Creation of an app that addressed the needs of a market which was saturated, and whose mainstream competitors did little to address those needs. Myself and Min Ryu were brought into the project to resolve a specific heuristic issue: how do you go from Screen A to Screen C? After Min and I resolved this, there was another issue... the market was saturated and this product needed a new direction.
* Please be mindful: This project is still under NDA and I will provide key narratives and takeaways of my journey, I cannot show product features and business models.
Team/Duration: 10 (Senior Designer, x3 Junior Designers, Idealist, Marketer, x2 Programmer, x2 Business Manager) / 1 Year.
Tools: Pen/Paper, Excel, Google Drive, Google Slides, Photoshop, Illustrator, InVision, Google Forms, and a lot of competitor apps.
Methods: Competitive/Comparative Analysis, User Survey, Persona Generation, Interaction Modeling, Market Analysis, Wireframes, Usability Testing, Visual Mock-up, Prototyping
"... the market was saturated and the product needed a new direction."
When Min and I were brought onto the project, we only had two frames to work with. While I oversaw Min's design work, he was great with information architecture. Regardless of what we threw at this startup, we still had an issue: its still a social app and there were plenty out there. So how do we differentiate ourselves?
There were several things that needed to be done:
Scan market trends to track relevancy
Have an alternate idea
Resolve excess business
Reinforce project integrity
The problem with being a part of startups at super early stages is that there is a lot of noise. People get lost, scattered motivation, and a lot of nights brainstorming.
While the original product was from Cameron he had another product which gave me an idea. Taking from that other product, I derived the idea behind the entire app concept and condensed it into a feature which would help pivot our current product.
Research was primarily split between two factors: Market conditions and User research.
At this point in the project, Cameron brought on Lisandra Maioli who helped us understand (from her marketing background) how to isolate details and approach the marketplace. She introduced the Blue Ocean dynamic to our vocabulary, which helped anchor how we would approach the social industry. The amount of apps are the market were already staggering, so the battle we faced was if people immediately understood our product and how they would utilize it.
Cameron was already doing guerilla research before I met him. While his data was okay, I realized he was driving the questions moreso than letting users express themselves. Under my guidelines, I needed to monitor user research so that the feedback was genuine and not influenced.
All the painpoints, like catfishing and superficiality (to name a few), are all recognized problems in the social communication industry and we aimed to not only resolve it, but create an enjoyable experience.
Reflecting on the simplicity of our eventual product's design, we realized it was very simple. So what was simple on its own, needed to be dispersed across awareness with intensity. Also, it needed to be usable in more ways than just a typical socializing app. This is where Cameron and I started developing an extensive, high-impact marketing plan so that we could get the numbers to A) maintain an active user base, B) show value to invested parties.
While Cameron was great with concepting, bringing passion to the project, and convincing others of the project's value, I helped to refine his approach and brought it to life through my wireframes, UI designs, pitch decks, and prototypes. (Ironically, none of which I can show until the NDA is over.)
The app was simple in design, but what mattered was the context. This was a highly contextual app, but I designed it with the expressed intent that it would be:
And this necessitated a widespread impact. It took similar risks as Snapchat, but we couldn't afford waiting on it to reach critical mass.
The design for the website was that it served as an extension of the app's features. It was created as a benefit for users and not a translation of what already exists in the app.
With the app's user flow verified and iterated upon through user testing, we sought to develop a pitch deck for investors and partners. This was the biggest challenge as there is a knowledge gap on best practices for Pitch Decks on the internet. We later partnered with the Regional Director of Keiretsu Forum - SoCal, Carinda Bourgeouis, to refine the decks in latter months.
Although I have since departed the project, it is still something I poured immense resources into. With that in mind, these were my perceived next steps for the project:
Refine and perhaps revise UI design
Continue research to determine any evidence of market changes and competitor shifts
Have front-end and back-end developers collaborate with designers based on my schematic for the app and its database
Gather resources to start marketing process
"Someone might be wondering, 'JB, why are you putting up a portfolio piece of a project that has no visuals to show?' Well, the reasoning is that I spent a whole year of dedicated work for this. I learned a lot, tested a lot of things, and brought a product from start to investor-ready. It was an epic journey that put everything to the test, all of which received a lot of interest from people who saw the material!"