Tournament Content Management System

Table of
Project Problem Statement & Objectives
This case study showcases a project completed towards the end of my tenure at NiiD Technologies in 2016-2017. For more recent examples of my work, please refer to the UXR Artifacts, the UXR Strategy document I produced for Chase, and the UXR Playbook (further described on the UXR Process page).

The client, Growing Minds Chess Academy("Growing Minds"), focuses on tutoring K-12 students in preparation for chess tournaments. Although their primary service is tutoring, a significant portion of their revenue comes from organizing and managing chess tournaments. Growing Minds often partners with public and private schools in Southern New York and offers individual tutoring sessions.

Growing Minds approached NiiD Technologies, seeking to improve its existing Content Management System (CMS)for managing chess tournaments and updating its website. The project's main objectives were to enhance the user experience for web administrators and chess instructors and streamline the overall process. As the UX Researcher & Lead for this project, my goals were to:
  • Understand the challenges and pain points of the current CMS
  • Identify opportunities for improvement in the user experience
  • Develop and implement a long-term UX research strategy
Design Impact on Project
The UX research conducted during the project led to a better understanding of users' needs and established a long-term UX research strategy for future improvements. By the end of the design phase, we delivered a working prototype to the development team that accurately represented the required development work.
Regarding measurable outcomes, after usability testing, users were observed to complete their tasks 30% faster on average with the improved CMS. Furthermore, user satisfaction significantly increased as a result of the updated user experience. The following sections detail the methodologies employed and the insights gained throughout the project.
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My Roles
  • UX Lead
  • User Researcher
Known Challenges
Chess tournament instructors spending excessive time on tournament management instead of focusing on their passion for tutoring students in chess.
Project Management Plan
Initial Steps
The image above is a mindmap (click to expand). Mindmaps break down a large concept into its components (reductive reasoning). This mindmap illustrates the project's initial steps and includes:
  • Recruitment of core team members: development team lead, QA lead, visual design team lead, and business analyst.
  • Establishment of a systems thinking approach which meant understanding Growing Mind's business practices.
  • Application of a mixed Agile & Waterfall model in that there were sprints and basic sprint ceremonies but overall the project was planned in advance.
  • Introduction of PMP-style documentation: Scope of Work documents, Use Cases.
  • Apply collective knowledge and Systems Thinking strategy to determine of the project is needed and what are the questions that we want to ask.
  • Use of collective knowledge and Systems Thinking strategy to determine project necessity and relevant questions.
  • Creation of a flat (initially) and scalable (long-term) team communication structure.
  • Create initial risk management plan
  • Creation of tentative timelines and sprint plans.
Design Strategy
  1. Stakeholder Interviews
  2. Hypothesize Problem Statement
  3. Documentation of Current Information Architecture (IA)
  4. Secondary & Competitor Research
  5. Conduct Surveys (skipped because the user size was very small)
  6. Conduct Usability Interviews
  7. Refinement of Problem Statement
  8. Usability Testing of existing application
  9. Define Critical Flow
  10. User Persona Creation
  11. Journey Map Creation
  12. Heuristic Evaluation
  13. Heuristic Frequency Breakdown (quantitative approach to heuristics)
  14. Lessons Learned: pain points and opportunities
  15. IA Documentation of next sprint to create design tickets
  16. Create paper prototypes with cutouts
  17. Usability Test paper prototypes
  18. Create mid fidelity prototype
  19. Usability Test digital prototype
  20. UX Specifications Document/Style Guide
  21. Handover to Development team
  22. Hypothesize opportunities for future iterations
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Our first task was to understand the existing application. In other words, this was a project to iterate an existing app, not make one for scratch. To see an example of how I made a product from scratch, please see the Ford section in Highlights, on the Home page).

To do iterate this existing application, we assessed any user research that Growing Minds had. In many cases this can be anything from A/B studies (click link for example), personas, content from tools like UserTesting, and so on. In this particular case study though, there was no existing User Research. The timeline and budget were also short (resourcing constraints) so there was no opportunity to conduct User Research as a part of a scope of this iteration (beyond a persona and journey map). In ethnographical/anthropological terms the research you will see here is a thin description. For future design iterations, we would recommend expanding the User Research to multiple personas as well as starting using tools such as or UserZoom to conduct in-depth UX research.

