Communicating Insights and Design Principles for the UT System

This is part three in a series about communicating a project with the University of Texas system. Visit here for part one: introductory research or here for part two: the project brief.

Rather than tackling an entire design project from start to finish and focusing on all aspects, we are pairing down our efforts to have one goal: clear communication for client updates. There are so many nuances to learn within the design process, it’s helpful to only focus on how we are communicating our ideas. As design grows and starts ousting MBA-clad professionals as company-wide leaders, the power to communicate our concepts to a wide audience is increasingly important. 

This week’s assignment is a deck that succinctly communicates the Vision phase of our project. The goal is to use our research and activities from the Vision phase to develop clear, actionable insights and design pillars. 

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You can read my entire deck for the University of Texas system here. Now that this brief is complete, we’ll continue with the path we suggested to develop a Design Presentation that shows completed work. 

Key Takeaways

This approach was new to me. In the past, we’ve approached insight presentation as a story — delicately weaving the stories of our users into our narrative. By pairing down and focusing on the design pillars, I was able to think more about how our insights can– and should– lead to actionable design pillars.

This blog post from Matthew Strom was an excellent resource as I developed design principles for this project. The rule of “Good design principles aren’t truisms” was particularly insightful and forced me to hone in on actionable, potentially provocative design pillars that could guide a project. Rather than saying, “We should support students” (obviously), I opted for “Focus on incremental growth” which is clearer. 

 

Supporting Sex Workers: Poppy Firestarter Launch

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This is part six in a series detailing updates to our research which is grounded in the goal of supporting the safety and agency of sex workers. 

Design Team: Brittany SgaliardichLeah DiVito


 

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Poppy is a digital platform for sex workers to connect with each other, ask questions, and share stories, without censorship or stigma. The goal of this product is to create a communal space where women can share knowledge and build community on their terms.

For this phase of our project, we attempted to validate that a platform like Poppy is something that women in the industry are interested in using. While we plan to build something entirely new, our initial testing uses the private messaging platform, Slack. Access to our Slack channel is invite-only.

Summary – what we did

    • Service blueprint. We drafted a service blueprint of the Poppy platform that focuses on our initial pilot experience. This blueprint examines the touchpoints a user will have with Poppy and the interactions, both physical and digital, that support them. As part of this effort, we also created a content calendar to identify a schedule around discussion topics and facilitation strategies. 
    • Initial prototype. Using Slack, we finalized our initial prototype. We walked users through the steps required to create accounts, join channels, and respond to initial discussion prompts. We also create a poll to determine what discussion topics users were most interested in.
    • Landing page. We redesigned our landing page to more strongly correlate to the brand identity we are trying to create. This page will serve as an initial touchpoint in joining our Slack channel.
  • Firestarter. The Poppy firestarter served as a kickoff event for getting a core group of users onto the Slack platform. For this to happen, we created an agenda, sent informational emails, and implemented the launch. We ultimately accomplished the following:
    • Six invites, six sign-ups, two Firestarter attendees and began co-creating community guidelines
    • Discussed most valuable future channels
    • Provided next steps for users
  • Legal counsel. This project requires a close relationship with legal counsel. As part of this effort, we met with a lawyer who shared valuable insights but could not offer advice in writing. We also followed up with additional leads:
    • Through a friend, we contacted the Walters Law Group, a law firm that addresses issues related to the adult industry and sex workers.
    • Our studio instructor, Jonathan Lewis, connected us to Dr. Henderson, the Professor and Chair Department of Communication at Trinity University. We plan to chat with her on Tuesday.
    • We attended a networking event for national legal resources and received guidance for moving forward.
  • New users. We continued sourcing potential users. 
    • Strip clubs in Austin. We discussed our project goals with strip club management for entry into the club. While there, we approached women one-on-one to pitch Poppy and collect emails and invite to Poppy. 
    • Existing relationships. We also continued to tap into our existing relationships by encouraging women we have previously spoken with to invite friends and peers onto the platform.
    • Candy Girl podcast. We met with the creators of Candy Girl podcast, a show that explores the sex industry through interviews with sex workers in college. We plan to share our research and connect with women in the industry who are interested in co-creating with us. 

The challenge.

This week, our most important task was to launch the Poppy prototype through a firestarter or kickoff event. The challenge continues to lie in the legal constraints of our topic space and the acquisition of legal counsel necessary to responsibly launch the prototype and manage user experience.

The insights.

