The BT Phonebook
UX Optimisation


The BT Phonebook is historically known for being a HUGE paper based directory that use to be delivered through your door at least once a year. Thankfully now, the product has evolved and is now digital.


The Phone Book Product is a search engine solution enabling users to look up personal addresses and telephone numbers, businesses and international dial codes all accessible via multiple platforms, i.e Desktop, Tablet and Mobile as well as BT's In-Link hubs found in and around all major UK cities.


I was asked to help establish a UX design culture within the team as well as achieve a number of quick wins for both customers and the business by improving Net Promoter Scores.

I Began by reviewing all existing sources of user insights and identify the need for additional tools which would serve the team in gaining a holistic view of the users needs and behaviours. This was a short term contract with very little budget so I had to think on my feet and source some avenues of opportunity to get some quick wins.


What were the key problems?

With 1200+ daily visits to the site across all three platforms the tool was under performing when it came to customer satisfaction with the NPS scores and general feedback being quite poor.  


Existing 'Find a Business' Mobile Experience


Initially, only quantitative insight data was available, i.e historical User Verbatim feedback (NPS) and Google Analytics of which was supplied by a third party SEO agency.


I initiated a conversation with our SEO agency account manager and business stakeholders regarding some of the user insight challenges we faced as a team, it was agreed that we could utilise some of the retainer SEO budget allowing us to implement a third party insight tool, 'Hot Jar'.

This add-on tool would allow for us to immediately capture qualitative insights i.e user behaviour in the form of: 


Heatmaps - Understanding what motivates users with visual representation of their clicks and taps etc.


User Recordings - Identifying usability issues real time across all platform types. 


What was the search experience of our competitors?

Competitive analysis will give you a better understanding of what your competitors are doing, and what they are offering to target customers. Findings will guide your strategic planning and help you build competitive advantage into your product.


Exploring a competitor’s website gives you an opportunity to discover what is working well and what common standards are being used (i.e. if all of your competitors are offering specific functionality, users will likely expect your site to offer similar functionality). 

Competitors Fan 2_2x.png


How did the designs develop?

In my experience when designing for search user interfaces, there are some simple best practice guidelines that should be followed:​


- Offer Informative Feedback 

- Support User Control

- Reduce Short Term Memory Load

- Reduce Errors - Offer Simple Error Handling

- Strive for Consistency

- Design for Closure

Checking search logs to see what users are searching for, tweak the results so the obvious searches are always successful, offer mis-spellings and synonyms. Design the experience not the interaction.




Search is the primary function of The Phonebook Website, and it needs to be displayed prominently, as it can be the fastest route to discovery for users. It's like a conversation between the user and the system, the user expresses their information need as a query, and the system expresses its response as a set of results. Search forces users to work more because not only must they come up with a query, but they also must type it. Typing has high interaction cost, its is error prone and time consuming even with full keyboard (and even more so on a touch screen).

The ideal would be for users to go to a site and find the results they are looking for with zero interaction cost delivering the holy grail of usability as a field.

My goal for the user is to make search easy to use and design for closure by making technology do more so that the user does less.

Final Designs


Dominant Entry Point: Leading the user to the task in hand with clear Visual Cues of the three search categories available. 

Designing for Thumbs: Placing main menu items, frequently used controls within easy reach of thumbs



Effective Autosuggestions: Valuable functions including recognition of root words and suggestions while the user enters text. This helps speed up the search process and keep users on task towards successful and relevant search results.

Geo Location API: This capability serves more relevant search results to the user based on their location.

Resent Searches: Keeping recent user search queries is a basic usability rule of respecting the users effort.



Labelling Naming Conventions: Providing users with Clear Visual Cues of sort and filtering options with the use of common CTA labelling.

Sorting Options: As not to overwhelm users with too many options, present those that are most valuable.

Filtering Options: If search requires a lot of filter options, then collapse some by default as to not overwhelm the user.  



- Confusing UI Navigation

- Search results were not relevant

- Volume of search results presented

- Ads were seen as friction to the user

- Content Listings were sometimes out of date


- Loss of trust from users and potential new business

- Loss of business from existing customers 

- Customer loss to competitors

- 80% drop off rates