Case Studies - Portfolio site for User Experience consultant Barry Briggs

Parasol Group - Form Design & Conversion Optimisation - Case Study

Written by Barry Briggs / Date: 14/06/2009


This project's main goal was to increase conversion and reduce drop-off during a long and complicated registration process, while encouraging and facilitating the post-registration completion of an equally long and complicated set of personal details.

My work involved leading several stakeholder meetings and workshops in order to understand the complexities of the client's requirements and their customer's needs and expectations, creating personas, scenarios, user journeys, and a set of fully annotated wireframes for handover to the client's internal creative and development teams.


Parasol are the UK's leading PAYE umbrella company. They make it easier for people starting out in contract work to establish themselves, taking care of billing, expenses and most other admin duties you would have to do if you set yourself up as a Limited company.

Parasol's registration process was a complicated one, with several lengthy steps that all had to be completed in order to begin using their services. Numerous pieces of documentation were required (eg: Passport details for ID verification), requiring the user to have everything they needed with them at the first sitting.

The process had several identifiable drop-off points and a high percentage of prospective customers were ringing the Customer Support help-line to complete registration (tying up valuable personell), while many prospective customers where leaving altogether, never to be heard from again.


The brief was to simplify the initial registration process, restructure the post-registration capture of additional information, make the task seem less intimidating, reduce drop-offs and support calls, and add clarity to the process generally.

The final deliverables comprised of a fully annotated interactive prototype of the entire registration process and the post-registration profile completion process, to enable Parasol's in-house creative and development team to build the new system themselves.

Understanding the user

Stakeholder meetings with the Parasol team revealed several distinct types of customer and highlighted the key areas of drop-offs on the site while conversations with members of the Customer Support team revealed areas where the process seemed to be causing the most problems for customers.

Some of the more experienced members of the Customer Support team were also able to describe how they handle problems over the telephone: the tone & language used, the amount of hand-holding required for certain tasks, frequently used workarounds.

I created 3 distinct personas representative of Parasol's archetypal customers, outlining their wants, needs and expectations of Parasol's website, and then created a number of scenarios, placing each persona within the context of attempting to register for Parasol's services.

Building a system for the user

I then began plotting the ideal user journeys through the system, ensuring that the scenarios described above were catered for and that the system fit the identified user expectations as much as possible.

Once these user journeys were defined I began the process of creating wireframes for each page in the process. By mapping established best-practice principles in form design on to Parasol's brand guidelines I was able to quickly and effectively develop a prototype for the initial registration phase.

The wireframes were produced using Axure which allowed me to create and annotate rich interactive prototypes from the mock-ups, demonstrating alternate states and flows through the application.


I changed the structure of the registration process by breaking it up into a number of distinct stages, akin to completing one's profile on Social Network sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

Positive messages were introduced on the logged in user's home page to encourage them to complete additional information, and helpful explanatory text was shown in context to demystify the process and encourage data entry.

Removing the need for the user to have all the relevant documents to hand at the same time and breaking the various steps up into individual processes effects the user's perception of the whole process, making it seem like a number of smaller steps rather than a single, long and arduous process. As well as increasing the general usability of the process this also removes a great deal of pressure from the user, allowing them to complete the process at their convenience.

The project increased conversion far in excess of the project's stated goals, and improved brand perception considerably. The client was very happy with our results and subsequently offered us several other pieces of work.