
Out of users' sight, out of mind
Since the CMS was only seen by the staff, it was the part of the site that took less care from the stakeholders. But we shouldn't neglect updates to it, since bad CMSs can cost you money (time wasted, unclear flows and UI, etc).
Even though, we managed to apply several improvements to it:
The subprojects listed above were part of a constant work in progress; the way we faced each sub-project was different according to the subproject needs but they usually included:
We backtracked often redefining features in an advanced stage, at the additional cost it means. Agile was sometimes used as an excuse to not define properly.
Features requests must have a KPI, even small experiments. If not, you might be wasting resources, solving trivial problems with low return.
Micro optimization can be appropiate when it applies to a huge percentage of your income. In this case, a simple detail such as differentiating how a label is written for every affiliate; or describing complex steps such as the combination of different browsers and operatives systems.
Don't forget that your audience is global and state localisation-sensitive data. For live streamings we were dating them assuming Spain's timezone, but millions of people speak Spanish around the world.
Users don't usually like big changes; know when to make incremental or disruptive changes.
Even small changes can affect greatly the rest of the system. We introduced vertical rhythm to increase readability comfort but we lacked a styleguide. Thus borders, paddings, margins, line-heights, image sizes had to be redefined. It helped us to think of the product visual design as a whole.
Control all your assets. Poker rooms have very creative marketing departments that made our news section look a bit chaotic. The change to in-house promotional pictures provided a more cohesive style.
Browser support was a concern, but we ended up following the de facto standard of supporting the latest two major versions of browsers. This helped us limit adding scripts and polyfills, which penalized up-to-date users (thankfully most of our user base).
Prototyping. Mobile web made us definitively realise it made no sense to render mockups of a "mobile" and a "desktop" version for each subproject, the layout can break on any screen-width. We needed real prototypes to test on any device. We created a styleguide.
Constraints are good. We were always asking for removing meaningless blocks without a KPI in every screen. People suffer horror vacui, specially marketing people. But the transition to mobile (in addition to some analytics) helped them realise that less is better. This new point of view was reflected in the desktop version as well.
Keep it short! We featured some extremely long articles (+5000 words). We reach a two sided solution: rewriting (more concise text) and article splitting.
Asset optimization. Over-optimizing is not a thing. Mobile networks present many problems:
Use vector assets whenever possible. We switched to SVG even for medium-complexity assets such as poker room logos. This produced heavy SVGs, but once gzipped was worth it: you could rescale the logos without problem!
A checklist for projects comes in handy. So you don't forget to style your print CSS and emails!
Have a writing styleguide. I believe users can overcome bad user flows as long as the copy (e.g. the instructions, the buttons) is excellent. Avoid the use of synonims or similarities, it creates confusion.
Give your employees good tools. If you have sloppy tools, you'll have sloppy results. The more employees working with mediocre tools, the more money the company might wasting.