What new knowledge did we create this week?

  • We need to get legal advice in writing.

In order to create terms of service for Poppy, we will need consistent legal counsel to ensure that we are responsible creators of this platform. We must retain legal advice in writing in order to sufficiently protect both ourselves and our users.

  • How can we begin to promote active engagement outside of planned events?

While our kickoff event was successful, our team must continue to drive engagement onto Poppy. This effort will hopefully lead to self-sustaining growth and organic engagement. While we will continue to expand the platform and seek new users, we must simultaneously figure out how to facilitate discussion among users in a way that feels both natural and delightful. 

  • We must learn to vet users as quickly as we gain them.

As we continue to identify legal obstacles, we also realize the need to establish a reliable way for vetting new users that parallels the pace with which we acquire them. This will enable Poppy to grow with control, safety, and an informed strategy.

  • How can we screen users at scale?

We realize the need to address platform scale even now, in its infancy. We must be asking what it looks like to vet new users as our existing user ecosystem grows. The risk of a user-screening process, especially at scale, could be significant if not done in the right way. We want to make sure we focus on the safety and exclusivity of our users while creating a delightful experience with the platform – and these goals can feel at odds.

  • Flexible blueprint

As soon as we began building our blueprint, we realized that the future of our social platform requires a degree of flexibility that is difficult to predict. Given that this tool should evolve organically, we want to iterate on the blueprint as we work through new versions of the prototype and receive feedback from users.

Next steps.

  • Continue to seek new user base.
  • Continue to facilitate user events to continue co-creating the platform.
  • Continue pursuing existing and potential connections with legal help.
  • Develop and test vetting techniques for new users.
  • Create higher fidelity wireframes of “blue sky” platform to vet with current users.

Building To Bambu

This is the 6th edition of updates to our capstone project based on research Ana and I conducted with low income families in quarter two at AC4D. You can get up to speed last week’s post.

Progress

This week Ana and I first established a two by two grid to check out the existent product landscape. Through this exercise we were able to see how To Bambu differentiated from existent services. Our value proposition is we’re not only designed to declutter closets, but help families in need by providing them equitable access to children’s goods. Through illustrating a few products, establishing a loose set of inventory and investigating payment structures we were better able to fill in the blanks on our service.

(Our two by two of the current children’s resale landscape.)

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Our website displays the basic skeleton of what we hope to achieve with vignettes. A donor/user page to better explain how our service works. We will provide insight as to why To Bambu is a better choice than competitors, and a choice of items to view. We’re midst set-up and are trying to curate a flow for both end users and donors. We’ve been researching how other sites are doing it right or wrong. Having to shift between customer and donor mindset is important in understanding how our website will work best.

We are considering each part, from families wanting to get rid of goods to the last email the buyers will get after completing a purchase, this service has to have proof of trust in every part of the process. During this process we also found out that there are several things parents don’t feel comfortable buying second hand, we will need to establish a list of do’s and don’ts on the website. Rules of what we will accept and what we will not because of hygiene, safety and many other variables. We will also need to do a list of things that must be in a product, for example; seatbelts in strollers, clean toys, cribs and strollers from after 2015 when the most recent safety standard for strollers became mandatory. All of these research insights have been very eye opening when thinking about our inspection and quality process.

(Our service blueprint for To Bambu) to better understand all the parts and players of our service at this point in time.

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Things Learned

To Bambu is specifically designed to not only declutter family closets, but it also helps those that need it the most by providing access to quality goods at attainable price points. We spoke with a classmate about how she went about setting up her business. She spoke of the in’s and out’s of LLC’s sole proprietorship, and the like. (Thank you Michelle). We also spoke with a school owner about difficulties they encountered when establishing their business, and holding money from deposits online. Lastly we discovered parents really are looking to get rid of stuff. We have a few potential donors ready to give us their children’s goods. (Some of which still have tags on.)

Progress and Prospects

We made great progress on understanding the scope of our service. Whether To Bambu serves as a portfolio piece, or a viable business, getting our hands dirty is proving to be invaluable. As we continue to define our product and revisit how we can serve people we’ll  continue to share with those willing to listen.

In the final week of studio we hope to develop a logo, polish our website interface, post inventory, establish user and donor flows and start prototyping.

 

 

Prototyping Vouch

This is the sixth installment of our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) project for our Studio and Ideation class. This project builds on the research we did with gig economy workers last Fall, which you can read about here and here.

