लिफ्ट: a product concept for local businesses
The product concept that I developed essentially centered around integrating the various channels of communication involved in setting up and operating a local business – manufactures, customers, the delivery system, brand communication, and so on. In doing so, the objective was to provide users with guidance as to how to set up & operate a local business, while also simplifying the operations themselves. The knowledge and resources of the platform itself would develop over time through usage by the community of local businesses that came before any given user.
I expressed this product concept in the form of an information architecture that could be developed into any digital medium. For the purpose of building and testing a MVP, I developed the information architecture into the medium of a notion template, which I then shared with 79 local businesses who responded to an advertisement that I ran.
I decided to root the form of the experience in the act of communication because a lot of the primary problems that I discovered in the local business experience seemed to be directly or indirectly related to communication and the lack of communication – with other local businesses, with vendors across the supply chain, with customers and so on; and it seemed like the most natural act to backbone the product experience in.
Since the concept was expressed in the form of purely an information architecture, the aesthetic of the product was very primitive and half-baked, and could be taken forward in a variety of different directions.
At its core, however, the intention of the product lends some direction to what its tone might be. The first and the most obvious intention of the product is to simplify the local business experience – and the information architecture was also designed keeping this idea of simplicity in mind. On a broader level, however, the concept stems from an intention to enable a fluidity in knowledge and resources across communities of local businesses so that they might help build each other up rather than bringing each other down, which was a recurring theme that I discovered in the existing form of the local business experience. This intentionality would be crucial to devising the tone of the product.
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Project details
Jun – Aug 2021
Solo project as a part of my internship at Lollypop Design Studio under the mentorship of senior associate UX designer Rishikesh Arolkar
The brief I was given detailed an Indian amazon-type website business, which was now looking to expand in the space of independent local businesses, and my role was to explore the possibilities and pitch a concept to the studio.
Narrative analysis / action-centered design analysis / MVP testing
The design process was fairly linear, starting with a phase of interview research where I outlined the generic behaviours involved in the local business experience and the patterns in problems and a core product direction; followed by an analysis of the key actions in order to develop a UX idea for a solution. Finally, I developed the UX idea into a UX concept, consisting of a medium-agnostic information architecture, which I then built into a notion template that I sent across to 79 local businesses for MVP testing. I used the feedback from this test to rework some details of the design concept.
लिफ्ट was a project that played it very safe, and deliberately so. I had simple objectives with what I wanted the project to be; it had to be proper, it had to be precise, and it had to be thorough. I was interested in consolidating the different techniques of product design that I had been exploring through my earlier projects, including hypothesis-driven design, information design constructs, MVP testing, interview research and narrative analysis. Ultimately, this was precisely what I did and this project then gave me the confidence to move forward into more complicated design projects which necessitated breaking the rules and atomising the techniques that I had gathered towards developing more nuanced perspectives.
If there is something that I wish I had gone about differently, however, it would be the specificity of the focus. I narrowed down only the most frequently and most widely performed actions from across the local business experience and rooted the entire design concept around them in order to solve the biggest problems with the widest appeal. Had I spent more time exploring nicher actions, I would have been pushed to explore more innovative approaches, and thereby probably have strengthened the core concept itself. Further, I could have explored different perspectives to how I constructed the user; I treated local businesses as one undifferentiated whole, manifest in 3 different forms, but had I spent more time and care, I might have found more subtleties to hinge differentiations around.
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