Coaching Application Redesign

With a lot of features, complex information hierarchy, and a lot of existing clients, this redesign relied heavily on user input and iterative design.

Discovery Research / UX UI Design / Design System / User Testing


Coaches Console is an all-in-one platform with everything you need to run an independent coaching business – scheduling, email marketing, contracts, invoicing, a course builder, a website builder, reporting, analytics, and many other tools.

Coaches Console stands out from competitors on the strength of its cohort-based learning program and on the rich feature-set that makes it a “one stop” solution for coaches. However, as with many feature-first tools, the user experience over time had become complicated and challenging for new users to learn.
We got involved when Coaches Consolewas ready to update their codebase and optimize performance – as part of that effort, they wanted a fresh look at their interface and user experience.

Our Challenge

For a feature-rich platform like this, the challenge is often how to make the right design choices to streamline and simplify the user experience without taking away from the important tools expert users rely on. For a product with as many diverse use cases as the Coaches Console, it was essential to do research both with long-time “expert” users as well as with less-established “novice” users.

We need to make sure to transition long term users to the new system without stress.”

Our Process


(~2 weeks)
For a feature-rich platform like this, the challenge is often how to make the right design choices to streamline and simplify the user experience without taking away from the important tools expert users rely on. For a product with as many diverse use cases as the Coaches Console, it was essential to do research both with long-time “expert” users as well as with less-established “novice” users.
Before Discovery
Screenshot of a dense contact detail screen
The old profile page showed “stale” information by default with more highly-used areas (appointments, client log, forms, to-do lists) hidden behind tabs.
During Discovery
Streamlined contact detail page wireframe
This low-fidelity concept showed a direction for redesigning the profile to elevate the relevant info
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An audit is more than a list of “things to improve”
Pairing existing usability challenges with forward-looking design concepts is a key component of our discovery process. At this stage, it's more important to focus on establishing priority and vision for a redesign than cataloguing every possible usability issue.
(~4 weeks)

Initial Research

After validating our vision for the redesign, we set about the project in earnest. Our first priority was to expand our research efforts beyond the most invested CC users – we identified three user groups to target:
  1. Established coaches (similar to who we talked to during Discovery)
  2. Beginning coaches (people coming out of a training cohort, ~3-6 months of use)
  3. Novice coaches (people still in their training cohort, or who did not participate in training)
We worked with the CC team to segment their user database and recruited from those segments by offering a financial incentive. During these interviews, we conducted contextual inquiry by having participants pull up their CC interface and carry out common tasks.
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The Importance of Contextual Inquiry
Actually seeing how people interact with a product is essential for understanding usability. People will often develop workarounds for serious issues and no longer experience them as “problems”. Watching how people go about common tasks and asking probing questions is much more revealing than conducting interviews without that context.

Concept Design

(~4 weeks)
We began the design work in earnest, using our insights from the Discovery and Initial Research phases as a base. We presented design work weekly with CC stakeholders and revised based on their feedback. Initially, we planned to test the designs with recruited CC users of mixed experience levels at the end of each module.
a home icon
Nav/ IA / Hierarchy
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Products / Billing / Invoicing
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My Content
As we got deeper into the design work, it became clear that we had to make some important prioritization choices for our research and testing cadence. We grouped together modules into “chunks” so that we could present a coherent set of tasks and experiences to users. We also worked with subject matter experts to craft realistic scenarios so that our participants would not be distracted by tasks which lacked the right context. The positive response to the overall direction in our first round of research meant that for some modules, the design work was largely updating the UI, while for other modules, more important decisions needed to be made about how content was organized and created. We loaded our research towards rich tasks using those more challenging modules (“Contacts” and “Products”) while validating the more straightforward modules.