After feedback from last week, we decided to dedicate ourselves fully to Vouch, a service that makes it simple for friends and family to lend money and build trust. In Vouch’s current state, it’s primarily used as a simple method to get both lenders and borrowers on the same page. We heard in our research that loans between friends and family are often messy when terms are not decided upfront. 

With Vouch, both borrowers and lenders can quickly fill out a form to determine the loan amount, interest rate, payback schedule, and any other options like equity or collateral. Vouch serves as a point of truth. One of our main design principles is for Vouch to inform and foster connection, but not mediate. 

Our primary goal for this week is to bring the idea to life as an MVP and validate whether this concept has legs to take us into Q4. 

 

Our progress this week

Built out our website including a landing page and two pages.

  • We revisited our value props and focused on transparent terms, simple reminders, and shared loan tracking. You can see the entire website here: www.vouchmoney.org.

 

Created forms to serve as our customer intake. 

    • Created a diagram of the user types that our product can serve to think through on-boarding flows.Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 7.30.49 PM
    • Using Typeform, we created conversational forms that allow both borrowers and lenders to easily disclose the terms of the loan. This is our on-boarding mechanism for Vouch users.
    • See for yourself: Form for Borrowers, Form for Lenders
    • We hypothesize that borrowers will be our primary audience, but we wanted to build out both flows and test to validate that assumption. 

 

Drafted a System Diagram to show user touchpoints. 

      • Our system diagram quickly shows how little the user has to do. One of our goals was to keep things clear and simple for users. 

 

Built out our communications flow, copy and visual assets.

    • Terms editing, reminders, and payment confirmation all happen through text or email, so we drafted responses for our eight possible flows. 
    • Read our copy
    • We also created visualizations of the repayment process that can be included in communication with borrowers and lenders.
    • vouch-data1 vouch-data2

 

Posted to Craigslist and other forums to find customers.

 

Reached out to friends and family to recruit customers.  

Insights & Feedback

We did a few talk aloud exercises as users walked through the lender forms for new and existing loans. The purpose of the talk aloud was to capture immediate, instinctive feedback. We asked questions about what felt good and clear, what gave pause or hesitation, whether they saw value in the service, and whether they would recommend the service to someone else. 

 

What do you like about the service? 

  • “I like the idea that you take the anguish part of it out of the lender. Vouch would be cushioning the blow.” 
  • “What I really, really like about this app is that you’ll do the reminding. Because I’ll either be ignored or hear excuses.”
  • “It shows me I got to be stricter about my expectations. Because I don’t set up any expectations, I don’t set up any plans.”
  • “Neat, clean, clear, simple. I like that it’s not a whole lot of information. Or too glitzy or whatever.”
  • “Getting this to college students who I would think, off and on, would be borrowing money – ‘Okay Mom and Dad I found this thing called Vouch – let’s do it this way.’ Working from the opposite end to attract boomers to it. Having the borrower approach shows initiative, responsibility.”

 

Would you recommend this service to anyone else? 

  • “My friends – we don’t talk about money that we loan to our kids. Usually it’s a very private thing between people… It would be so rare that I would tell anybody about it.” 
  • “I think it lays it out clearly – the things that could be discussed – to protect everybody and to keep on good terms so that both of you are on the same page with the borrowing and the lending. Not everyone wants to borrow money but this must make it more comfortable for them knowing there are standards and expectations that are clear.”

 

Notes on language

  • “Being on the same page is a manner of speech that we understand, but is a colloquialism that is culturally specific.”
  • What’s the name of the person – kind of casual. Maybe that’s on purpose to be friendly but in all my professional writing I’ve never used contraction. I thought oh, maybe this isn’t so professional. That flashed in my mind.”

 

We received feedback that the terms could include more room to articulate the flexibility and understanding that often exists with this type of loan. 

  • “If you miss a payment, how would that work? How would it know if you didn’t pay me for a couple months or I knew you were in dire straits?” 
  • “I can’t just look at things as cut and dry. I look at situations.”
  • “Repayment to family gets put behind things that are more important – it’s easy to get pushed aside because we’d be understanding.”

 

There was a suggestion for a pause and resume option, affording the borrower time to get back on track. Flexibility and understanding is partly why we borrow among friends and family. Due to the intimate nature of these loans, folks are often well aware of the situation or struggle a borrower may be in – highlighting that help extends well beyond the cash assistance. How can we adequately represent this moving forward? 

