Clio Manage is a cloud-based legal practice management software, helping law firms manage the inner-working of their firm, from tracking billable activities, storing case materials, to generating bills, and accepting payments. The software is designed for a range of roles inside a legal firm, and for legal firms of different sizes. Among other features that help users manage their business, the billing part of the software centers on helping law firm users generate professional-looking bills, and send them to clients.
I joined Clio's billing team at the start of 2019, to conduct user research, analyse findings, design UI mock-ups, iterate on product design, and collaborate with a team of developers, product manager, and design lead to address the billing needs of Clio's large and diverse user base.
When I started at Clio, the first task was to get an understanding of the billing problem space and the billing software system. In addition to learning the on-boarding materials at Clio, I gathered contexts about the problem space by talking to designers in adjacent problem spaces, and reading exisitng user feedbacks from various sources (i.e. support tickets, NPS comments, Facebook group). Then I made graphics artefacts to synthesize these learnings, and helped to align other new members on the feature team with the problem spaces.
Billing as part of firm's business management workflow
For example, the swim-lane scenario chart documents a mid-sized firm's typical back-office workflow, based on the understanding of the internal team at the time. In a few sessions, the designers sat down and brain-dumped what they knew about how a firm's back-office (administrator, billing manager, accountant, etc) functions. I then formatted the chart and tested the readability. Each horizontal lane is the problem space of a different team, and in them, the features/user tasks for each scenario in the entire workflow.
The document helps to form a understanding of the problem spaces for each feature team, and acts as a faclitation tool in discussions about design and product decisions. It can also be updated in the future when more user research is conducted, and the understanding improves.
Existing billing system's system image
Furthermore, I took an information-architecture-first approach to understanding the billing system. Navigating through the billing UI, I mapped out the IA of the existing system, and pointed out the user-reported problems at each part of the workflow. Then I proposed a modified IA that incorporated some of the user's comments and mental model.
However, even though these diagrams made sense to the team, it was unrealistic to uproot the entire billing system and make the multiple changes proposed in the diagrams. Instead, we decided to do more qualitative user interviews to understand which user problems are going to have the biggest impacts, out of all the problems in a billing. Then create a solution that addresses as many of them as possible.
Discovery research on law firms' general billing experience
To answer the question "what are the most important problems facing the most users in their billing experience?", the design lead deviced a research plan to ask a few research questions to wholistically understand different law firms and users' billing experience. We then conducted telephone interviews with users who fit the profile for our research topic. I took verbatim notes in the sessions, sometimes asked probing questions. At the end of the 2 week of interviews, we performed an affinity mapping analysis. I pulled out interviewees' key actions, emotions, attitudes, and quotes from each interview. Then collaboratively sorted them into themes with the design lead.
The insights from the affinity maps were then written, formatted, and posted on Confluence to align the understanding of feature team members.
Prioritize, focus, and iterate
Along with the insights from the discovery research, I gathered the most requested issues in billing from a few different sources. The product manager, design lead, and I then combed through the issues, grouped them into themes, and prioritized them based on the impact we think they have on users and firms.
The outcome that we thought would make the most impact to most users, was making the follow-up with clients easier, with regards to what they owe to the firm. Law firms often lost track of which clients still owe them money, and how much money they still owe. Firms then don’t have time to follow up with clients, because other parts of billing also takes up significant amount of time. This project became the Outstanding Balances feature.
In this project, I conducted more user interviews for validation, iterated on design details, word-smithed UX copy, worked with developers and product manager, and manual QA the implementation for bugs.
The reulst is a feature that received very positive customer feedback even in the beta phase, and greatly reduced the customer pain in this area.
(Image source: Clio Training video)