Designer. Product Thinker. Entrepreneur
Currently exploring opportunities in San Francisco.
Designer. Product Thinker. Entrepreneur
Currently exploring opportunities in San Francisco.
December 2015 - May 2017
Netpulse uses technology to amplify the life-changing impact of health clubs. We build branded mobile apps that allow a gym member to check in using their phone, track their workouts, compete in challenges and set fitness goals for themselves. Our clients include 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, Planet Fitness and over 600 other brands covering 5M+ gym members.
Senior Product Designer. I joined Netpulse in December of 2015 and over my first year lead the redesign of our second most used feature, brought from concept to launch our new add-on product, and with what began as a side-project, lead a complete overhaul of our main dashboard screen. A year in I was promoted to lead the team, and undertook several initiatives to improve our process.
Getting healthy is hard. Joining a gym is a scary, unknown experience for many. Whether you’re fueled by a doctor’s prescription, dreams of weightloss or muscle gain, the process of achieving your fitness goals is difficult. In fact over 80% of new gym members churn within their first 5 months, gyms sell memberships with the expectation that 18% of them will be used regularly.
Having begun my own fitness journey in high school over the past ten years fitness has become something I care deeply about. Through my personal experience and that of my family members I know just how hard and intimidating it can be to join and use a gym.
You’d be hard pressed to find entrepreneurs who are more passionate about what they do than gym owners. They love their field, the people they work with, and the reason why they exist. While still nascent competitors, Fitbit & Classpass have begun to shift consumers to exercising within their home or outside, reducing the need of a gym membership to get healthy. As of 2016 gyms experience an annual customer churn of 24% on average.
How do we leverage technology to help gyms compete with the Fitbit, Classpasses & crossfits of the world? In a market with a high membership churn, how do we help gyms attract and retain members? Can we help them automate and operationalize their businesses to reduce their costs?
With these two overarching directives I joined Netpulse in December of 2015 as a Product Designer.
A comprehensive redesign of our second most used feature. Over the course of my first year at Netpulse we redesigned Find a Class completely and launched it alongside the flagship 24 Hour Fitness app.
As part of Netpulse's Land & Expand strategy I lead the design of our Feedback Add-On from complete concept to launch and iterations post launch.
The dashboard is the foundation of the experience we provide, it's the launching point for all our features. What began as a side project and design exploration for me turned into a major company initiative.
We redesigned our Connected Apps experience, enabling our users to sync any of their fitness trackers to our app to compete in challenges, set goals, and track their progress. Needing a quick turnaround we went from concept to final designs in less than a month.
After digging into our analytics we noticed huge dropoffs, permission denials and several other flaws in our onboarding flow that were directly impacting our business. As a side project I lead a design exploration as to why and how we could redesign our onboarding experience.
When I first joined Netpulse the only thing I knew about design at Netpulse were my first impressions of the app that I used. It felt disjointed with no set UI or UX parameters.
The Netpulse design team was made up of 2 other product designers one of which worked out of Kiev office, and 3 marketing designers. Upon joining I learned that most designers hadn’t spent much time speaking to each other, and in certain cases had never even met one another. In addition to this, I learned the design process involved the PM’s providing wireframes to designers and having them skin those wireframes into final assets. Iterations, user testing, design critiques none of it was part of the process.
Within my first week we put in place a weekly design critique. If we were going to push design forward at Netpulse, we needed to build unity within ourselves as designers. As product designers we then worked on defining design values for ourselves. What was our role? When designing the product what were the values we kept in mind? What did we want to accomplish in 2016? The answers to these questions resulted in our design values deck that we presented to the company.
When I first joined Netpulse the product team had never conducted any user research and didn’t have the process in place to do so. After some costly mistakes in product development that could’ve been prevented had we done user research. I used my experience at Kicksend to propose a UX research process at my one year review and spent the next three months putting it into practice.
The framework involved the follow processes:
View the full proposal here.
Since the start of Netpulse’s mobile app platform three years ago there have been over 7 designers spread across two countries who have worked on the platform. Unfortunately what has arisen is an app whose features abide by entirely different UI & UX standards and feels disconnected. In a bid to unify our design & experience language we set off to create a UI & UX library that would inform all new design as well as retroactively apply to all existing design.
View the raw UI library we created here.
Whether delivering a brand new feature, product, or improving something currently implemented, over the course of my time at Netpulse we developped a methodology for how we tackled new projects, killed off ideas that didn't work, and delivered our projects to the engineering team. This is the how, to all of the selected works above.
January 2015 - June 2015
Lead Product & Design. I created all of our branding and identity work. I'm the sole designer on both the admin side and consumer side of our product, as well as any marketing or administrative materials the business needs. In addition to this I'm running our product process and customer development work.