Next Steps

For our last week of Q3, we want to edit our sales deck to be a really tight, succinct pitch for Vouch. We’d also like to gain real users (not just friends and family) and hopefully — get a few success stories. Lastly, because our goal is to get borrowers and lenders on the same page, we want to design a terms sheet that is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. User feedback will help us iterate on how best to visually represent the terms so we’re eager to get this in play. 

Making progress on Foresight

This is part six in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. To learn more about our research, go here. To catch up on what we did last week, go here

Design team: Sean Redmond, Lauren Sands, Kyle Beck

Overview

After narrowing down to focus on Foresight, we quickly ran into a bunch of hurdles. We have made a list of deliverables we are aiming to accomplish before the end of Q3 which is fast approaching, and tackled a handful of them over the past week. We were able to divvy up tasks and fortunate enough to get a previous alum to grab a coffee and give us some very solid advice.

Blue Sky Progress

Tested our blue sky idea with a prototype – We made a prototype model that personified the main component of deciding what percentage of your invoice you would like to be automatically split between a checking and savings account. We took it across the street to our friendly neighborhood bartenders to see how it would work. It was well received by both bartenders, both of whom do side hustles as carpenters, with an emphasis on putting money away for taxes.

Prototype for blue sky idea. The user spun the wheel to pick the two percentages that equal 100%. The money was then moved into savings on sticky notes, giving them the ability to compartmentalize them into savings goals.
Prototype for blue sky idea. The user spun the wheel to pick the two percentages that equal 100%. The money was then moved into savings on sticky notes, giving them the ability to compartmentalize them into savings goals.

Competitive analysis and feature comparisons – We looked at the landscape of other financial products and charted them on a 2×2 to get a feel for where we stand. We knew there were a lot of others in the space,  but were surprised with the breadth and depth at which they exist. We even found a company that gamified savings by siphoning money off of everyone’s savings and put it into a lottery. This was the same wild idea Sean had in our 200 concepts that we dismissed, but here it is.

We found ourselves in a pretty crowded corner of our 2×2, focusing on products for individuals with an emphasis on money coming in. We used “money coming in” because it was able to capture components of saving money and investing (as opposed to expenses or budget tracking aka money going out) as well as invoicing tools which are essential to make the money come in.

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Noticing we were in a cluster, we wanted to find what separated us from others, so we did a feature breakdown. This was very helpful to compare exactly what features overlapped with our people in our space. As crowded as the corner was, we think we can identify new axis for our graph based on the cluster to find where to best position our company.

Insights on Blue sky – We believe we are in a unique space with our concept because we are focusing on invoicing as a tool to generate savings, which is not an area blended by any other product we found. Our struggle has been to define our unique value proposition quickly and succinctly. It has been unclear if we are specifically helping people save for taxes, or to save for any general goal, or if we are alleviating their administrative headache.

Our meeting with AC4D alum Nicole was very fruitful, and she gave some good advice on how to better view our position in the market. Aside from sharing techniques for better approaching competitive analysis and feature breakdown, she also had ideas for how to think about revenue models where as we could partner with established products with open API’s to quickly increase our user base. While spit-balling our concept, she made a remark that stuck with me as a good jump off for our value proposition – Empower and enable new business owners. 

Next Steps – This coming week, we plan to focus on defining our unique value proposition and understanding the pillars of our brand. We also plan to create an interface prototype and conduct use case interviews to help define what differentiates us.

Minimum Viable Product Progress

Prototyping with a service – Due to our limitations of accessing bank accounts, and the liability of handling other people’s money, our MVP turned into a service. To try and replicate the benefits of Foresight, we launched a website that offers to generate, track, and send professional invoices as well as a follow up service to keep people accountable for their savings goals.

We built a service blueprint to identify the steps needed to provide some value to our users. We also built multiple customer journey maps to compare the current state of our original interviewees to our MVP and blue sky idea.

Journey map comparison of current state vs MVP vs blue sky
Journey map comparison of current state vs MVP vs blue sky. The MVP user follows the path of Responsible Saver after they receive payment.
Steps outlining the process for our MVP service
Steps outlining the process for our MVP service

To date, we have three users who have participated in our service, two of which are test subjects (thank you Dan and Britt) and one genuine user. Our follow up time-frame is 5 days after invoice request so we have yet to see if our process has helped the user put aside money for saving.

