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The challenges and opportunities of repurposing parts of an existing product for a new one!

For the past 7 months, we’ve been working on an incredible Fellowship with Infoxchange.

I’ll sum it up really quickly for you - basically the Infoxchange team found out that their well known and very valuable website, Ask Izzy (originally created to help people struggling with things like food, money or housing to connect to the support services they need) was being widely used by service providers (such as social workers, front-line workers and volunteers).

How do we know that service providers are using Ask Izzy?

A couple of different ways:

  • Analytics showed us quite a lot of different things! Firstly, around 50% of users were using a desktop. Now that’s not enough obviously, but analytics also showed that many of those users were also having extremely long session times - often from 9am - 5pm, meaning work hours.

  • The last piece of analytic evidence was that a lot of users often automatically navigated to a specific location or a specific search, meaning they weren’t going through the homepage. Now none of these alone points to Service Providers but all of them together shows there was a strong likelihood that they were using the site as well.

  • The most compelling evidence came from talking to Service Providers and hearing that they do actually use Ask Izzy quite often to find services for their clients or people who need it!

They thought, ‘Wow this is amazing - that we’re reaching an entire user base we didn’t really consider when designing Ask Izzy’, and that brought life to a new project. So what is the project?

What can we do to provide these users (Service Providers) with a more relevant and helpful experience.

After some deliberation from the Infoxchange team, what we were tasked with was to build and test features that would focus specifically on Service Providers and their needs.

This posed a really interesting design and product challenge, especially since Ask Izzy is a pre-existing and already widely known product. Specifically:

  • What existing infrastructure and research will be helpful for this project

  • What features are already useful in the existing Ask Izzy and what new things will we have to build?

  • Will new features be included in the current version of Ask Izzy or will it be a completely different product?

Don’t worry, I’ll go into a bit more detail on all of these!

For clarity, whenever I talk about the new features and concepts that we’ve been testing I’ll call it Ask Izzy Plus!

Firstly, what existing infrastructure and research will be helpful for this new product?

The Service Directory

The Infoxchange Service Directory is the basis of their most well known product, Ask Izzy. Basically the directory is a collection of services and all the information pertinent to that service including things like contact details, eligibility requirements etc.

Importantly, this directory is kept up to date and categorised by an incredible team within Infoxchange who maintain the details of more than 400,000 services, making it Australia’s largest directory of health and welfare services.

We knew from very early on that the directory and the ability to search for services would also be the core of whatever new features we would build and test. Service providers have easier and better ways of searching and finding services for their clients is something that we could definitely have a positive impact on. Therefore we started having a lot of discussions around how the directory worked and a lot of exploration from our developers to understand how it was set up and how we could use it.

What’s interesting is that while it’s using a directory, Ask Izzy Plus is actually using a newly constructed version of it, meaning we did have to conduct our own exploration to figure out how best to structure information and allow people the easiest access to it.

What really helped us in this case was making use of the best practises from Ask Izzy but also understanding what areas they might want to improve and making strides to test out some of those assumptions.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

User Research

Another thing that was incredibly useful is that a lot of the issues that we were trying to solve were also being worked on by other teams within Infoxchange so we got an incredible opportunity to share knowledge and share learnings. For example, a lot of the progress we made on how users navigated the site we did with minimal research. However, this was very similar to research that the team working on Ask Izzy was working on and in that way, we were both able to share ideas and validate our learnings.

One of the things we found out was that both Service Providers and individuals using the original version of Ask Izzy liked things like categories and filters to navigate their way through the many services found on the categories. This may seem obvious in hindsight but it’s great to have multiple methods of exploration and validation for something as important as how people might best navigate a site!

What’s incredibly cool is that all of these learnings might be about similar things but they’re all contributing to different projects and different parts of the organisation!

Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon on Unsplash

How to figure out what we’re keeping from the original Ask Izzy and what we’d need to build.

This was definitely something we had a lot of discussion around. The most important thing to us was that we need to make sure that Service Providers still have access to the parts that are most useful to them.

And how do we do that? Research and Testing!

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

We undertook some really intensive user research to figure out what features would be the most valuable to users and then spent some time differentiating what would be important to service providers and what would be important to those seeking help.

At a high level some of these needs are really similar. For example, like I mentioned before we know that at its core both service providers and help seekers would need to be able to search. Some nuances in this experience might be that often, help seekers need some guidance in what they’re searching for and Service Providers might be a lot more specific in their searching needs. This definitely opens up a lot of opportunities for features and tools we could build to improve their experiences!

And this brings us to the last question, is this going to be an addition to the existing Ask Izzy or will it be a new product.

Of all the questions we tried to answer, this was definitely one of the most difficult.

That’s for a lot of reasons including:

  • What would be best for the users

  • What would work best for the team

  • What operational and technical needs are there

  • What would be necessary from a marketing and communications perspective

Since there are so many questions to be answered here, it was a decision that involved the perspectives of the larger team!

This has involved a lot of workshops and a lot of different methods including things like understanding the pros and cons of different methods of ‘integrating’ new features into Ask Izzy and keeping them separate products.

Photo by Pine Watt on Unsplash

What’s left for this project?

There are heaps of fun and interesting problems left on this project!

At the centre of all the things we're building and all the problems we’re trying to solve, we’re trying to make something that will provide service providers with the most value possible. By making their jobs easier we hope to have a lot of positive impact on the entire sector.

We’ve got a lot more work to do but one thing we want to do at every stage is understand whether there are existing projects or existing research that we can also use, and understanding how to make our learning as iterative and useful as possible. All to make our product the best it can be!

To summarise:

  • The project we’re working on is about repurposing features an existing product to meet another user types needs

  • We’ve luckily already got some building blocks to start off with so it’s given us a nice exit ramp to follow!

  • Research has been one of our best tools in figuring out what to keep and what not to!

  • We’ve got a lot more exciting stuff to do but at each step we’ll be judging whether there’s existing work going on that we can use and relying on understanding our users as best as we can!

Learn more about Ask Izzy and how it’s used to support people in need

Check out more of our resources

Check out more of our resources

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