While redesigning and rebuilding Northeastern's alumni donating experience, Chris (the lead engineer) and I realized that this was a piece of software that was desperately needed by other Universities. Alumni donation portals are extremely antiquated, they are usually poorly designed forms, that don't adequately surface all of the different areas to which the alumni can donate to. Most Universities have funds set up for all the different initiatives they support. For example, you can donate to the Entrepreneur's Club, the Men's Varsity Rowing Team, etc. All of these funds are usually buried in one massive dropdown menu that has hundreds of different options and makes it hard to discover the things you (as an alumnus) would want to donate to. In addition, it's also important to recognize that the percentage of active alumni that donate money to the university, regardless of the amount of the donation, directly affects the university's all important U.S News rankings.
In September 2014, with encouragement from Northeastern faculty Chris and I set off to build a platform that would allow any university to accept alumni donations to any of their causes. We're currently finalizing the first sellable version of our product and looking to expand our team. This is a part-time, remote, endeavor for all of us.
While we tackled a lot of similar problems in the Northeastern project, we had to completely rebuild the product with the new constraint that it needed to be a platform that can be used and customized by any university that buys it. We also now had the freedom of controlling the end to end experience from discovering all the different funds, all the way to checkout.
While I can't share more details about the business just yet, I can take you through some of our finalized designs and can speak more to them in person.
All logos and University content used in the mockups is entirely for demonstration purposes.
Since each university has multiple funds (sometimes several hundreds) when we onboard each university we pull in all of their funds, the fund description and then assign them an image from the universities' image library. Finding the best way to present and allow the user to navigate the funds is one of the main problems we need to solve for.
We decided on a two level navigation system, so the way to get to a fund would look like this: Academics > College of Arts and Design > The Animation Club. The top-most category is presented in the screen to the left above, once a category is selected the page reloads and the funds shown can be further refined by selecting a sub-category.
Universities have highly requested for users to be able to share individual funds to Facebook and Twitter as well as surfacing which of their friends have donated to which funds.
One of the challenges we faced was to indicate to users that they could donate multiple amounts to different funds. The expected behavior for a donation/charity website is to donate to one cause any amount that you can spare/are willing to give. We had to break away from the norm to allow users to donate to multiple funds, which is why brought in the "Add to cart" mentality. However when you normally add something to a cart it has a fixed price, we need users to tell us how much they'd like to give to each fund as they add them to their cart. So after they choose on a fund to donate the card flips over and asks them how much they'd like to give. Once they've confirmed the amount the fund is then added to their cart, which is a dropdown that allows them to edit individual amounts, this is also something that isn't often seen online.
Here is the full checkout flow:
We paid extra special attention to the end of checkout page (pictured below), we could've shown the run of the "Thanks for donating" receipt, but we wanted to make it feel like the university was truly thanking you for giving back. It should feel as if you've received a letter from the universities' president thanking you for your donation, while also reiterating that we've received your donations and stating the things you gave to. This page will also be emailed as receipt to the user, and we can later add things like email capture and social features to encourage them to come/stay a part of the alumni mailing list.
As we enter discussions with Universities we need a landing page to cement our online presence and capture interest. This will eventually be replaced with a full marketing website once we have the bandwidth. Some images are still placeholder.
We created an identity guide that would guide the way the platform looked and felt.
Giveback is still a work in progress but a fun side project for us to be working on. Chris and I have no plans to go full-time with Giveback anytime in the near future, and we don't think the business will need a full-time investment from us. I have a lot more to learn in the next couple years and I plan on doing that in an office environment.
There were several more features of the platform that I haven't showcased here including widgets to be embedded on Universities websites, marketing pages for the Universities, article and story support, etc, I'd be glad to go more in depth on these in person.
January 2014 - August 2014 (Part-time consultant)
Lead Designer. I was brought in to redesign to completion an existing project that several designers had worked on before. Based on the specs handed down by Northeastern and the backend functionality that had already been built, I redesigned the UX, created the aesthetic, and shipped the final product working alongside one engineer.
On May 23rd of 2013 Northeastern launched the Empower fundraising campaign. The campaign aims to raise $500 million in philanthropic support and $500 million through industry and government partnerships by 2017 to support the universities surging momentum.
Philanthropic support comes primarily in the form of large capital gifts or as checks sent from Alumni, current students, parents, etc. At the point of when the campaign launched Northeastern had been working on creating an online portal that would enable anyone to donate online directly to the causes they cared about.
Give to what you love. The use case they wanted to enable was that as an alumni I could come in and choose to donate $50 to the Entrepreneur’s Club and $100 to the School of Art and Design all in the same flow.
After a year and a half of work and going through three other student designers I was brought in to redesign the product using what had been built from an engineering standpoint and all the content the university had created to support the site. This is the state of the design when I arrived, view the live version here:
Working with the lead engineer our challenges were:
The first thing we did was establish the following terminology, to simplify things for ourselves and the user:
Funds- Individual programs that can be directly donated to, i.e Mechanical Engineering International Co-op.