Insights on our MVP – One area we have struggled with over the week is trying to sell the value of our MVP, which falls short compared to the automation and peace of mind involved with our blue sky concept. Many of the makers we interviewed use an invoicing service like Square or Freshbooks, so by not being able to process payment we are actually an added step in their journey.

We also conducted two think-aloud tests while people used the service, which led to some insights about how we can rework our website and form. People thought the website was heavily focused on saving and less so on invoices and billing, and also got tripped up properly filling out the form.

We heard things like “I feel like I can learn how much I should save”, “Is this a free service or no?”, “I didn’t know I could hit return on the line items”, and “Does it actually put money in your savings account?”

On a positive note, we also heard “I hate doing invoices.” This is inline with the detest for administrative work we heard in our interviews. Small victories….

Next Steps – Some low-hanging fruit is to adjust the website copy and form to make things more user-friendly. We also want to get a few more user through the process to verify if the predetermined savings % and follow up is effective in getting people to take the step to move money.

Insights and Design Principles for AT&T Universal Search

Through Communications in Design so far this semester, we have been focusing on finding our voice and using it to be compelling storytellers. To exercise these skills we built a design brief around a problem with a conceptual client, and were then tasked with generating research insights and design principles.

The task given was distilled down to this –

how to deliver a universal search that distinguishes various content, responds quickly, and encourages exploration?

Getting to Insights

We had initially done the research and design brief individually, but to make sense of our various research the other AT&T focused members, Brittany and Leah, worked with me to synthesize our findings. Because this was not true contextual inquiry and a fictitious ask, we made utterances and statements about TV watching as we know to be true, or based them on the research we had done into over the top television and our competitive analysis.

We grouped them into themes and were able to generate some fun and provocative insights. One of my favorites was “TV let’s you in on the joke” – we got to this after realizing television has a community feeling to it, and it exists much past the hour or so it airs on TV. People take to twitter to live tweet reactions, others listen to podcasts to gain deeper knowledge about the plot, but all of them come back to the idea that people are interesting in having a conversation about the show as a way to connect to friends, family, and colleagues.

I came away with three main insights from this activity that would relate one-to-one to the design principles that followed.

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1. No single approach to search can check all the boxes for all the users

We noticed a variety of reasons behind the “why” people watch TV. Many users have changed platforms simply to follow a favorite show, showing a loyalty and interest in a specific set of content. Other viewers seek OTT providers because of their rich catalog of new and exclusive content, showing an interest in  exploration and discovery.

2. The environment in which we watch dictates how users approach a search

By being present with users in various circumstances, we noticed that the content viewed is often directly related to the surrounding environment. People who watch during a commute or lunch break opt for shorter length content on their mobile device, while movies and sport events are enjoyed in the home in a larger format.

3. People will watch shows simply to be a part of the conversation

The connected world has moved the needle on why people choose to watch TV in the first place. We have seen that viewers want to be part of the conversation that follows an episode or series by joining fan clubs, taking to Twitter to live tweet reactions, and listening to podcasts to gain deeper knowledge to share with others. We believe FOMO is alive and well when it comes to staying current on TV.

Design Principles

The design principles are the pillars that will guide the final design concepts. They are not intended to be prescriptive, but do need to be actionable. Our professor in the class led me to this article which I found very helpful as a checklist to test my principles against. As I mentioned before, these principles relate to a the research insights one-to-one.

1. Let them pick their path

We should provide various paths to the users end goal. In doing so, the user will decide the most enjoyable route to get to their end destination, which may differ from day to day even for the same user.


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Example: The AT&T search should prompt the user to select the journey they want to be taken on at that particular viewing session. If they would like to be taken to a recommended show based on their previous viewings, select Concierge. If they want their tried and true classics, select Companion. Or if they want to open up the search and discover what is trending at this point in time, select All the Rage.

2. Search should be aware

The search function should pick up on common signals. There are many factors that become patterns in user viewing habits, the search should provide the most relevant and curated content that fits the particular users situation.
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Example: Users watch differently when they are alone as compared to with a spouse or friends. They view different content on the bus than they do in their bedroom. The AT&T search should take the location signals from the user and begin to generate predictive habits.

In the bedroom + spouse within 15’ + after 6pm = The Simpsons

3. Keep trends in view

The search presentation should highlight popular content. Allow users to see popular and interesting material in a way that does not force them to partake,
but makes trending topics easily accessible to those who want to be included.

