Universal Application

Revitalizing the core of an e-commerce experience

A selection of questions from the universal application
  • Category: E-Commerce
  • Vertical: Insurance
  • Product: Application for Coverage

A shared foundation

At Insureon, I led design for the insurance application used by small business owners to apply for general liability, property, and other types of coverage.

Insureon's core business was a digital insurance agency, but the company was in the process of developing a new product, a SaaS quoting platform for insurance agents. A major part of this new product would be an application for business insurance, similar to what we already had on the digital agency side. To increase speed to market for this new product, we decided to leverage the existing, customer-facing insurance application, which afforded us an opportunity to rethink parts of it.

The insurance application, or "Universal Application" as it was known internally, was already overdue for attention – with a codebase well over a decade old, it had fallen somewhat behind the competition.

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One of the interactions made confusing by the old UI (left) was address autocompletion, which showed a radio select for city and state even when the ZIP code didn't resolve to more than one.

For the new UI (right), a single, concatenated, read-only field made the majority of autocompletes easier to understand.

A feature, not a bug

Given the salience of some of the shortcomings in the application experience, we decided to start with an heuristic analysis before investing in a user study. This identified a few obvious areas for improvement: A progress bar intended to show app completion behaved unpredictably, at times confusingly sliding backward when a question response on the previous page would change the overall application length. Questions were often formatted with unclear visual hierarchy, paired with widgets that performed inconsistently against Fitts’ Law.

For the temperamental progress bar, we had a conundrum: The backsliding wasn't a bug, just a consequence of pages being added (or removed) from the application. The key, I reasoned, was greater transparency: We needed to show the user what was happening and why.

To this end, I proposed a few alternatives. The one we ultimately built was a hard sell initially, as it added visual and technical complexity to the page: Instead of a simple progress bar, a more detailed sidebar that would show the user’s current position in the context of a list of all the pages in the application. The critical feature was that it would immediately reflect any additions or removals to pages based on question responses – by greatly tightening the loop between cause and effect, we could eliminate confusion over a user's progress appearing to backslide.

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Some concepts for replacing the progress bar (original at top). One low-scope concept simply showed the total number of pages in order to clarify that it was the part that was changing.

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Replacing the application's original progress bar with an overview allowed us to show the effect immediately when a question response causes a page to be added or removed.

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Multiple-choice questions are the most common interaction of the application framework. Above, the original version of the registration question; below, the same question in the new design system.

In building the parallel SaaS platform, I led the development of a design system to support its quoting and management workflows. For the insurance application, I adapated this system into a coordinating version tailored for the slightly higher information density of the application, giving the application clearer structure and more usable controls while integrating it seamlessly into its forthcoming SaaS context.

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The application within the SaaS UI. The design system is adapted slightly for the higher information density requirements of the application while coordinating visually with the SaaS app.

We launched Universal Application 2.0 to some impressive results. With the caveat that multiple factors likely contributed, the company saw completed applications grow significantly from 57% to 75% following the redesign.