Fasterbids solves a very real problem in a very complicated industry. I believe a large part of work as a designer is the ability to rapidly understand new problems and ecosystems. In this case, I got a real crash course in the world of lumber and building materials. I was surprised to learn that the existing lumber sales supply chain is completely analog, relying on large semi-annual catalogs from distributors. A sales associate can take several days or even weeks to develop a single order quote and the desire for comparison shopping just multiplies that return time. Fasterbids seeks to optimize this entire process by digitizing distributor catalogs and bringing all the stakeholders together on a single application.
If you're still confused about the Fasterbids product, that's normal. The lumber and building materials sales process is a sort of blackbox to those outside the industry. It took me several weeks of interviewing customers to really wrap my head around the intricacies. It's not a perfect analogy, but for now you can think of Fasterbids as Priceline for construction materials.
Fasterbids was powerful, but the UX was disjointed and lacked a clear hierarchy in its functionality.
Create All-Purpose Bids
Fasterbids is, at its core, a data tool. Each product type has several layers of attributes. I realized early on that by understanding each product category and the relevant filters we could create a more templatized flow through the various product applications. At this stage in the process I worked closely with our customers to understand the existing product catalogues and sort between hierarchical product filters and non-hierarchical options that could be used to refine the search results page.
The single decision to anchor the user flow in a breadcrumb menu dramatically improved the user experience. The breadcrumb gives users visibility of the system status, and it becomes clear to them how their choices have affected the current outcome. Additionally, by using the breadcrumb dropdown options, users are able to rapidly jump from application to application and prepare bids in record times.
Our ultimate solution was designed around a brand new master quote page that gives a complete overview of a user’s project. From this page alone, users can create and manage new customers and projects, view real-time pricing information on projects, modify a project quote by disabling particular products or full categories, and enter their inventory catalog to select and customize new products. I chose to use Google’s Material Design as a framework for the product redesign.