Ultimately, we conducted 4 rounds of testing (not including the initial research), each with a different focus:
Round 1: Nav / Hierarchy / IA + Contacts + Calendar
Round 2: Contacts (2nd time) + Products
Round 3: “Home” experience + Products (2nd time)
Round 4: Validation testing (entire site, including “home” experience and support)
Getting it Wrong, then fixing it: Products + Agreements
One of the most important (and most complicated) features centered around the contracts between coaches and their clients – how coaches get paid! Coaches had the choice of using “agreements” (customizable contract templates) or creating “products” (courseware or permissions that could be attached to customizable contract templates). In our initial research, it was apparent that the distinction between these two concepts was mostly lost on coaches. Coaches would use one or the other exclusively to market their services and did not have a clear picture of how either worked. (Typical quote: “I set it up the way they showed me in training and haven’t touched it since.”) We also saw coaches using workarounds (creating 3 versions of the same product just to support different payment options) or not taking full advantage of the features (setting up an agreement without automatic permissions, then manually adding permissions each time a new client signed).

We proposed reducing these to a single feature and allowing for customization to allow for the diversity of use cases. However, in testing, this caused even more confusion for coaches. A particular sticking point was around the screen showing the option to “make available for purchase on website” – even though each feature was essentially a way to specify what services were offered, what payment was required, and an automatic way to keep track, people thought about “private agreements” very differently from “shopping cart” items.

Seeing that the sticking point was around notions of “private” and “public” was the key insight to fix the design. We revised the design, now with the distinction between the two in place but sharpened. “Products” were offered for public sale on the website, while “Agreements” were private and sent directly to potential customers. While enough customization was present to blur the details somewhat, this new focus made it much more clear for coaches as to which “type” they should use, and the ability to do things like specify multiple payment options for the same product greatly simplified their workflows.

We also changed how the items were grouped – previously “agreements” had lived with “invoicing” in the “billing” tab and “products” had lived with “courses” in the “cart” tab. This was confusing, since agreements could give access to courses and products could generate invoices. Instead, we placed agreements, products, and invoicing – the “what gets you paid” features – all together in a single tab and moved courses (along with documents and forms) into a new “things I created” tab called My Content.
Newly designed simple list of templates

Overall I like this, it’s nice and matches with what I use. I like being able to create new or add to an existing agreement.”

Putting all this (content permissions) within the agreement is amazing - we’re getting it all done in one spot! I like it.”

Newly designed simple list of templates
This was a key area where we would have gone wrong without research. The expert coaches had things set up how they wanted and didn't see a problem, but this was a huge pain point for newer users. Our first redesign was meant to fix this, but it was too abstract and didn’t connect with the actual users. Only after seeing people struggle both with the initial implementation and then struggle differently with the first redesign were we able to create a concept that was truly intuitive.
The advantages of “medium” fidelity
While low-fidelity designs (greyscale, blank boxes, placeholder text) can be appropriate for making high-level decisions, real users often react poorly or are confused by this type of wireframe. Even as a first pass, we often design in “medium” fidelity, where the screens use color, font, layout, real content, etc. This allows us to get real reactions from users before final visual styles are settled on, without having to spend multiple rounds of rework updating low-fidelity designs.

Through the design process (~10 months), we worked through different modes, using low-fidelity to convey overall direction with stakeholders, then using medium-fidelity to do initial testing, and only moving to high-fidelity once designs were validated and being prepared for final testing or implementation.
Low fidelity wireframe of a profile page
“Low” fidelity
(discovery work, for stakeholders)
Medium fidelity wireframe of profile page
“Medium” fidelity
(initial design work, for user testing)
Finalized wireframe for profile page
“High” fidelity
(final design)

Documentation, Support, Mobile

(~8 weeks)
After the final round of validation testing, we had a final chunk of work to close out the project. We wrote a deck summarizing our research findings at a high level so the team would have something to refer back to as they moved into implementation. We also went back to clean up screens, apply final design polish, and document important interaction patterns, as the bulk of development would be done after our engagement.

Final Takeaway

Redesigning a platform with a strong userbase is a challenging mix of making impactful changes while maintaining a continuity of experience fo established users.  Coaches Console announced the launch of the updated v4 design in September of 2022 (~1 year after the conclusion of our design work), receiving high marks from established coaches while earning higher conversions and retention for newer coaches.

Congratulations on making an already excellent service even better for coaches … especially we tech-challenged coaches, who appreciate a process and system that is more intuitive! Thank you for the work that you and your team produce … I’m giving you all an ‘A’!”