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Search Redesign

Only allowed to make front-end UX/UI changes, tasked with "fixing" search for 28,000 member portal

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. The information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of YPO.


My first project when I started with YPO in September 2016, was to assess why a significant number of users had complaints that Search was "not working" on YPO's primary member portal, the Exchange. Every interaction a member had with YPO either goes through the Exchange or connects to it, so perfomance or lack there of was a significant issue.

The team had made incorrect assumptions the failure was due to poor UX by my predecessors and this complaint had been a recurring theme for some time. After completing a cursory review and speaking with some members it was easy to see there was no doubt it needed work. However, sloppy UX was just a piece of the problem. What I uncovered I lumped into five categories.

Dated Engine and Enormous Tech Debt

  • The engine driving the experience needed to be updated and configured for what was being requested by the user. 

  • Multiple iterations of "lets-see-what-sticks" solutions created compartmentalized Information Architecture (IA) and layers upon layers of spaghetti code.

Out-of-the-Box Templates

  • Mapping designs to content were from out-of-the-box templates, not user-informed designs resulting in poor pattern recognition. Users continually needed to relearn search-return patterns for displayed results in each category.

  • Due to the rigid template layouts, search results appeared in improper hierarchies. 

Content Without a Clear Purpose

  • Creation of content for very niche scenarios, compounding IA problems.

  • Lack of thoughtful, purpose-driven content.

  • A misalignment of content to the most commonly used search terms.

Little to No Prior User Research or Proper Planning

  • UX research consisted of assumptions.

  • HIPPO influenced.

  • Prioritization of work was a patch-the-leak method instead of being more data-driven.

Silo-izaiton of Search

  • Search mapping reflected YPO employee internal workflows and organization charts and dictated biases from member committee chairs rather than user behavior (each dept was headed/advised by a member committeee chair and chairs changed hands each year by election). 

  • The lack of a long-term vision drove poor IA, creating isolated and disassociated pockets of irelevant information.

  • Territorialism compounded the issue by departments catering to the goals of singular member chairs of a department. 

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