A company culture periodical
Under the Hood was a serial newsletter built on a robust in-house content management system enabling associates to publish long-form news, editorials, commentary, and fun content to inform, educate, and entertain the associate body. It was meant to keep everyone informed about what was going on within the company—ranging from major initiatives and financial performance to team events and extracurricular activities—while representing the company culture and maintaining a fun vibe.
I was the principal UX Designer, Technical Project Manager, and Creative Lead throughout the project cycle, performing user research and visual design while working closely with the lead developer to ensure that the product was built to the requirements and scope as defined through user research.
- User Experience
- Visual Design
- User Research
- User Testing
- Information Architecture
- Front-end Engineering
- Full-stack Development
- Project Management
Create an engaging publication to spotlight internal performance and events with a focus on associate life and company culture
This version of the newsletter was a revival of a previous version that was published periodically for a few years through 2014. Executive Leadership wanted to bring it back as a way of strengthening the company culture and creating an atmosphere of connectedness. Many of the teams within the company didn't interact or engage with one another, and the newsletter was seen as a prospective way of bringing associates closer together.
I served as lead designer and developer on the final editions of the original newsletter so I came onto the project with a clear understanding of what had come before, what was successful, and what had failed. The old newsletter had been a work-intensive manual effort, requiring several hours of development from both a content management and design/development standpoint.
The principal challenge for the newsletter revival would be to minimize the manual effort and establish a more efficient process for recruiting content authors and sourcing content. Secondary would be reducing the amount of time spent designing and developing the front-end, as every edition of the old newsletter had a different theme and visual style.
A digital newsletter and content management system with content created and curated by associates, for associates
My team's approach to the Under the Hood revival centered entirely around the content management system. Our ability to overcome all defined challenges would be dependent on the back-end, automation features, and the level to which associates could engage with the platform. The main failing of the old newsletter, and one of the reasons for it's decommissioning in 2014, was its lack of any kind of CMS.
We planned out many of the new CMS features based on previous work we had done on the MEBO application (view MEBO Case Study here), using the same MVC pattern, Node framework, and design system in order to maintain consistency within our application suite. However, we upgraded and improved the Under the Hood CMS to be much more rich, with a permissions-based flexible text editor for authoring posts and other robust settings such as configurable homepage layouts, scheduled publication, collaborative editing, and an automated content approval process.
We approached associate engagement by allowing authors to volunteer and express interest in authoring content by registering directly through the application, logging in using their company Active Directory credentials and requesting author permissions. This differed from the original newsletter in that a steering committee would reach out to team leaders and ask for volunteers, which was a much more laborious task that yielded weaker results, as leaders had to go on a recruiting hunt. With the new system, engaged and interested associates were able to proactively step forward to contribute.
Another benefit of the content management system and built-in text editor was that authors were able to manually input their content directly into the system. The old process was for authors to provide a text file to leaders, who would then pass it on to the design/development team to transcibe the documents into HTML and integrate it into the codebase for displaying on the front-end. With the CMS now available in the revival, that extra step—and the extra hard-coding work on the part of the development team—had been completely removed. Once authors had entered their content into the CMS, content moderators would receive an automated notification, prompting them to review and edit the content before publishing to the reader-facing front-end in one seamless, automated workflow.
Overall, the new CMS had saved several hours of work, streamlining the publication process and making the new Under the Hood a cleaner, more efficient, and easy to use tool that anyone could adopt and engage with.
Under the Hood was one of many examples of older products and processes that I was able to innovate on while working in this role, executing an improved user experience flow and increasing user engagement. This was also the first major product I worked on where I wasn't solely responsible for all design and development efforts, as I had grown my team and had a developer to collaborate with, allowing me to focus entirely on the user experience and visual design aspects of the project. While I did contribute to some front-end engineering efforts, I was able to focus most of my energy on creating an elevated user experience for the application that went above and beyond the expectations of executive leaders and stakeholders.