Causes- A collection of Funds, i.e The College of Engineering
Stories- Articles and videos created by Northeastern
Funds are the basis for the website, they are what our users donate to and what we have to effectively organize throughout the website. We chose a card design because of two things, it’s modularity and it’s visual representation.
Cards accommodate the use of imagery as well as descriptive text to make it easy to differentiate each fund from one another, while a short description will provide more information on the fund itself than just an image and the title. Cards are also easy to rearrange and adapt to multiple screen sizes.`
Northeastern strongly pushed for a social component that would allow users to see what their friends had donated to and share individual funds. We wanted to tread carefully and make sure we didn’t just sprinkle in share buttons on every fund card as academia software has a tendency to do, so we settled on the out of the card “your friends have donated to this fund,” convincing the university to keep the share buttons out of the Fund cards and solely on the Fund pages.
Our fund pages showcased all of the student testimonials that Northeastern had collected for each individual fund. The “part of” section gives the user the ability to look at similar funds that are tagged with the same cause.
Northeastern spent over a year creating content for their donation portal, they did a terrific job sourcing stories, photographs and videos that had been made possible thanks to each individual fund. The content was really phenomenal and we wanted to make sure they were showcased prominently. However, our challenge was to make sure that they played a supporting role to the funds and not take away the focus from them.
The most important thing in the story module design was to clearly distinguish what was a story and what was a fund, this is something the previous website didn’t do terrifically.
In addition to the original content they wanted to automatically pull in all new stories from their News@Northeastern digital Magazine have them tagged and displayed natively within the donation portal.
The design we came up with focused on highlighting Northeastern’s spectacular photography as well as presenting the articles with clean typography. Proxima Nova was used for the headlines and subtitles and minion pro was used for the longform content.
The bottom portion of the page showcases related funds as well as stories to keep the user navigating through the website.
With over a hundred funds we needed a clear way to allow the user to navigate through them. That’s what dictates the primary purpose of the cause page, to allow users to go through fund cards and add the ones they’re interested in to their cart. We organized funds into rows of three separated by different subcategories.
Northeastern wanted the ability to feature certain funds, which lead to the featured card at the top of the page alongside the Cause description.
Within each cause page we also included our stories widget to showcase stories from within that fund.
Causes are the first layer of navigating through the school’s 100+ funds so we wanted to make them available to users no matter where they were within the site. To solve this we adopted a drop down menu with Icons to help differentiate the different causes. We used the Streamline icon set this way Northeastern would have many more icons to choose from should they want to add more causes in the future.
From concept to final design it took us three months to complete the project, the backend had already been developed but we had to rebuild the front end from scratch. Final assets were delivered to Northeastern in June of 2014 and were really well received. However due to a department reshuffling they have yet to push the site to production. We were encouraged by Northeastern to pursue this as a commercial endeavor and sell this software to other Universities, that's what lead to the start of Giveback, to learn more check out the Giveback case study here.
Final designs are below, click to enlarge:
January 2014 - December 2014
10% Happier at the time called Change Collective builds lifestyle courses led by world-class experts designed to help kickstart behavior change. They focus on providing guidance through content from world class experts, and accountability through their mobile application. Every user is paired with a live coach who follows them for the duration of their course providing support when needed.
Product Designer. Alongside our Creative Director I joined the company when it was pre-product, helped create the company's branding and identity. Based on the company's core principles, we designed and launched the product, and continued to improve it beyond the launch. I ran all UX research as it was needed.
At Kicksend I learned a lot about how to improve an existing product, spending most of my time conducting customer development and helping tweak the UX of the product. For my third and final Co-Op I was looking to join an early stage pre-product company. I wanted the experience of taking a product from concept to launch and beyond.
When my former coworkers Ben Rubin and Derek Haswell announced that they were starting a company and participating in Techstars to create better tools for behavior change and asked me to join for my third Co-Op it was an absolute no brainer. Health and Fitness are a big passion of mine since beginning to weightlift in high school. Having benefitted immensely from mentors and coaches throughout my life I loved Ben and Derek's idea of combining expert methods and content, with mobile technology and behavioral science to provide accountability. I joined the Company in January of 2014 as the fifth employee.
During my time at Change Collective we brought a product from concept to launch, I designed the full onboarding flow, worked on over seven features/app improvements, more than three concept explorations, and a UI library for the company as well as conducting all the usability studies we needed over the first six months.
With the start of Techstars three weeks away our first task was to establish a landing page and online identity for ourselves that we could use to point the press to, as well as support our efforts to reach out to experts and create new courses.