Therefore, we created a series of flowcharts (jump to example in this case study) and mindmaps and then conducted stakeholder interviews to tie them all together. The charts below are some examples of what we came up with during the process.
Player-Oriented Mindmap (click to zoom)
Current Means to Create Tournaments (click to zoom)
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Discovery Phase
Initial Application Overview
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To help visualize an application as it currently stands, it often helps to create a sitemap or a flow chart. In this particular case, I did a bit of both, since it was for my own understanding of the application.
Current Sitemap +Flow Chart
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This project's essential User Research element was Usability Interviews, primarily due to the nature of Growing Minds' client business. As a small company with limited app users, macro approaches such as surveys proved less valuable (discussed in greater detail in the next section).

As user researchers, we should generally rely heavily on generative Usability Interviews. Qualitative data is better than qualitative data when the participant pools are small. This element was discussed in Design Thinking workshops at the project's inception, ensuring Growing Minds understood the need for Usability Interviews. They generously provided interviews with five of their instructors, which I explained was generally the ideal number per user type. The contextual inquiry was employed in the discussions to create personas, and these interviews were validated by reviewing our findings with stakeholders. The value of the contextual design became apparent when we discovered that the application/project goal ranked as a third-tier priority, behind managing the overall business and teaching chess to students.
Usability Interviews
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Due to the small user sample size, surveys, card sorts, and tree tests would have been less helpful. Typically, a survey requires at least 25-40 participants to achieve statistical significance. The greater the number of participants in a study, the more statistical significance. As a result, these methods were primarily used to confirm lessons learned from usability interviews and in-app store feedback. Usability interviews were conducted first to eliminate potential biases and establish that usability subjects represented the overall user pool.

As a user researcher, I decided that the team should rely on Usability Interviews. Consequently, Growing Minds understood the need for Usability Interviews and generously provided interviews with five of their instructors, which I explained was generally the ideal number per user type/persona (1 for this iteration).

Before conducting usability interviews, a Usability Study Design Plan (with study goals and explanation) was created, followed by Usability Interview Scripts. This approach ensured that questions and encouragements were scripted and uniform across all usability subjects. I led my UX designers in the first usability interview, as most of the designers were junior. I then allowed them to conduct the remaining usability interviews independently.

