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Membership sign up




Public sector

Skills demonstrated

User research - User journey mapping - Intelligent form design

- Service design

Unison, one of the UK’s leading unions was looking to increase member sign ups.


The number of Unison new member sign ups was declining. They wanted to engage students and newly qualified professionals such as nurses and teachers to sign up as Union members. 

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01 The Challenge

Large declines in new membership sign ups and a decreasing revenue stream had driven Unison to launch a nationwide marketing campaign aimed at encouraging young people to join their union. 

Their sign up process was slow and outdated with a huge drop off rate. We were asked to develop a digital first strategy that would complement the marketing campaign and enable young people to quickly and easily sign up and join. 

02 Approach

The initial brief was to improve the digital sign up experience.


Unison’s data  showed the majority of their member sign ups took place at student events so we wanted to take a more holistic approach..


We proposed including a service research design piece as part of the project.

1 / User centered design

We would invest time and resource in getting a good understanding of the users and their journey

2 / Service design and research

On event sign ups meant we had to take into account the wider user experience 

3 / Mobile centric design

Not 100% mobile first but mobile design would take equal priority as desktop.

04 My role

I was the second designer on this project which meant that I worked alongside the head of design to deliver the project from start to finish.

Work included on-event user research, surveys, communicating regularly with Unison through to wireframing, UI design and usability testing.


05 Objectives & measurement

Unison wanted to make this project count and see a good ROI. How were were going to measure the success? We agreed on a set of KPIs which included the following:


06 User research

Unison had given us great, direct access to users. We set out about observing them and speaking to them at various student events around the country. 


The approached our research in 2 ways:

1. Observe the user

We attended a number of student events that Unison were attending and observed Unison's engagement with students, student behaviour and reaction. 

We used the POEM framework of observation

2. Speak to the user

We then gave a selection of 20 students Amazon vouchers and student goodies in exchange for a 10 minute interview

A summary of our findings
  • Students struggled to fill out Unison's paper forms, having to find a pen and rest the form on their knees.

  • There were a number of other Unions present at events and competing for attention.

  • The existing Unison form required students to have their NI and bank information to hand. This often prevented them from completing the form.

  • 72% of them owned an Android phone

  • 85% When asked didn't know how Unison membership would benefit them

07 Turning research into insights

Now it was time to turn our bundles of research notes into some clear outputs that would form the basis of our design decisions. 

We built out a number of user personas based and their journeys from awareness through to sign up including their mind-set and pain points.

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We wanted a form in its simplest form -
minimal, functional and clearly signposted. 

08 Sketching 

The initial sketching was focussed on the organisation of content. Questions such as; how would we split the sections up? How would we label the fields and sections? What would the hierarchy of content look like?

Decisions that came out of my initial sketches included:

  • Questions over multiple screens to avoid information overload

  • Progress stepper

  • One column of content so reader has a clear workflow with lots of white space

  • 6 levels of content hierarchy 

  • Keeping optional fields to the bare minimum and calling them out as 'optional' so the user should assume all fields as mandotory fields. 

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How could we help the user complete more complex parts of the form?

There were some pieces of info we had seen people struggle during observation. Ones of these was their salary, which was a figure that Unison used to calculate membership fee. We decided to offer them a helping hand via an in-form help tool.

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09 Wireframes 

We built out the wireframes in Figma.


We used this phase to play around with and validate things like: 


  • Content hierarchy

  • Weight of copy 

  • Multiple selection approaches 

  • Positioning of content such as help text

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10 UI Design

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The objective was to design a clean and modern experience that led the way in user-centric form design and increased sign ups. 

We believed it achieved what we had set out to do and were confident it would achieve significantly improved metrics but we needed to test it. 


11 The results

We had set out a clear set of KPIs at the start of the project. It would take a few months to get feedback on some of the KPIs.


Usability testing


Ahead of going live we carried out some usability testing where we observed a set of users completing the old form and a set of users completing the new form, while narrating their experience.

  • The new form saw a mean experience rating of 4.5 stars vs 3.1 for the old form

  • The average completion time was 9 mins 32 secs for the new form. The old form was 14 mins 4 secs.

Long term data

We hit 83% of our KPIs. A year after launch, Unison had seen an 22% increase in sign ups and an 18% increase in value added sign ups. 

The test of time

The form is still live on the Unison website in it's original form. 

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My retrospective

I enjoyed this project as we had great access to users which meant that we had strong insights to support our designs thinking. My learnings included:

  • Had we had more time and budget from the client it would have been useful to carry out more post-launch testing and iteration. We had a lot of usage data over the following year that we weren't able to action via iterations of the first design. 

  • It would have been interesting to design multiple form prototypes and carried out A/B testing to get a potentially superior outcome. 

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