Quantcast Advertise is an advertising technology platform that help marketers serve ads to their relevant audience. Digital display advertising can be the wild wild west sometimes — we all have seen random ads that aren’t relevant to us at all. For marketers, this means they are wasting money serving ads to the wrong audience.
Ads, or what Quantcast calls “Creatives”, are just pixels right? It seems pretty simple from the outside, but it is much more complicated I have ever imagined. I spent a year and a half on this project so far and I am excited to share my journey with you.
Learn more about Quantcast Advertise.
Quantcast was interested in scaling their business to be able to handle more customers. The largest bottleneck with the most pain points was adding and managing creatives for campaigns. It was obvious we had to start there and make it more efficient.
The biggest challenge was learning about digital display advertising and fully understanding how everything works together. The systems are the most complex I have ever encountered and it wasn’t enough to learn just about creatives. I had to learn every single thing about Quantcast's system and the digital display advertising landscape (check out the Display LUMAscape) to design this project effectively.
Another challenge is working in a team that is new to shipping products with interfaces. I had to work to develop relationships to foster collaboration and help the team develop a new process.
The Creative Manager is really part of a suite of tools Quantcast needed to build as the frontend for their Advertise product. It was challenging to design the first piece of a tool without direction on the entire vision. I worked hard and partnered up with Product Managers to hone in on the vision and future-proof the Creative App to eventually fit in with the Campaign Manager project that I lead a year later.
There was a lot to learn, a lot to build and not a lot of time. I approached this project in a scientific way from the very beginning and invested heavily into research.
I took a deep dive into digital display advertising and learned about Quantcast's competitors and the technology driving the programmatic industry.
Interviewing the stakeholders uncovered insights and pain points of our process. This allowed me to establish collaborative relationships.
I spoke to the internal users and learned more about their current process and understand their needs and wants.
Creatives were complex. I worked with my stakeholders and users in multiple workshops to help me understand the nitty gritty of creatives. There were so many and they were all so different. I wanted to create a modular system to work with them all.
I sketched. A lot. Sketching was an crucial part in communicating my theories and understanding with users and stakeholders. The team was visual so seeing sketches helped us get to the right solution quickly.
Creatives, believe it or not, are comprised of 10-13 settings. It was way too many and most of them were extremely technical. I worked with the team and automated all the settings except for two, which made it possible for a non-technical user to use the Creative Manager.
The first version was shipped and rolled out to all Quantcast offices. We had huge successes with adoption and improved the average time to add creatives into our system by 566x!
We didn't start celebrating just yet. I conducted user testing with our users in San Francisco, Dublin and London. There was a lot that we got right and there were a lot of things that needed to improve. We learned a lot from shipping version one, and we started on the next version. This time, I spent some time architecting how Creative Manager will fit in with Campaign Manager seemlessly.
Armed with learnings user findings and the architecture in mind for Campaign Manager and Creative Manager, I tackled version two head on. I wanted to create a modular platform that gives the user mobility wherever they are. I also wanted to focus on consolidating different workflows to use the same pages. A result of this is more efficient engineering.
There are essentially four creative types that the application needed to handle. Because some creatives can be files (images or flash) and some can be tags (code snippets). Our internal users will be using the Creative Manager every day and clients will use it very seldomly. It made it crucial to design a modular card and experience but also make it consistent regardless of the creative is thrown at it.
Each creative type also had dynamic settings that needed to be communicated to the user. Public service ad is an example of this. The modular cards also had to handle the various settings of each creative type. So I established a pattern for where to place actions, where to place information and where to place inputs so they can be expected in the same place.
The cards also were designed with different states. The cards were arranged in a grid so it was important to make when cards changed to another state, it doesn't affect or move the other cards.
One of the key themes from user testing version one is confidence in the application — not knowing what happens. The Creative Manager has a lot of interactions so we needed a way to communicate to the user something did happen. The use of animation to add physics in the application is important to show things that are happening on the page.
In addition to anmiations, we also want to add interaction messaging to confirm with the user their action was registered. It can help the user feel confident in the system and in their interaction and improve their trust in the application. This hasn't been built yet, but I would like to user test how much feedback is neccessary and what kinds of interaction feedback is useful.
We didn't get to spend enough time developing error messages in version one. As a result, the users didn't have the right messaging to help them understand what is going on and what needed to be done to complete their task. I worked with the team to write error messages that were both informative and actionable. This was especially important for the files users uploaded to Creative Manager. I came up with a modular file card format that worked for files including zips.
Input fields were errors that I wanted to improve as well. Our design team at quantcast didn't have a input error treatment in their design framework yet. I set out to design one that worked across both our Measure and Advertise products. I approached the input fields by analyzing the needs across the products and identified all potential states.
Working on version two of the Creative Manager along with Campaign Manager at the same time gave me an opportunity to create a modular system. Yet, they work seemlessly together since I took a holistic approach to designing Quantcast's first self-serve platform.