 

Capture

 

Example: The AT&T platform should allow users to connect a profile that enables their network of friends to see what they have recently or are currently watching. A “trend board” that aggregates what is trending among all viewers would also provide opportunities to discover new content that can be shared
with friends and colleagues.

Next steps

Our next task is to now use these design principles to create concepts for the final presentation, making sure that the principles laid out are the guides to the outcome.

Designing A Service Product For Low-Income Families

This is the fifth week of our studio class in which we are developing a service product to better benefit low income families. Our idea is prompted by stories we heard from families Ana and I spoke with in quarter two at AC4D.

Progress This Week

We made storyboards highlighting the current concept of our service product. In addition we created storyboards to show what the end user of our service product might look like. 

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Storyboard of current concept.

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Storyboard for customers.

We revised our lean canvas and product pitch. We did some math on renting a space, explored further advertising platforms, and contacted parent groups who may be willing to chat with us. This revision of existing materials was beneficial in understanding that this is feasible. It also brought us to an understanding of where we could fit in the existent landscape of products and services for children’s gear.

We Learned

Our team learned that it’s important to listen and document feedback, but take what you will. We learned we care about earth enough to not want to pump out another subscription service or new toy, but rather to use what exists already, and solidify a place for ourselves in the resale/reuse market. To better benefit the planet and families who need it

Going Forward

With a more solidified idea of what our service product actually is we hope to complete the following in the week ahead.

  • Develop a pilot
  • Visit existent consignment shops
  • Obtain a donation
  • Attempt sale of a piece of product

 

 

supporting sex workers: lo-fi prototyping

This is part five in a series detailing updates to our research which is grounded in the goal of supporting the safety and agency of sex workers. 

Design Team: Brittany SgaliardichLeah Divito

 

Many sex workers work in complete isolation. Often, there is no one watching out for them except for themselves. As a result, they may not know anyone in their personal circles who understand just what they are experiencing. This week, our design team has observed how necessary it is to have a space to connect with people who truly understand, empathize, and can provide informed support and advice without judgment. 

 

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Image 1. Thread from “SexWorkersOnly” subreddit

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Image 2. Reply to thread on “SexWorkersOnly” subreddit

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Image 3. Reply to thread on SexWorkersOnly” subreddit 

How might we design a safe and exclusive place for sex workers to connect? How might we eliminate the limelight of an entire platform user base?


at a glance

In our studio class this week, our design team began to develop a lo-fi prototype for our concept, Poppy, a digital platform for female-identifying sex workers to connect with each other and discover resources, without censorship or stigma. The goal of this product is to create a communal space where women can share knowledge and build community on their terms. 

process

This week, we began prototyping and started to develop a low fidelity prototype. The process looked something like this.

  • Determine hypotheses or key questions. Before starting to develop a lo-fi prototype, we identified a few key questions to test:
      1. Will people sign up to be part of the pilot?
      2. Will people contribute to the discussion?
      3. Will people receive value from group discussion?
      4. Will people trust the platform enough to share their stories or insights?
  • Build the prototype. Believing a private messaging channel can serve as a proxy for our product concept, Leah and I evaluated a few different platforms that exist today. We assessed Telegram and Keybase, but ultimately selected Slack as the medium for initial testing. 
  • Conduct secondary research. To identify a baseline level for community standards, we began to research legal restrictions and contacted lawyers well-versed in censorship. We also reached out to business owners who build community through storytelling platforms. We continue to research different ways to foster community engagement through online discussion. 
  • Contact potential users. We reached out to several women whom we’ve built relationships with during previous phases of our design process. We received multiple responses with interest in joining the platform as grassroots testers. 
  • Storyboard the pilot experience. We mapped out the process for joining our Slack channel to initial user engagement. We plan to send our five core grassroots users this user flow as a way of onboarding them onto the platform. As we move forward, we must continue to build on the storyboard and address different methods for fostering discussion and getting community off the ground. 
  • Plan to scale. Leah and I began to ideate different ways to engage more women and reach critical mass for the platform. With an invite-only vetting process as part of our prototype functionality, we must qualify that each user meets access requirements (i.e. current or former female-identifying sex worker). We will explore existing networks, contact people on Reddit, and go to different strip clubs with an email sign-up sheet next week. 

 


uncovering blind spots 

Some of the insights gathered this week. 

quick and dirty 

One of the complexities in creating an initial prototype was selecting what tool to employ for the pilot. We had to compare the specialized abilities of various tools with the specific behaviors and functionalities that we are focused on testing. No existing tool is ideal, and we had to make sacrifices regardless of which we chose. 