We wanted to highlight two main things with our landing page. The first was to showcase the experts that we had already secured partnerships with to give users and press an idea of the kinds of courses we'd be building. The second was to showcase the mission of the company as well as who worked there since we planned to do some hiring during Techstars.
There are three principles that lead to behavior change that were to be the pillars of the product we wanted to build:
Before we got into the ideation phase it was important for us to identify who we were building for, this would focus our ideation and narrow down who we'd bring in for usability and concept tests. Our target audience consisted of Performance Optimizers and Health Achievers.
We understood who our users were, and the behavior change principles we wanted to employ across our courses, however there was one final piece that we needed to understand before we could finish fleshing out our constraints, the courses themselves.
The core experience of the Change Collective app are the courses that we provide. We needed to create a platform that supported a set of diverse courses and behaviors, from a bodyweight workout course to a thirty day mindfulness course, but at the same time felt familiar and ran on the same behavior change principles across the platform. We were not building a separate app with different features for each course, we needed one app that could support all the different course types, content and behaviors.
Before we could begin designing the product we needed to define how our courses were going to be structured since that would influence the design of the app. Here are the concepts we settled on:
With this framework in place we began ideating around what the day to day experience would feel like.
We had set constraints and truly understood the problem we were going after. We needed something that would surface articles and videos, provide accountability for the daily tasks and support any additional functionality that we’d want to add in the future, like a social component, etc.
Using a series of rapid sketching and crazy eights (derived from the Google design sprint) we iterated on the interface over and over. We’d spend the mornings sketching and discussing ideas, and in the afternoon we’d each go off and bring the wireframes into Sketch. Slowly we settled on two important concepts:
For the first couple days we kept all of our ideation in Sketch as free of color as possible to not bias the UX that we were all working on. We wanted to make sure it felt right before we turned to aesthetics.
Early on when we did a lot of our company value setting and branding work we all kept coming back to the idea of exploration and expeditions. To the old nordic explorers and all of the ups and downs that they encounter during their journeys, which is similar to the process you embark on when you set off to change a part of yourself, there always ups and down what matters is that you keep showing up. This brought about the idea of a progress tracker that would celebrate their wins and forgive their missteps.
We kept ideating around the timeline that was the core of the experience and the rest of the product would come to be defined by it.
With the guidance of our Creative Director we arrived at the final format of our timeline below.
One of the interesting challenges we faced at this stage in the product's development was how our courses interacted with the features that we were designing. Each course has a different behavior you need to practice, the Early Riser course has you waking up earlier every week, while the Bodyweight workout course has you following a video workout from within the app. We needed to build a card that would ask you whether you'd woken up on time for the Early Riser course, and a card that would take you through your workout and track your progress for the Bodyweight workout course. This would directly affect the Onboarding for each course so we had to keep this in mind in the design of the Onboarding.
We had yet to create wireframes of what our course catalog and course details pages would look like so I took the first crack above. The course detail page was of crucial importance, it's what explained (and sold) the course to users, describing the format, duration and behavior that they would be working on. We had invested a lot of money into our video content for each course in the course details page we decided to surface a clip of the course introduction to give users a feel for the expert.
After purchasing the course we wanted to bring the user right into a fullscreen portrait video of the expert thanking them for joining and getting them excited to start their journey towards behavior change. We would then collect the necessary information to customize the course for them and help them set their goals.
At first we assume that since they had just purchased the course they'd be excited about what was to come and we could present the user with a bit of a longer onboarding that would allow us to collect the information we needed to set the course up for them. We quickly learned through usability studies that the onboarding felt long and tedious, so we saw the opportunity to bring in the timeline concept from the main app to help break up the flow and make things feel quicker.
Unlike other health apps that let you jump in and start tracking things right away our courses were timed, they had a start and end date. Not only that, a big part of behavior change is finding the best time to fit the behavior you're practicing into your daily routine. Starting a new habit on a Monday with the fresh week ahead to practice also offered a completely different experience then allowing a user to jump in right after they had bought the course say on a Friday night for example. We had lengthy discussions about how we should structure our course start times and asked several participants during customer development interviews. What emerged was that even though most consumers would want to play with the thing they paid for right away we likened our courses to the experience of working with a personal trainer. You both decide on a time for you to show up for each session ahead of time and then you come prepared for the session. At the end of the day the most important thing for our users is that we actually help them experience meaningful change, it's why we charge for our courses and why sometimes we have to put constraints around how and when they could use the product. We settled on allowing them to choose the day they could start (they just couldn't start today) and highly suggested to them that it be a Monday.
