Ross Phelps

Service / UX / Design Leadership


  • Jan 21 - Sept 21
  • Remote
  • Client Side Contract


As the UX Design Lead for GfK’s WebTas revamp, the project focused on enhancing the user experience of a critical toolset used for data cataloguing and coding. My role involved extensive collaboration and leadership of the wider team, stakeholder engagement, defining the UX process, and addressing the needs of a global user base.

Who is GfK?

GfK is a leading AI-driven intelligence platform specialising in the global consumer products sector. They provide real-time data rich insights to help businesses make informed decisions, aiming to enhance sales and marketing strategies through advanced data analytics and machine learning.

GfK’s Data Platforms

GfK utilises advanced data platforms like Newron, Digital MI, and Lightspeed to collect, process, and refine financial, retailer, and product data. These platforms act as the core of GfK’s operations, providing customised reports through over 250 tools to support business intelligence needs.

I focused on improving the Coding and Cataloguing domain, which aims to automatically match new data with existing information located in the vast data lake that underpins the entire operation. If new data doesn’t find a match, it’s flagged for manual coding by a global team spread across three continents. This domain handles 180 million products, partners with 100,000 retailers, and adds 2 million new products annually, reflecting a 20% increase year-on-year.

WebTas: Legacy Enterprise Software

WebTas is critical enterprise level software used for manually matching new products with existing data. Although the machine learning algorithm can auto-match some products, it only succeeds 12% of the time, leaving 1.8 million products needing human oversight each year. WebTas, built by engineers for engineers, has served GfK for 24 years and in order to remain integral to GfK’s user experience-focused modernisation. The focus of my teams efforts would centre around this essential business tool, with a critical update for the modern landscape.

Defining the UX Process

The UX process I initiated was meticulously structured using a human-centred design approach, leveraging the infamous double diamond framework. This framework facilitated thorough exploration and definition of the problem space before moving into solution development working with squads of engineers to deliver a vastly improved experience.

Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement

From the outset, I prioritised collaboration with various cross-functional teams, including product management, engineering, and data science. This multidisciplinary approach was essential in integrating diverse perspectives and expertise into the design solutions. Regular stakeholder meetings were conducted to keep all parties informed about progress and to gather continuous feedback, building confidence in the process.

I facilitated creative workshops and brainstorming sessions with my team, fostering open dialogue and idea generation. This approach helped refine concepts and align them with user needs, all while driving stakeholder engagement. Establishing iterative feedback loops with stakeholders and users was crucial in incorporating their insights at each stage of the design process, ensuring the final product met user expectations and business goals.


I employed mixed research methods as a foundation to build from, this gave the team a holistic view of the problems we were facing, all while keeping things interesting. We conducted qualitative research involving 23 participants from three countries across two continents over a period of 20 days, all of which were employed by third party vendors. From a qualitative stand point we have access to ‘some’ usage data, I gathered questions from the product management team, distilled them, and included them in a digital survey sent to 900 users, achieving an 8.5% response rate.

User Interviews

I led multiple user interviews, marking the first time WebTas users actively shared feedback with GfK. Initially, the team nominated mainly experienced, English-speaking users, but I advocated for including a broader user range to avoid this obvious operational bias. These interviews were crucial in understanding user habits, pain points, and their jobs to be done. My approach to analysis highlighted areas for improvement in the platform’s user, experience, and interface, shaping future plans for WebTas. The team prepared a semi-structured interview guide, using a “show me, tell me” method to gain deeper insights and guide the development of a much more user-friendly platform.


In addition to interviews, I got the team to launch a worldwide survey using Qualtrics. The survey contained clear, easy-to-understand questions based on a PACT framework, helping us better understand users’ backgrounds. Ethical guidelines were strictly followed, ensuring informed consent, privacy, and the option to leave the survey at any time.

Out of 900 users, we received 77 responses, which were translated into easy-to-understand visuals to guide stakeholders towards the next steps for WebTas. Survey insights included preferences for linear workflows, adaptability to change, proactive problem-solving, task focus, and the value of individuality and analytical skills.

Physical, Organisational, and Social Findings

Physical Setting
Users accessed WebTas from various global locations, from quiet home offices to bustling workspaces, with wildly differing levels of internet reliability. This highlighted the need for WebTas to be more user-friendly, especially for remote workers.

Organisational Setting
WebTas catered to users from different time zones, creating communication challenges. Tools like MS Teams helped mitigate some of these issues, especially in remote settings. But users still really struggled to collaborate.

