Monday, April 18, 2011

SproutBox Reflections

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I’ve always liked the motto, “Improve upon everything you do.” When given the opportunity to collaborate with the talent at SproutBox earlier this year, I knew it was something I could not pass up. Speaking with Marc Guyer, the CEO and co-founder of SproutBox, I quickly found a home for all of the user experience theory and technical skills I had built up for the past 2+ years.

We both agreed - web applications can be a great timesaver and change the way we interact with our world, but like many digital experiences, negating those who actually use the product can be disastrous and highly unforgiving in such a rapidly changing landscape of the World Wide Web. Marc knew this, as his company was built for translating great ideas into actual products within an astounding 3-months.

Assigned to Adam Quirk, the Director of Marketing and Operations, and I was the CheddarGetter revamp. CheddarGetter was an in-house project that had received some recognition for the brilliant idea of a plug-n-play API for recurring billing executed on the cheap. It was also one of the first projects at SproutBox and was starting to show its age. And it was apparent; huge blocks of text, confusing navigation choices, and a completely dissociating experience left much to be desired.

It was time to get in there with a sledgehammer and get CheddarGetter caught up with the competition. Working closely with Adam and the development team, I developed site workflows and balanced user needs with business objectives. Marketing played a huge part in all of this, as designing the experience of buy-in while easing the user was not as easy as it sounds. To engage, you must first set the mood, much like a movie, and allow the customer to explore the environment. Only after they’ve bought into the experience that the product is indeed something worth investing their next few minutes in would they continue with any steps we introduced later on.

This mantra and approach played a vital role in the curation of the home, features, pricing, signup, video, and entire onboarding design. Using personas, we could test the information flow and design pacing to optimize signup rates and allow them into the full product without dissociating them with external outbound links. As the product gets ready for launch later this month, we're all very excited to see the new direction for CheddarGetter and the potential to finally compete once again with the giants that currently dominate the space now.
All in all, I quickly learned that a 3-month deadline from concept to product isn’t a task for the light-hearted. It requires everyone to stay on top of things. It means leaving the on-site beer taps dry... for several weeks at a time. It means loving Basecamp. But most importantly, it means trusting what you know and completely putting yourself into the things that you create. For that, I thank SproutBox for the opportunity to learn something from the pros while walking away a stronger, more-confident designer than ever before.


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