Change Collective gave employees a "personal development" budget that we could use on personal developement expenses, both to help me better prepare for designing this experience and out of personal curiosity I signed up for an in person Weight Watchers course across the street from the office, I also hired an online strength coach to wrote out all my routines in the gym and my nutritional plan. Weightlifting and nutrition had always been a part of my life, so I also wanted to take on something I had never done before and put myself through a "self-made 3 week course behavior change course on Meditation." I attended a couple of classes at the Cambridge Meditation Center and signed up for the premium version of Headspace. These were all things I was interested in anyways, but I've always found that by living the problem I'm designing for I have a much more empathetic understanding for our users and it's usually enabled me to craft better solutions.
When you first start working with a personal trainer they always start with the same question, do you want to put on muscle or do you want to slim down? Okay, what's your current weight? Goal setting is incredibly important when it comes to changing any behavior, you are much more likely to be successful if you explicitly state a goal for yourself. In addition to this, it's important to relate that goal to where you are currently, giving a realistic distance between yourself and that goal. For the courses where it fits we always try to phrase our goal setting in a similar way, asking users where they currently are and where they'd like to go.
Along that theme I lead the following design exploration to bring the Coaches' voice into the Onboarding a bit more:
We begin by having them state their intentions for the course, we then ask them where they currently are, what their tangible goal is, and then give them a personalized recommendation based on that. The above designs didn't quite fit the design style we had established and they added steps to already slightly lenghty onboarding flow. So I kept exploring how to bring this same effect into the onboarding flow order we had decided on:
Having the Coaches' face follow you through the onboarding process and framing the information you inputted as answers to his questions gave the whole flow a completely different feel. It felt like the coach was with you and really listening to the information you were inputting and the goals you were setting.
There was something interesting about having a user enter their intentions for a course, so I explored resurfacing their reason within the day flow of a course.
The thought with the above design was to always show at the bottom of the day view the goal the user had stated during the onboarding process. This suddenly put all of the content that they consumed, the behavior they practiced in the context of why they're there. This ultimately didn't make it into the app because we weren't sure what kind of goals users would state and whether they would talk about the why of the goal. If someone wrote "To learn to meditate" it would be a waste of valuable space on the timeline.
In addition to this the idea of a commitment contract came out of the Alpha mobile-web only product that both founders had created the previous year. Every time you set off to change or build a habit there are always going to be times where you slip, the important thing is that you keep showing up and don't get discouraged, we wanted to really enforce these concepts and the commitment contract was born.
Right after course purchase you're taken to the above flow. One of the things we did during the Alpha that had a huge impact on customer success (defined by whether they kept practicing their behavior after the course) was using text messages as a daily reminder for users to practice their behavior. The texts, although automatically generated, sounded like they came from the expert and would allow a user to check in by responding. Up until this point though we had yet to define our strategy around how to remind and nudge a user at the right time. Based on our upcoming courses I created this chart with all of the actions, reminders, and check ins that would need to be handled by our SMS + Push notifications and as a team we came to the following definition:
You'll notice we're using the coach's face alongside the information we ask of the user.
After having launched our first two courses on the platform we began to notice, both through our mixpanel analytics and some of the usability studies I was running for other features, that a significant enough of our users weren't getting to the end of our articles. They were using the app as a checklist for whether they had done the behavior or not. "When am I done with a day? Is it after I practice my behavior? Is it after I've read the material?" are all questions that came up a lot. I lead the following design exploration to give more flow to our days and to better signify completeness.
Out of this exploration also came the need to make our articles more actionable, we wanted to encourage users to either watch the videos or scroll down the bottom of the article. While playing with Pixate I came up with the following animation that we added at the bottom of our articles.
This animation served the purpose of making the articles feel more like tasks, combined with our new system of identifying when a "day was complete" gave your courses a much more structured feel and an improved day to day flow.
As I've mentioned each course has different behaviors that our users needed to practice and this meant that we needed to add functionality to the product to support these. One of newest courses "Work Life Harmony with Brad Feld" required a weekly checklist of tasks that needed to be completed throughout the week, this was in addition to the daily practice.
We explored adding the checklist to both the timeline and as a separate screen. It was eventually built and added to the top of the timeline after I had left the company.
From the very beginning we knew that social interactions and shared accountability would be a big part of our platform. We wanted to solve for the user problem of "I don't want to feel like I'm going through this alone." I spent a lot of time looking at my own experiences with behavior change, the times I was the most successful in the gym were when I was either working with a coach or when I had a lifting buddy that I would always lift with. I joined a Crossfit gym for about a month during this time because I wanted to understand the atmosphere they cultivated around their group workouts. There was something to powerful about going through a crossfit workout with the rest of the class, it truly became a shared experience, everyone was cheering each other on it quite literally pushed you to perform better. When a lift wouldn't go well either the rest of the class was always encouraging and telling you to try again.
We wanted to recreate this feeling in the product and that's where the idea of a cohort was born.