Social Setting
Users had limited self-help options and often relied on managers or seasoned users for support, consuming time and operational costs. This indicated a need to upgrade support mechanisms to enhance the overall user experience.


During the design phase, I pushed the team to develop key artefacts to shed light on user needs and guide our delivery teams, ensuring a tailored user experience. These included personas, user journeys, and user stories.

These personas provided insights into user behaviours, motivations, and skills, evolving through ongoing research to better understand and empathise with users.

User Journeys
By leading sessions and taking screenshots of user interactions, I simplified and labelled user journeys, paired with comments to identify areas for improvement and guide design decisions.

Establishing Real User Needs
My team’s research revealed the need for WebTas to cater to multiple user groups. The current interface was overcrowded, especially for new users, highlighting the need for a more efficient and streamlined design. Social interactions were also valued, suggesting features like a leaderboard could boost engagement. Understanding how things really worked was crucial, especially in a platform where quick interactions matter. Accessibility, particularly for visually impaired users, was an immediate priority as over 20% of users had visual impairments.

Defining Design Principles

If the future iteration of WebTas was to be a success, it is critical that it followed key design principles to shape the user experience, aligning with established design practices to improve the user journey.

Speeding Up Interactions
Doherty’s Threshold: The older WebTas platform was slow, not meeting the threshold suggesting that users work best when interactions happen in under 400 milliseconds. The aim was to make everything faster and more responsive.

Simplifying Complexity
Tesler’s Law: With 136 filters and 200 data points, WebTas became overly complicated. The goal was to simplify it, focusing on essential user needs and making interactions enjoyable and efficient.

Reducing Choices
Hick’s Law: Too many options made tasks especially difficult for new users. Simplifying these options helped users work more efficiently.

Gestalt Principles
Applying principles like similarity, proximity, common region, and focal point improved data grouping, simplified steps, maintained clear arrangement, and effectively highlighted selected rows.


The ideation phase focused on creating a user-friendly and accessible design. Leveraging collaborative workshops with stakeholders and experts, we shaped the future of the WebTas product.
The benefit of this structured ideation process was the creation of a design that was deeply rooted in user feedback and needs, ensuring that the final product would be both intuitive and effective.

Solution Sketches
The sketching sessions were instrumental in visualising updates while retaining familiar elements like the top and bottom tables, ensuring continuity for users. A new feature indicating the order of item processing was added to reduce confusion and enhance usability. This structured ideation process rooted the design in user feedback, ensuring an intuitive and effective final product.

Following the ideation, I transitioned the team onto transforming broad ideas into detailed, user-focused design solutions. Guided by insights gathered, my team and I developed a unified design system and detailed wireframes using Figma.

Creating a flexible atomic design system was a key achievement, reflecting GfK’s brand identity and adhering to best practices. This system ensured consistency across the platform, enhancing user experience through a cohesive and familiar interface, which would be tested across multiple value driven projects.

High-Fidelity Wireframes: Turning Ideas into Reality
High-fidelity wireframes were meticulously crafted using Figma, bridging the gap between ideation and implementation. These wireframes provided a clear and practical vision of the final product’s functionality, ensuring that our design solutions were both aesthetically pleasing and highly functional.

By adhering to best practices throughout this structured design process, we delivered a final product that maximised efficiency and effectiveness. This approach ensured a seamless transition from concept to reality, ultimately leading to a user-centric and successful design.


I recognised the importance of prototyping in refining our designs. Using Axure RP, I created high-fidelity prototypes that closely resembled the final product, allowing participants to experience realistic interactions. This made their feedback highly reliable. By incorporating detailed micro-interactions, we enriched the overall user experience. Prototyping provided a clear lens for usability testing, highlighting both strengths and areas needing improvement.

Usability Testing
To ensure thorough usability testing, I developed a semi-structured discussion guide that balanced consistency with flexibility. This guide included sections for introductions, warm-up questions, main inquiries, user feedback collection, and concluding wrap-ups. My focus was on assessing user-friendliness, particularly the design elements like font style, size, contrast, and new feature integration. These tests were crucial in understanding how well the design modifications supported users’ daily tasks.

The continuous feedback loop from these tests allowed for iterative improvements, resulting in a product that was intuitive and aligned with users’ practical needs. Concluding this phase marked a significant milestone in our journey towards creating an optimal user experience and set a strong foundation for future enhancements.