We’ve all had them. Those lusty pitches that promise a shot at greatness–and are usually expected on an inordinately short deadline. My latest journey down the yellow brick road of near impossibility and potential grandeur occurred just last week.
My teammate Cora (aka wonder #workwife) and I were given the opportunity for a stakeholder pitch at General Assembly. We had to come up with an a native app or website that addressed a current market need. Total free reign, the opportunities and obstacles seemed endless. We could literally go in so many directions. The only parameter was we had to also select a potential corporate partner and defend their viability. I am going to share a few key elements that really helped our project and process.
Perhaps one of our most important decisions came at the very beginning for the project. We knew we had two weeks to delivery:
- 3 Project proposals with problem statements and potential partners
- Pin-up Session materials- including competitive analysis, personas, and refined goals market need being addressed
- Mid-fi Wireframes
- Usability Test and Report
- Hi-Fi Wireframes
- Spec Document (Annotations, Styleguide, Sitemap etc)
- 30 Minute Stakeholder Presentation
Deliverables Timeline is Critical
The first thing we did was create an outline for the entire project. We started at the final deadline and moved backwards. By starting out getting a clear expectation on our deadlines, we were able to proceed knowing who was doing what each day and how long we had to focus on each segment of the project. It really helped set the project up for success.
We also discussed potential strengths and areas we wanted to work on so that when those deliverables came up we had already divided them out. Cora became the SCRUM master and insured the team was on track everyday. We would do 2x daily checkins to discuss the goals for the day, review end of day accomplishments and set goals and guidelines for the evening work and next day expectations. Agreeing up front on the timeline was one of things that saved us much confusion and communication breakdown later when the project really got rolling.
The second element that contributed to a streamlined project flow was organized folder management. We worked off of dropbox and dropbox paper, which are fantastic organization and group sharing tools but, they work best when folders are clearly defined. We had a three folder system.
- Inputs — which included images, briefs, research materials etc
- InProgress — which included all working documents, outlines, reports, sketch wireframes
- Final — this was not used until the last 1–2 days of the project as we compiled all of our final deliverables, it only holds final PDFs, no open design files or elements that could be edited further.
This simple system allowed us to know where all documents were throughout the project and stay on track. We could easily share links, and files and let each other know who was working on what file. File sharing systems are really only as good as your own internal organization and communication as a team.
While the creative process can be really fun and rewarding, when working with a team, how do you decide which idea to build out? Whose concept is worthy of banking on?
For our team, we started with a foundation of respect. Respect of each other’s ideas, respect of the process and commitment to listen, build off one another and really generate the best idea for the scope provided. We agreed during brainstorming there were not bad ideas. We put EVERYTHING up on a whiteboard. From this point it became easier to eliminate based on scope and feasibility, and we also began to see some themes in our ideas. Once we selected our 3 proposal ideas it we divided each up and built out the sections of the proposals.
Respect really played a key roll throughout our project and process. We were able to set expectations, and clearly define who was doing what, we also knew we could trust the work we were both doing. If we did have questions we agreed to be open about expressing them and clear up any questions, confusions or disagreements in the moment or at the very least by the end of the day. It made for such a fluid and honest work process knowing we were on the same page throughout.
Getting to the good stuff
With our systems and timeline in place it was time to get to the good stuff. Creation and iteration. Our first idea was approved for development and we hit the ground running. Our goal for the project was to match large groups going out during the week with restaurants and bars that have available or unused space. Talking to both users and venue managers would be key for developing features and functionality. We started by sending out screener surveys to find qualified user interviews which we scheduled over the course of two days. Once our interviews were completed we began affinity mapping to determine trends and insights from each user type.
From here we generated a list of insights and “I Statements”
- “I love discovering new places in the city.”
- “I enjoy the social aspect of going out to eat/drink.”
- “I tend to have specific criteria in mind when selecting a venue.”
- “I communicate with my group and the venue to ensure proper bill payment.”
- “I take on a leadership role in my group, communicating key logistics to relevant parties.”
- “I can provide the best experience for my customers when I know personal details about them.”
- “I consider location as a primary factor when selecting a venue.”
- “I would like to fill unused space in my venue.”
- “I can provide the best customer experience when I know what to expect for the night.”
- “I can provide the best customer experience when a clear system is in place.”
- ”I prefer to go to restaurants that treat me like family.”
- “I want to minimize logistical surprises when I go out to eat/drink.”
- I have specific requirements for accepting bookings at my venue.”
- “I try to accommodate unexpected groups whenever possible, but certain criteria has to be met.”
- “I appreciate the convenience of automated reservation systems, but am frustrated by their limitations.”
- Location is the most important factor in selecting a venue.
- Other factors included: menu, seating variety, ambiance, service
- Most Restaurants consistently have unused space , but lack the tools and time to market them to the public.
- Potential guests want the tools to make informed decisions but are easily overwhelmed.
- Customers greatly value personalized service from hosts.
- Hosts would like to have more information about their customers to be able to provide more personalized service.
- a. A communicate group leader is valued by both host and guests, as to facilitate a positive experience.
- b. The role of group leader often rotates due to the added responsibility and stress of the role.
8. Guests planning ahead value control and typically call to reserve, while guests at the last minute prioritize convenience and book online.
Once the synthesis portion was complete it was time to start the feature prioritization process and scoping design studios. We began with a competitive analysis and then moved to creating a MoSCoW chart.
The feature prioritization and design studio section was really efficient and productive because we based all the features and insights on our interviews. We knew we wanted to create an app the addressed the main user goal of quickly finding a venue that could host the necessary group size in real time. We really had to focus the features on the main priorities for users and let the other functions potentially be incorporated later.
So much and creating an MVP is accurately defining user goals and the main purpose or need the app is addressing.
WIREFRAMING AND USABILITY TESTING
We conducted three rounds of usability tests — one after each iteration. Our usability ratings were actually quite high in the first round, but when we went from lo-fi to mid-fi we noticed that some of the design changes had created confusion.We made some significant adjustments after the second round and
After converting to hi-fi, conducted one more round of testing to ensure the app was as straightforward as it could be and users could easily perform their expected goals for the app. As you can see, the results were positive.
For the final presentation, we presented to our key stakeholders and received fantastic response as well as some constructive feedback. Overall this project highlighted the importance of transparency, respect, and communication within the team and really focusing the scope and listening to user needs in developing the final prototype. By managing the timeline and scope and really refining the user needs, we were able to create a both a useful and usable product and come out with a successful pitch.