Based on the Information Architecture (IA) and Usability interviews, the application's Critical Flow path was identified, and User Personas were created. For a more detailed example of how I conduct user research, you can download this PDF for an unrelated project where I employed a similar process.
Large Quantitative Data
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Happy Path Identification
  • The goal of this part of the process is to take the user from A to Z in the simplest path possible while attempting to accomplish user goals
  • Documented the current flow process for inclusion into the Journey Map, for a holistic approach.
  • I noticed during this part of the process that there are too many steps required to get from the beginning to end and resolved to reduce those in the next iteration.
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"I want my chess tournament software made more simply through software and less paperwork."
- Victor Petrov
About Victor
Victor began playing chess at an early age and competed in chess tournaments in Russia. After moving to America in his late teens, Victor decided to pursue his passion and embarked on a career as a chess teacher. He has dedicated the last 30 years to teaching chess.
Primary Roles/Responsibilities at Work
  • Primary Task: Managing the Growing Minds Chess Academy business
  • Secondary Task - Chess instructor or individual and classroom level
  • Tertiary Task - Organising Chess Tournaments
Challenges That We Know
  • Collaborating with other users who frequently travel
  • Saving, searching, and sharing tournament information
Pain Points
  • Tournaments are chaotic
  • Schools & participants demand instant access to instructors and information
  • Cant ascertain if participants are formally registered
  • Keeping tournament information in one place is difficult
Persona Research Limitations
In an ideal scenario, we would use statistical data from quantitative sources, such as Google Analytics or surveys, to support this qualitative data(followed by clustering).  Due to the small user pool, this was not possible in this case. Furthermore, Google Analytics data was unavailable due to the 0-1 product phase. To overcome this limitation in future projects, alternative approaches can be explored, such as seeking additional user groups with similar characteristics or using proxy measures that can provide insights into the target user population. Furthermore, iterative feedback from the user pool, even if small, can help refine the personas and better address their needs and pain points.
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As with nearly any Journey Map, the goal is to document and understand Victor's experience navigating the app, considering the current process flow, user research, and testing. Although Victor is a persona created from UX research rather than a real person, we strive to put ourselves in his shoes, comprehending his feelings and actions as he uses the app.
Journey Map
Journey Map Explanation
This basic journey map addresses the points outlined in the fundamental process flow, allowing for more comprehensive journey maps to tackle complex process flows in future iterations. The red text throughout the Journey Map highlights problems and pain points, signifying the necessary work in the upcoming design revision iteration and illustrating Victor's pain and frustration while using the app. We aim for other project participants to understand and empathize with Victor, enabling us, as User Experience Designers, to advocate for the user. The Heuristics Inspection that follows will identify additional work needed. The Journey Map and Heuristics Inspection aim to scope and prioritize pending tasks.
Based on the red text, we may modify some actions. We will try adjusting the flow, design, and overall user experience to alleviate Victor's pain. For example, we identified that Victor needs help with navigating between sections and remembering which students belong in the tournament. To address this issue, we plan to implement a more intuitive interface that allows for easy navigation and student management, ultimately improving Victor's user experience.
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Design Audit
A design audit is a way of checking the quality of a website's design. It looks at how well the plan meets general standards for user experience. The audit identifies errors or problems on each page and marks them for further analysis. This helps the team to focus their research and make improvements efficiently.

The audit uses a set of heuristics, or rules of thumb, to evaluate the design. We used a 9-point heuristic analysis from Nielsen Norman Group for this case study. These heuristics are common in the industry and apply to this project. We examined each page for user goals, efficiency, error prevention, and consistency.
Admin Users Page
This is the page where the website managers control everything in the background. We looked at it using the same rules as the rest of the site. When we found something wrong, we marked it on the page and explained why in a table. We call it the "admin users page" because it's just for the managers, not the chess players who use the site.
Tournaments Page
The tournaments page is the most important page on the website. It is where users can see and manage chess tournaments. However, in the current design, it is listed second in the navigation menu, which is not ideal. We identified this as an information architecture problem. For this case study, we focused on changing the ordering of the navigation menu to prioritize the most important page.
Edit Tournament Page
The edit tournament page allows users to add and edit details about tournaments. It provides more detail than the tournament overview page. We evaluated this page using the same set of heuristics as for the other pages.
USCF Members Page
The USCF members page is where users can view and manage their membership with the United States Chess Federation. We noticed that in the current design, the process for importing data was not smooth. This created unnecessary friction for users.
We used a table to breakdown and count the errors encountered on each page according to the frequency of each heuristic factor. This helped us to determine which errors were the most severe and needed the most attention in a redesign. We focused on fixing the errors in the top 2 or 3 heuristic factors.
Heuristics Frequency Breakdown
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Usability Testing
During the Usability Testing phases of the project, we conducted extensive usability tests to validate the personas, heuristic evaluation, and journey maps. All of the testing was carried out in person so we did not use tools such as UserTesting for this particular project. In this particular project, techniques such as card sorting and tree tests would not be valuable because of the small possible participant pool, so instead we did do expectations questions and first click testing.

We used usability testing at different stages of the project to validate our research and test wireframes and prototypes. Based on the test data, we iterated our designs and concepts until they met our performance metrics.

