One of the best ways to explore your knowledge and go above and beyond technical limitations is to have personal projects. This year I've decided grow in my product experience by nothing else but launching my own product. From brainstorming ideas to building an MVP, validating with users, collecting feedback, continuous improving and marketing all that is part of what I've been doing.
To me the best way to learn or to increase the knowledge based on theory is to apply it in practice. With that in mind the main goals and objectives were:
- understand better what I know and what I don't and by going through full process of launching and maintaining an online product.
- see better all dependencies with design in a product lifecycle
- develop a product fully with no-code tools, in my case bubble.io
- see potential for monetization and expand on it.
I've been giving to the product a year to observe the user base and discover opportunities for further development.
It's not a secret that the best way to start a product is to find a problem a big enough group of people has and provide a solution to that. Or you can provide value, or entertainment, or the tools to make their life easier. I knew that I want to do something in the deals and offers area and I've noticed some problems worth solving there:
- each business has their own deals that get updated weekly/monthly. Difficult for the consumer to track them all.
- many of the sales are deceiving and untrue, but you would need some research to find out that.
So the big problems would need a trustful solution that it's also and aggregator of multiple sources.
So I've decided a community based platform for deals and offers which are basically recommendations from others would be a perfect solution to this problem. Happy with the solution in mind the next step was define in details the parts and components which would make it happen.
Learning: The problem definition and solution hypothesis it's just the surface and doesn't cover everything, but it's a great way to start. Without having some clear hypothesis the design will stay just a superficial interactive element without a clear purpose.
Wireframing and Architecture
Naming & Branding
Even though the branding is quite fun to work on, taking into account all other bits and pieces needed to validate the idea I didn't want to spend to much time on it and moved at a rapid pace through it.
Later on, the branding evolved in to more simple. bold and contrasting colors. Currently I cannot say the branding is final and decided, since I have the luxury to evolve it together with the product and morphing the style and rules to the user base.
- Domain acquisition and setup
- Create database
- Architecture detailing
- Tracking tools integration. Google Analytics and Hotjar
- Google analytics int
Designing the details
In theory it's possible already at this level to jump into the no-code tool for building, I think it's critical to design the pages in a design tool without technical limitations and shortcuts. Only like that true design gets done.
Launching the MVP
The approach to the launch was all about providing minimum viability to the users and share it around. As expected there was some support from the friends but they are not the user target group. It was time for advertisement and when it comes to the communities a good place to start was Facebook advertisement, so I went for it.
Learning: You can buy the traffic but not retention and conversion. The key takeaway after 3 months of promotions I understood that majority of users will be just consumers, but not active members that post and interact with each other. Returning users would need some products consumed daily/weekly. So it was time for the improve part.
Having the learning from above in mind, in August, I have redesigned and repurposed the website noticeably. Now the purpose was to aggregate and share the sales from big supermarkets on consumers products. It still has old features included but this is just temporary until users get used to the new thing.
- SEO - is critical and to have chance of appearing in Google or other SERP there needs to be done a lot of work. Also content is essential which was not the strength of the website.
- Advertisement - it essential to have especially at the start enough advertisement to spread the word and gather new users.
- Technical limitations - relying on no-code and working only by myself on all the fields implied critical thinking and was very challenging. Having good priorities and time-boxing helped a lot here.
The biggest learning for me it's to not get attached to a design idea, to allow it for iteration and maturation. We digital designers have a big advantage over physical designs since we can update it much more often especially in initial MVP phases where the branding is not so strong. We as designers lose so often within details that seem very important at the moment but have exactly zero impact in the revenue. Having the big picture in mind helps enormously seeing where to spend more energy and time.
- Syncing and working together with all departments and stakeholders is the only way to move fast and create one purpose product.
- Design has no shortcuts, it's a profession which needs dedication and expertise. If you don't have designer specialists in your team be sure to miss a lot.
- It doesn't matter the tool you use as long as it does the job.
Being 4 months live the product evolved a lot and had 1 major direction and design change. This means first 3 months was enough to invalidate the first idea, which actually helped to shape the current version. In next few months depending on the user retention and interests the future of the product will be decided. The mantra is to stay agile!