It was echoed across many of the women that we spoke to that any digital tool that we might create must be cute and fun to use, especially given some of the dark and dangerous connotations that are attached to their work. We see this visual experiential aspect as being key to acquiring and maintaining users especially when we look at comparable existing tools like Reddit and Instagram which do not have the ideal look and feel as expressed in our interviews. Moving forward, this specific visual component is something we will need to include, alongside the Slack prototype, as a higher fidelity storyboard in order to allow users to envision an ideal version of what the platform could become.

leveraging our relationships 

We have felt tension in approaching potential users in this phase of prototyping. We understand that if our product is needed and valued, our potential users will be so excited about its existence that they will happily adopt it into their lives. Nonetheless, we also recognize that because our user base requires higher levels of trust than others, with every ask regarding their time, energy, and trust, we utilize that relationship and rapport. We need to consistently evaluate each individual’s level of interest, engagement, and skepticism to qualify if we are maintaining mutual respect and an understanding that we are building something with them as partners, not as research subjects. 

exploring legal 

Although we’ve explored many online resources and databases, we realize how challenging it is to obtain free legal advice as we enter an extremely policed product space. To vet this process, we’ve tapped into the resources of friends in law school, their professors, and networks. While we have developed a baseline understanding of legal dos and dont’s, we desire more certainty as we continue to prototype and test core platform features. This is more than essential in launching a new product, given that so many have already been taken down, we do not want our work to be in vain. We will proceed with contacts made and further vet the legal validity of the ideas put forth. 

unpredictable scale 

As we strategize around platform growth, we acknowledge the unpredictability of social network expansion. Why do some social platforms, groups, and discussions succeed over others? Regardless of the necessity of our platform, how can we guarantee it’s adoption? And how do creators monitor their evolution over time? This is where user engagement and marketing strategies, as well as community guidelines and peer-to-peer moderation, come into play. Next steps around these components, while thoughtful and intentional, must but flexible and open to change. 

 


moving forward 

This week felt like the beginning of something tangible. Even with such a low fidelity first attempt at vetting a prototype, it brings Poppy from an idea on a page into a seed of reality. 

We plan to continue storyboarding the different ways our pilot can be tested. We will focus on different facilitation and community building strategies. To further develop our growth strategy, we will leverage existing networks, engage with sex work focused subreddits, and visit different clubs in Austin as a way of validating interest in our platform. We will also onboard our core five users and co-create community guidelines as a grassroots team.

Refining Our Design Ideas: Vouch and the Good Folks Club

This is the fifth installment of our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) project for our Studio and Ideation class. This project builds on the research we did with gig economy workers last Fall, which you can read about here and here.

This week we continued to fine-tune two concepts: the Good Folks Club and Vouch. Last week, we developed the landing page and early pitch decks, and we took this week to get more feedback from subject matter experts, designers, and entrepreneurs. 

Our progress this week:

 

  • Created two surveys that we shared with our networks about the concepts. You too can give us your input about your experiences with volunteering, borrowing or lending. The goal of these surveys was to better understand the demand for either service and existing bias or behaviors in either area.  
    • Shared a version of our Vouch lending survey to Craigslist to collect input from a more diverse range of people. This survey will also be used to help us find people who can test our prototype. Because we are still trying to determine the best audience for this product, it’s important to widen our scope and find people outside of our own personal networks.
  • Continued pitching to subject matter experts in fintech and non-profits. We spoke with six people about both concepts to get feedback for downselection. 
  • Using feedback from SMEs to edit landing pages. We have also been monitoring traffic from each landing page in hopes that search terms may drive volume. Outside of our Google ads, it’s been all direct thus far. 
  • Retooled the Lean Canvas to gain greater clarity on our concepts. Our volunteer concept went in many directions over the last week. Initially conceived as an Elks Lodge for Millenials, we explored what it might look like to act as a consulting agency for nonprofits and talked through how the model would change if GFC were an invite-only membership. We lose our unique value proposition whenever we veer away from meeting the needs of our target audience.

 

Insights & Feedback:

Vouch

www.vouchmoney.com
Vouch makes it easy to lend money and build trust – not resentment. 