We found that efficiency, recognition, and help & documentation were the top three factors that needed the most attention to maximize our ROI on UX investment. We concluded that a holistic approach to these three factors would be the goal of the redesign effort. We also observed that the middle to end of the process was more error-prone and frustrating for users than the initial part of the process.
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New Happy Path
To address the issues identified in the journey map, we developed a new process flow chart, which we called the "New Happy Path". The goal of this new flow was to simplify the user's journey through the app while balancing the most important user goals. We reduced pain points by 80% by targeting lessons learned from the top three heuristics and applying the previous journey map. We also implemented a wizard to make the design more intuitive for users.
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Updated Journey Map
We used usability testing, interviews, and post-development reviews to create an updated journey map that took into account the user's emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions. We found that users reported that the switch function in the Tournaments screen allowed for a secondary reinforcement of the delete button right next to it, and that Victor's stress was reduced due to reduced information overload. We also found that the Tournament Wizard allowed for greater control and freedom for Victor while creating a more intuitive flow.
Explanation of the Updated Journey Map
  • Pain points have been reduced by 80% by targeting lessons learned from the top 3 heuristics and applying the previous Journey Map.
  • Users report the switch function in the Tournaments screen allows for a secondary reinforcement of the delete button right next to it: "The switching tournaments on and off feature and delete features are very intuitive."
  • Victor's stress is reduced and he can focus on what he is doing rather than the layout and positioning of the Chess Tournament CMS because of reduced information overload.
  • The Tournament Wizard allows for greater control & freedom for Victor while creating a more intuitive flow.
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UX Specification Document
The UX Specification Document is a reference guide that thoroughly examines all elements of the UX design from a developer's context. Its purpose is to provide a single, comprehensive document for other elements of the business to use after the design process has been handed over. Unlike a Style Guide typically used by visual designers, this document shows interactions, and it often includes redlining for pixel padding and typography.
  • Navigation is given in activated and deactivated states.
  • Especially useful as a supplement to prototyping tools such as Invision
  • Includes information on navigation states in activated and deactivated forms
  • User inputs is given with redlines for pixel padding and typography.
  • As table design is reused in almost all areas of the case study (except for the Tournament Wizard), the tables are shown in their various states.
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Interactive Prototyping
What Is Prototyping?
In this case the prototype was created with Invision. However, I also created prototypes with Figma when I wasn't using Sketch. A prototype is an interactive design used for:
  • Usability Testing
  • Designers to collaborate on designs on the cloud
  • Developers to understand interactions within and between app screens
What Did We Do?
  • The design team created a medium fidelity prototype (colors included)
  • My research team advised the design team on design decisions.
  • The design team uploaded dropdowns for each screen
  • The design team created hotspots so that screens would be interactive
  • I suggested hiding hotspots during testing so that they would not give away the answers to usability test questions.
Impact Summary
  • The prototype was used to conduct mid-fidelity testing of research concepts without burning too much time in the design phase.
  • Simple user testing capabilities without investing a costly developer PoC
  • Business users can understand how the app will generally function and get an idea of the look & feel of the app
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Next Iterations(s)
UX Research Opportunities
  • To determine the IA, card sorts could be conducted, and the results could be confirmed with a Tree Test, which could be done inOptimal Workshop.
  • A UX research study could also be performed to surveyexisting users and determine additional features
  • Additional personas could be added, with associated journey maps for those personas.
Design Opportunities
  • A design system could be created to allow multiple designers to work on the project more efficiently, using either Google Material UI principles or Human Interface Guidelines.
  • A mobile app version of the website could be created, prioritizing the features that users frequently use on the go. It came out in the research that Chess Tournament instructors frequently travel.
  • Testing the application on devices and resolutions that usersuse is also essential.
Onboarding Users
How to Conduct UXR Around the New Features
  • Based on the response from users after a couple months using the application, the new features could be iterated again. During that time, the above UX research (see "Next Iterations") could be run and used in parallel. This would be the foundation of the next iteration.
  • Diary studies (longitudinal, temporal) could be set up around the redesign’s rollout to establish onboarding or offboarding to see how users respond and adjust to the software over time
  • Combining in-product research with diary studies might provide an excellent mixed-method approach. In product research tends to skew towards a maximal responses so the diary studies would provide nuanced data.
How to Introduce Users to New Features
  • An onboarding tool can be used to introduce users to new features, and pop-ups could guide first-time post-update users through the new features
  • Introduce popups on new screens for first time post-update users. These popups can guide users as to how to use new features of the website.
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