Prototypes are more persuasive than PowerPoints

Broadridge sample mobile screens

In March of 2015 when Broadridge acquired Direxxis, Kevin Darlington suddenly had a new, very visible responsibility. Broadridge, as a communications provider for broker-dealers, banks, and mutual funds, saw tremendous opportunity in Kevin’s employer Direxxis. Direxxis is a major digital-marketing platform, holding one of the world’s largest client bases in the financial industry.

Together, the two companies could help financial advisors build closer, more profitable client relationships. It would come down to demonstrating a compelling way to serve Direxxis’ data on Broadridge’s platform. All eyes were on Kevin. To make that happen, he had to first prove product feasibility to the new executive board that would greenlight the project.

Simplification Eases Buy-In

PowerPoint presentations put ideas such as this, even great ones, at risk of stalling because of the platform’s limitations. Kevin knew that and wasn’t prepared to have his idea shot down before it left the runway. He needed something tangible to show the real value of the idea and generate internal excitement.

After researching Fresh Tilled Soil and seeing our work, Kevin felt confident we could solve Broadridge’s problem. Together, we agreed that the highest value activity would be to collaborate on a working prototype, with a light visual aesthetic to reveal how much better the world would be with this product.

ipad view of wordstream's adwords page

The Counterintuitive Nature of Constraints

Ideating and designing a new product is exciting, but without realistic guidelines, things can get chaotic quickly. During our initial discussions, we identified the must-have-at-launch product features, with an eye towards simplicity.

Many of the great ideas we generated could add value to Broadridge’s product, but they would also require serious development time. The team parked these enhancements and core-feature extensions for reconsideration after the core product’s launch. This helped focus our energy as we began to design.

Geordie Kaytes, a Fresh Tilled Soil employee, gesturing towards a whiteboard wall.

A Proven Process Builds Trust

Week 1: The Gathering

To meet Broadridge’s timeline, we immediately dove into our process, bringing Kevin deep with us.

The work moved forward, quickly and orderly:

  1. Assessing data goals and requirements
  2. Identifying primary users and their needs
  3. Defining user-journey maps
  4. Documenting MVP requirements
  5. Implementing stakeholder feedback with each iteration

As we progressed, we balanced development speed with the target goal. If we had created a robust strategy without visuals, it likely wouldn’t have satisfied the Broadridge team.

On the other hand, applying only a small amount of strategic thinking could lead to a beautiful product without real value for end users.

A user flow diagram for Broadstream
Alex Federov, a Fresh Tilled Soil employee, writing on a whiteboard wall.

Week 2: The Breakthrough

By the end of the second week we scheduled a wireframe review to go over early concepts. Wireframing early helps quickly focus in on the most promising path and drive toward the best product experience. It also enabled us to build confidence all around.

Kevin Darlington, Broadridge

Frequent Check-ins Eliminate Surprises

Weeks 3-10: Collaboration

Collaborating closely in our Boston office was extremely productive, as were remote sessions and check-ins throughout the project. Kevin and Fresh Tilled Soil established a very tight working relationship to become one team, one dream. Screen sharing and use of presence tools avoided communication delays.

Together, we laid out a clear story inside the prototype that Kevin could walk through and explain with confidence

a fresh tilled soil employee contemplating a whiteboard wall
a screen from the the broadridge app on an iphone

Users Are the Ultimate Validators

We love bringing in user testing as early and as often as possible. In this case, we learned from financial advisors that the product had to work whether plugged into CRM data or not. Some advisors were sensitive about connecting their CRM accounts to any third-party system, while others saw how this data could provide actionable recommendations. So as a standalone product, we made sure users could tailor the application with ease. They could add and manage clients, and personalize as needed for various touch points and preferences.

Throughout testing, we also learned that not all advisors felt that they needed advanced tools to manage business. In a couple of edge cases, advisors overseeing a very small number of high net-worth accounts knew every aspect of the relationship intimately. For them, handwritten notes worked. This discovery helped us further refine the ideal user base and focus on its needs.

Testing Participant

Behind the Scenes

Towards the end of the engagement, we took a week to build out a few screens modeling out how the web admin could look to control things like content sources, user management, and more. We wanted to consider the management and population of the app—not just the UI of it. By doing this, we were able to strategize a larger, behind the scenes system for the entire experience.

a desktop view of the broadridge app

And the Results...

01 We helped Broadridge generate internal excitement for a new market segment
02 Broadridge transformed its expectations of what’s possible with their data and platform
03 By instilling confidence in the product and our process, we created a path to new features that Broadridge hadn’t considered
04 Continued user feedback inspired design iterations for a tool users expressed interest in purchasing
05 The prototyped experience changed advisor behavior, helping them prioritize actions with clients

Watch This Prototyping

See how we use InVision and the Craft plugin to create prototypes for our clients.

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