In a cohort you're paired with three other participants who have started the course around the same day that you have. You'd all see each other's progress and be able to chat to one another. We ran this through usability studies and spent a lot of time thinking about this feature. In the end it didn't feel quite right, to go back to the crossfit analogy there is something powerful about being in a room working out together, going through a shared experience. We tried to recreate this using progress lines as the shared experience and it just didn't have the same effect. During usability studies we also heard that this cohort wasn't very interesting with random people who could be located anywhere/from any background.
At Change Collective we had begun the year by using Photoshop/Illustrator primarily and we eventually transitioned to Sketch for all UI design. Towards the end of my time there I created a full UI library so that anyone could hop in and put screens/mockups together.
Modeled after Teehan & Lax's iOS GUI everything was made into Sketch smart symbols and the artboards were created so that someone could open the library and easily put screens together.
Before Change Collective the majority of my experience had been hyperfocused on specific parts of the product process. At Kicksend it was all about improving an existing a product post launch, with an intense focus on customer development and UX research. At Zeo I worked on developing new feature and supporting the marketing launch of a brand new app.
At Change Collective over the course of my year there we took the company from being pre-product, took the core principles around behavior change to fully design and launch a product, and then worked to improve the product post launch. I absolutely loved the process of creation that we went through, from truly understanding the problem we were solving for, to using the empathy we had for our users to build the right solution for them.
Over my three Co-Ops I learned that the two things I enjoyed the most was the ideation process around crafting a solution and bringing that to final aesthetic designs and coming in to an already existing product and using UX processes and customer development work to improve the usability of the product and have it better solve the problem it's addressing.
January 2013 - June 2013
Kicksend (YC S11) was a mobile first application that let you send, receive and print photo albums.
UX Designer & Research. I joined the company one month after a 2.0 relaunch and put in place a UX research process. I ran all usability studies and customer development research and assisted our lead designer with the UX.
When I joined Kicksend the company had just launched it's first photo printing product and had no customer research process at the time. My role was to create a UX research process that brought customer feedback to every product decision we made. I was also in charge of creating low fidelity wireframes that would inform the final design.
After having set up our two main research frameworks (described in detail below) I was challenged with increasing the research velocity to allow us to run two separate usability studies a week. This meant recruiting, prototyping, interviewing, and synthesizing results twice a week. I put in place a couple different processes to allow us to do this, by the end of my Co-Op I was interviewing up to 22 users a week (in-person), had conducted over 300 usability studies that directly lead to dramatic improvements in mobile retention and conversion rates from the single digits to over 40%. I left behind two separate research processes that were used up until the company was acquired two years later.
When I first arrived at Kicksend they had no research processes in place for exploratory or usability research. It was my job to create the right research frameworks for the company as well as tweak them to make sure they kept up with the pace the company was working at.
When I first joined we were trying to better understand how we could target particular demographics (teachers, scrapbookers, etc). Using a lot of the principles from the Human Centered Design toolkit as well as the concept testing I had done back at Zeo I created an Exploratory Research Framework that would allow us to recruit, test, and synthesize results with a week turnaround on any new concept that we wanted to explore. Here's how we did it.
The design challenge is one sentence, phrased in "human" terms with a sense of possibility, that will guide the rest of the questions asked throughout the research.
Design Challenges We've Used Previously:
At the start of every research phase it's important to document what we already know so that we can focus on what we don't know.
We come out of this phase with solid questions that inform the recruiting strategy.
The recruiting strategy is the description of the desired participants we want in the study will be. The recruiting strategy should include: the desired age/demographic, the number of participants and why, the desired spectrum of participants.
Choosing the Participants: Extreme participants help to unearth the unarticulated behaviors, desires and needs of the rest of the population, but are easier to observe and identify because they feel the effects more powerfully than others. By including both ends of the spectrum as well as some people in the middle, the full range of behaviors, beliefs, and perspectives will be heard even with a small number of participants.
I conducted the recruiting on Taskrabbit, Craigslist, Amazon Mechanical Turk and from a company database of 50+ in-person beta testers that I had created.
Based on our Design Challenge we had to choose the right research method that would best explore the answer. Here were the different kinds of methods at our disposal:
For each research phase we created two different documents. The Interview Guide which serves to guide the discussion with the customers, including all of the context setting and questions that will be asked during the research. The Notetaking Document is used by the notetaker to capture everything that the participant says. This was usually an excel file with a different cell for each question.
The guidelines I created for each interview:
Synthesis is the process by which we review all of the data and the notes that come out of the interview. It’s where you go from inspiration to ideas, from stories to strategic direction. We're looking to find all the common signals that were given out throughout the interview process.
View the full Kicksend Exploratory Research document here.
During my time there Kicksend there was a company wide focus on becoming a much more customer centered company. We wanted every new feature or iteration we built to have been tested and validated with customers. It was my job to create the right research framework to provide that validation at the speed that we needed it, which is why I put in place two usability research rounds a week. Some of what's below is taken out of the UX Research At Kicksend document hence the change of tense.
