Redesigning the Entry Experience

by Jeremy Sabath

At Fresh Tilled Soil, clients come to us looking for high-quality experiences for their customers. Why should the experience of working with us be any different?

At the beginning of the summer, we embarked on a journey to better understand the experience of being a Fresh Tilled Soil client. We thought we were doing a pretty good job, but that there were plenty of opportunities for us to improve the client experience. Following the same process we use to understand our clients’ products, we used Experience Mapping to analyze all of the ways that people interact with Fresh Tilled Soil. The outcome of this exercise was a list of “pain points” – key moments in the client experience that were certainly not delightful. Pain points are useful things because they translate very well into projects. Each one presents a design problem that needs solving. We’re good at that.

One of the pain points that came out of our experience mapping is what we fondly refer to as our “entry experience.” We figured, what better place to start our redesign of the client experience than at the beginning?

White boards with post-it notes all over them

We are a group of people that prides itself on developing category leading experiences for world class companies, and yet walking into our office for the first time could be intimidating and uncomfortable. For too long we had hoped that the beauty of our open, brick-and-beam office would be enough to welcome guests, clients, and friends, but it wasn’t working. People would walk through our doors, and then freeze like deer in headlights, unsure of where to go, whether to stand or sit, or if anyone even knew they had arrived. Like I said, we had a problem.

Through observation of “first-time users” of our office and interviews with Fresh Tilled Soil team members, it became clear that people want and need a few things when they arrive here for the first time. They need:

  1. to feel like they were anticipated
  2. the confidence that someone knows that they have arrived
  3. snacks, refreshment, amenities
  4. a place to go once they’ve walked in
  5. to be received quickly by the right person

Welcome App Code screenshot

I designed changes to our office entrance that aim to improve this experience. Given that we wanted to create something interactive and elegant, I decided that the crux of the experience would be an iPad app, functioning as a check-in kiosk for office visitors. Building the experience as a native iPad app afforded us complete control over the look, feel, and content we were creating. It also makes it very easy to interface with any APIs we need during ongoing product development.

I started designing the interface by sketching out different ways users could interact with the app. After collecting feedback and running some user tests with low fidelity prototypes, I felt ready to start building so we could see it in action, test it, and make improvements. The initial design was intended to pull from our company calendar, and present the names of expected visitors so that they could check in when they arrived. This was an attempt to solve the first of the above-listed needs: to make visitors feel anticipated. After testing, we learned that people were uncomfortable with their names being presented so publicly, especially when multiple meetings with different teams were taking place at the same time. So we switched to a system in which people check in by selecting who they had come to see. Being wrong is fantastic; it allows you to get a little closer to being right.

Selecting Kelly Powell via the entry app

Instead of showing client names on the check-in screen, we now show the Fresh Tilled Soil team members’ names and faces, adding a human element to the experience, and making it easier for people to remember who they are visiting. After a visitor checks in, the app sends a text message to the person or people that the visitor is here to see. It then informs the visitor that the relevant people have been notified and will be with them shortly, encouraging them to enjoy the refreshments nearby, and to comfortably wait on the couch.

The entry app letting someone know a guest is in the office

With this system in place, it seemed we had solved all of our users’ needs. It turns out, however, that sending messages to Fresh Tilled Soil team members made them participants in this experience, and they had needs too. Within a week it was clear that text message alerts alone weren’t going to cut it. During the work day, many people silence their phones or just put them away to avoid distraction. Internally, we use Slack for company chat. That’s where the entry alerts needed to be!

After a few more iterations and a hook into the Slack API, we now have the entry experience running smoothly. Visitors no longer burst through our doors and end up stranded. Instead, they check in with our Entry App, quench thirst and satisfy hunger, and are quickly received by the team member they came here to see. After several weeks in the wild now, we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback, and several requests for this same experience in our clients’ offices.

The next phase for the Fresh Tilled Soil Entry App is to roll it out to early adopters. In doing so, we hope to learn more about our users’ needs, allowing us to refine the product and test it in the market. We’re excited to help other companies welcome and delight visitors with an improved entry experience.

By taking a good look at the way people interact with our company, we were able to greatly improve how people experience us for the first time. Over time we will be making more improvements to our client experience, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you.

Man entering the office through the entry way

If you’re interested in becoming an early adopter, get in touch below!

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design