01 – Project Overview
UX Designer for AcreMaps
• Jan 2022 – Feb 2022
• Two sprints (two weeks each)
AcreTrader (AcreMaps parent company) utilizes proprietary technology to facilitate the buying and selling of farmland, one of the largest U.S. real estate sectors, exceeding $3 trillion in value. Our product vision is to see a world where every farm is bought and sold at a fair price. Read the AcreMaps UX case study for more insight into our development process.
AcreMaps is set up to allow users to select land at the level in which it is transacted—that is to say, by parcel. Historically, when analyzing land, our farm analysts noticed discrepancies between parcel data and the actual farmland they were trying to evaluate. This helped us define a more overarching problem.
As a farmer, farm analyst, or farmland broker, I need to be able to analyze custom boundaries so I can evaluate land that doesn’t fit neatly into parcel lines.
Allow our users to analyze and evaluate farmland using custom shapes so they can be empowered to buy and sell land smarter.
02 – Discover
User research began in a multi-faceted way. On the quantitative front, I was able to assess some aspects of our user experience by checking our analytics. We collect data on bounce rates and session duration with Google Analytics, and we record some user sessions on VWO. I analyzed relevant sessions showing shorter durations with the intention of outlining why some users may have been bouncing. One pattern that emerged frequently were users searching, navigating, and arriving on the parcel zoom level with ease, but stopping short of analyzing land before they left the site. In order to further define this project, I took note of our baselines, and tried to dig into reasons why these user behaviors weren’t what we were expecting.
Our previously established personas were valuable to me throughout this project. In assessing the need for new features, I was intentional about testing with relevant user groups and solving for their problems. All three user groups ended up being relevant in designing for this feature—
• The Farm Analyst
• The Expanding Farmer
• The Farmland Broker
Once a clearer problem was established through discussion with our farm analysts, we were able to talk through potential hypotheses for a solution. One feature that kept coming up in conversation was the ability to create custom shapes in order to select land that was undefined by our parcel data. Our proposition boiled down to the following—
We believe that giving our users the ability to draw their own fields will result in lower bounce rates and higher satisfaction because it will allow a greater freedom in choosing land to evaluate that doesn’t fit neatly into parcel lines.
03 – Define
Competitive usability testing
Once a clear problem and potential hypothesis was established through speaking with our farm analysts, I decided to conduct some competitive usability testing.
AcreMaps had some direct competitors which allowed users to draw fields. With this in mind, I was able to set up and conduct seven individual hour-long sessions with representatives from our persona groups. In these sessions, I set up a testing scenario and had participants complete a list of tasks using competitor’s tools (in varying order, to prevent both primacy and recency biases). These sessions included the following tasks—
• Find AcreTrader’s building (112 W Center St 6th Floor, Fayetteville, AR 72701) and draw a shape around the building.
• Assess the size of the drawn shape (number of acres).
• Adjust one point of the shape.
• Remove the shape.
I recorded this information, pulling out key insights and pain points. I then analyzed this data using the following competitive matrix.
|Competitor #1||Competitor #2||Competitor #3||Competitor #4|
|Location||No one was immediately able to locate the tool in the search dropdown.||Boundary tool less easy to find. Many thought it should be under tool tips in the top right.||“Draw Your Field” wasn’t immediately clear. May be a copy mistake, or location may be an issue.||Difficult to locate the drawing tool without a label.|
|Tool Tips||None||Did not notice the tool tips at the bottom of the screen.||None||None|
|Deleting||Had to restart the page to cancel drawing.||Unclear how to stop drawing.||Deleting process was clear.||Delete options were relatively clear.|
|Editing||No editing option||No editing option||Editing process needed to be easier.||Edit options were relatively clear.|
|Speed||Loading times were frustrating.||Loading times were frustrating.||Acceptable||Acceptable|
|Other Insights||• “Draw Custom Boundaries” makes the user think they can draw right away.|
• Appreciated the rectangle and circle tools.
|• Closing the shape was difficult to do if zoomed out too far. The threshold was too low.|
• Users liked that “Enter” would close the shape.
|• UI unclear when using lighter text. Accessibility issues.|
• Dark UI hard to see for some.
|• List of drawn boundaries was helpful for the user.|
From these sessions, common insights emerged, including—
• Draw tools were frequently unlabeled or difficult to find.
• In many cases, it was unclear how to stop the drawing process.
• Tips at the bottom of the screen tend to go unnoticed, while tips on the cursor were more helpful to the user.
• There must be a way out of the drawing process without reloading the page.
Finally, all of this data was synthesized into larger buckets–
• Tool Location
• Tool Tip Location
04 – Design
With a hypothesis and key features in mind, I began work on wireframing, starting with rough ideas at first, and eventually moving to mid and higher-fidelity wireframes with approval from users and stakeholders.
Prototypes were necessary in order to test solutions. Furthermore, through much of the feature work for AcreMaps, what we found is that prototypes proved useful in creating a wholistic handoff file for developers and QA resources. These prototypes, like many features on AcreMaps, get comparatively complex due to the nature of any geospatial analytics tool.
05 – Deliver
With prototypes in hand, I was able to complete further user testing with the same individuals I had sought out for competitor analysis. These individuals corroborated design choices, and made suggestions for further usability.
Some features that changed throughout these iterations included—
• Adding other shapes such as circles (for pivots) and rectangles
• Limiting some of the types of shapes users were able to draw
• Including confirmation modals in certain cases where a user might otherwise accidentally delete their work.
With limited product manager resources, one of my responsibilities was to create a seamless handoff file for our developers. I wrote JIRA tickets with relevant Acceptance Criteria in order for the team to understand, develop, and QA test this new feature. Below are some of the final files used to develop AcreMap’s draw polygon tool.
06 – Outcomes
With the new draw polygon tool in place, farms can now be created, analyzed, and saved with more ease than ever before. The discrepancies between parcel data and actual farmland is no longer a problem for our analysts. Additionally, we hear weekly feedback from external interviews about how easy it is to outline the boundaries of a farm.
From the month of January to February (when this feature was released), we had a 30.2% boost in session duration from 1:54 to 2:36. We also had a 46.2% drop in bounce rate from 40.62% to an astounding 16.17%.
30.2% boost in session duration
46.2% drop in bounce rate
These metrics were most likely due to a variety of factors, not just one feature change, but it is part of a set of encouraging qualitative and quantitative metrics that show us a picture of increasing user value.