The framework I created had us running two research rounds a week testing every new feature or iteration in each of the rounds. This dramatically improved the quality of the product that we shipped.
We have two research rounds a week, Round 1 spans Monday and Tuesday while Round 2 spans Thursday and Friday. There are several reasons for this structure:
Ideal preparation for a Usability Study should go like this:
I created this document at the end of my co-op while training the UX researcher that would take my place. When it came to actually conducting the guidelines and advice I passed on to her based on what I had learned.
Things to remember:
At the end of each research round we reported results via an email to the entire company. This kept everybody informed on where the state of usability of our product was, as well as how new features were being received. Most importantly, everybody was hearing customer quotes about our product on a bi-weekly basis. This sometimes also surfaced areas we needed to improve outside of product and design, if for example a feature wasn't introduced or marketed well.
Here is a sample email I would send out:
Here are the results from Round 1 of testing this week! We tested Home Delivery on the web.
I will be extending this round of research into tomorow as well so more results will follow.
View the full Kicksend UX Research Framework here.
While I was at Kicksend I learned that UX research was crucial to the success of a product. Our checkout flow dropout rate went from >30% to less than 10% in the months that we implemented the UX research framework. I learned how to create a solid round of UX research that could get us answers within a day or two and not within weeks. While I loved conducting the research, I found that I got the most joy out of prototyping and designing, after my experience at Kicksend I began to look to for more opportunities to delve deep into product design.
January 2012 - August 2012
Zeo was one of the early pioneers of the quantified self movement. Having raised $27M the Boston based startup built a headband you wore when you went to sleep, the headband could track your REM, deep and light sleep and based on your results give you suggestions for improving your sleep quality.
Product Manager & Business Development. I worked on business development in my first two months with the company closing a deal with Virgin Atlantic and conducting an extensive analysis of the competing sleep apps in the App Store. As a product manager I lead the design of a new feature, conducted usability studies, and lead the marketing launch of our free sleep tracking app.
I joined Zeo in January of 2012 as my first Co-op at Northeastern initially as a business development intern. However I took a strong interest in the product team early on and ended up joining them as a product management intern two months into my Co-op.
During my time working in business development I did an extensive analysis of the competing sleep apps in the app store, made a case for a potential relaxation feature in the app, and closed a partnership with Virgin Atlantic on a jet lag app.
When I first joined the product team they were conducting concept tests for one of new features: Sleep Advice. While sitting in on the concept tests, I noticed that most users had no idea what the three sleep stats we reported meant (Deep, REM and Light sleep). I raised a flag to the team and we began discussing the way we set context within the app. The only form of context we had was the screen below that was tucked away in the settings menu:
We then spent time wireframing different ways to better illustrate the concepts in a way that was more visual.
I brought this into Omnigraffle (there was no Sketch at the time) and created higher fidelity wireframes that were to be used in usability testing.
I took the wireframes animated them in Prototypes App, loaded them up on a couple iOS devices and I went out the next morning to conduct a usability test. Since we wanted to conduct a quick test I didn’t have time to create a formal Interview guide. Instead I focused on two things:
I drove down to Newton Center (a shopping mall nearby) and recruited a total of 8 people for the study. To test question number 2 I handed them the phone and had them slide through each screen. As they got to each screen I would ask them what they thought of the picture, and the description. However the real test was at the end, once they swiped through each screen I took the phone away and had them go through each stat and describe to me what they learned. This allowed me to test several things:
We found that the images helped the users make a correlation between each sleep stage and its benefits. For example when I asked them to define REM sleep, although they couldn’t repeat the whole definition, they immediately knew it correlated to mental recovery.
With the help of illustrations from our creative director we cleaned the screens up and came up with this final design:
Around the fifth month of my Co-op Zeo was getting to launch their first free sleep tracking app that used the iPhone's accelerometer. Being a late comer to the market, after Sleep Cycle (then and current leader) the plan was to offer an app that was more accurate and free in order to bring more users into the Zeo sleep ecosystem, where we could up-sell them on sleep accessories/the Zeo headband later. Having spent the beginning of my Co-op doing a thorough evaluation of the current state of sleep apps in the app store, I was put in charge of taking the wireframes that the marketing department had created in order to bring them to completion.
This was the first version of the landing page that the previous marketing department had created. It had way too much copy to the point where it made it harder to understand the primary benefits of the app.
Here is the first (slightly embarrassing) crack I took at redesigning it:
Working with our creative director we arrived at the final version.
To wrap up Sleep 101's marketing launch I worked on the app store screenshots, providing all wireframes and copy. Final designs created by our creative director.
After the launch of Sleep 101, I returned to classes and remained at Zeo in a part time consulting role for the following three months. I spent the majority of that time conducting usability studies and helping the product team decide what to prioritize in Sleep 101 v2 based on what we had learned since the launch.