  • High-Level Pitch Deck & Concept Feedback:
    • “It sounds like the nicest part is the system reminding your friend instead of you needing to bug them since that can be an awkward part of lending to family/friends. […] Of the two ideas, Vouch is stronger and to me has a greater chance of helping destigmatize an important space. I also haven’t heard of anyone doing that yet.”
    • “It feels very business like to me, when the concerns for the relationship staying intact feels like it needs to be more central. That would be my major concern if I was approaching this relationship.”
    • “The Vouch concept is much more compelling as there are lots of volunteer tools out there. I’d love to see more Vouch materials.”
  • Site Analytics. 26 unique visitors, down 13% from week prior, 1 direct message, 1 form submitted. 
  • MVP should be: Set up a loan agreement and offer transparent tracking

The Good Folks Club

www.thegoodfolksclub.org
Cultivating community through curated volunteer experiences

    • High-Level Pitch Deck & Concept Feedback from SME Interviews:
      • This week we talked to Marque Cass, a program coordinator at a non-profit in Alameda, CA that provides services for youth. He talked about his pain points with volunteer recruitment, on-boarding, and retention. He also described the challenges of matching people with work that they felt was meaningful and well-suited to their interests and skills.
      • We also talked with the former Director of Communication at I Live Here, I Give Here. She advised we don’t focus on being a volunteer matching marketplace and instead offer value to nonprofits that are not engaging Millennials in the right ways. Nonprofits don’t often want to do craft custom experiences because they don’t find immediate value, but they aren’t considering the engagement those experiences bring to the org over time.
      • “This is super cool – big question for me is what the heck is a curated volunteer experience?”
  • Site Analytics. 40 unique visitors, up 344% from week prior, 0 forms submitted. 
  • MVP should be: A one-off edu social with 1-2 local nonprofits

Next Steps

Our goal is to down-select to a single idea to work on going forward and to build a prototype of the idea we choose.

Designing for Makers and More (Week 5 Update)

This is part five in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. You can read part one here and part two here, part three here, part four here, and you can find information on our research here.

Design Team: Kyle Beck, Sean Redmond, Lauren Sands

Overview

We are in week five of our quarter-long project where we have been building on our previous research of the financial behaviors of contract workers in creative industries (i.e., “makers”). After considering stakeholder feedback from last week and evaluating the financial viability of both Slider and Foresight, we narrowed our focus to Foresight, and will be spending the rest of the quarter prototyping and proving viability.  

Foresight

Foresight is a financial app for contract workers who are looking for solutions to the administrative headache of being self employed. What sets this application apart from competitors is the integration of invoicing and saving. Foresight allows users to determine the percentage of their invoice they would like to dedicate to checking and savings accounts at the same moment the invoice is being created. Then, it automatically sorts those funds accordingly once they are received. Furthermore, you can use the software to create savings goals by category and move funds easily between those sub-accounts, without having to create actual separate bank accounts.

IMG_3328

Progress Made This Week

This week, we focused on synthesizing the feedback we received last week from potential users as well as experienced investors. We built a prototype of Foresight and updated a Splash Page to better communicate the functionality and value we could bring to users.

Our three major goals:

Build Prototype

Foresight (as we are currently imagining it) will need access to user’s bank accounts and have the ability to move money from one account to the other. This means we would need highly sensitive information, and we do not feel comfortable holding this information for our users at this time. The software and development it would take to build a full application is also quite significant. We’ve built a prototype of the Foresight app to serve as a proxy. With this prototype service we will build invoices for our users based on the information they send us in a form they provide us, and then we will follow up with them to remind them how much they selected to move to their savings account. While this isn’t as effortless as we imagine the functionality of our future application will provide, we believe that it still offers the core accountability to help independent contract workers save more regularly.

Prove Need

We think if people are willing to use our prototype, it will help us prove the viability of a future, fully built product. We’ve reached out to potential users in our network (including all of the individuals we interviewed during the research phase of this project), and also cast a wider net through Craigslist and Facebook ads. So far, we have had 3 users commit to using our prototype. Currently, we will be providing Foresight to these individuals free of charge.

Refine Product

At the same time we are operating and marketing our prototype, we are working to further define what our full product will look like and making decisions about full functionality. To achieve this we have begun to refine story boards and build low-fidelity wire frames showing what a future the fully build Foresight application will look and feel like.

Next Steps

Over the next week, we will continue working in parallel on our detailed design idea as well as driving users of our more paired down prototype. We plan to get feedback from those who become users of our prototype, and incorporate necessary improvements into the prototype as well as the plans for our fully designed application.