Zeo, in conjunction with Notely, taught me how much I loved working in product. When I set off to search for my second co-op I wanted to join a company that was in the process of improving a product it had already launched. I wanted to understand what it takes to improve an existing product dramatically and all of the processes, prioritizations and tradeoff that come with that. Luckily, I joined the Kicksend team that had just launched their photo printing product.
October 2011 - June 2012
Co-founder, CEO. I created the company and built our website and launched our first product. After winning first place in the Husky Startup Challenge my Co-founder and I hired a team of 30 students, I was then in charge of marketing and employee management.
In my Sophomore year I came to a realization: studying is inefficient. It's hard to listen, to truly listen, to the professor and take good notes. Notes that you'll rely on in the future to study for exams. Two weeks after having covered the material in class, if I was preparing for an exam and was struggling to remember a concept, textbooks only made things more difficult and homework solutions were useless without the process.
I wanted a better way to study, this was the impetus for starting Notely. I noticed my roommate taking amazing notes on his tablet in our Physics 2 class, that weekend I hired him as Notely's first employee. I joined the Husky Startup Challenge, a semester long startup accelerator at Northeastern which culminated in a Demo Day with monetary prizes for the top three startups.
Our mission: create a study guide that made studying more efficient for students. A guide that got right to the point, presented them the concepts they needed to know, took them through homework problems and suggested further ways for them to practice and prepare for exams.
Over the Fall 2011 semester I brought along a Jacob as a co-founder to handle employee management and hiring. Our plan was to build launch one note packet right before our Physics 2 final as a test of the concept and then go into hiring many notetakers for the following semester.
The first thing we set out to solve was to design a study guide that made studying better.
We faced the following constraints:
We wanted an outline for each study guide so that students knew what was covered and could jump to the appropriate concepts. While brainstorming the best way to organize our notes we also came up with the cheatsheet analogy. A common study pattern for students is to create a 1-2 page cheat sheet that they can look at the day of the exam to keep all the concepts, definitions and formulas fresh in their mind. We wanted to replace the cheat sheet, this is how the quick reference guide came to be. The best way to start off our packets was in fact with a quick one line description of each concept, something that can be interchangeably used as a cheat sheet, but would also let the students know what the study guide would cover in more detail.
Practice makes permanent. The single best way to understand a certain concept or formula is to apply it to problems repeatedly until you understand all the different angles and nuances of that concept. I noticed that in classes where the Professor provided homework solutions, not just the final answer, but the fully solved out problem, I did much much better on exams. Each of our packets included at least one solved problem per major concept and a section that lead to "more practice" pulling out similar problems from the book. By showing students how to solve a problem, and then giving them a place for them to go practice we hoped to give them a much deeper understanding of the things they were learning.
Having no programming experience whatsoever we set off to build Notely's website. We used the Shopify platform to provide all the backend services we needed in terms of processing payments, serving packet downloads. Shopify allowed us to highly customize the front end to acheive the look and Navigation that we wanted.
On November 27 of 2011 we launched our Physics 2 final exam study guide for $10 online. Within 24 hours we had 960+ downloads and dozens of Facebook messages and emails asking if we'd be releasing any study guides for other classes.
The following week we placed first in the HSC and received $1,250 in funding. We spent that winter break rebuilding the website on Shopify and hiring 32 employees for the Spring semester.
We began the spring semester with over thirty employees spread across most of the big introductory classes at Northeastern. Our plan for that semester was to continue testing our packets in the market, specifically across different subject matters, making sure they were the best way to study. Jacob and I spent most of our time on employee management and marketing to students. At the start of the semester we ran a bootcamp to show our Notetakers how to create a study guide of Notely quality, how to upload their products to the website, etc. From word templates, to video tutorials, we slowly put in place a ton of different processes to get things running smoother. The other big part of our time was spent on marketing to students, Jacob and I would wake up at 5am three times a week, print out over 500 flyers and spend the early mornings flyering our big classes that we operated in.
While this was happening a venture funded competitor known as Flashnotes moved their company HQ to Boston and set their sights on Northeastern. Despite their marketing efforts we held a strong grasp on the Northeastern market, Notely was well known around campus at that point. This lead to them making an acquisition offer at the end of semester.
As the end of the semester hit Notely had reached profitability allowing Jacob and I to recoup all that we had put into the business. We began the conversation of continuing to expand the company, bringing Notely to other campuses by hiring campus managers, increasing our presence at Northeastern, etc. However while we had the opportunity to build a profitable business and employ students, we also understood that selling study guides was never going to be a massive business, regardless of the scale reached. At this point I had found myself extremely drawn to product design and Jacob to Engineering so even though it was an extremely difficult decision we decided to shut down the business to focus our time on the things we were passionate about.