Sendle – Exploration
Project – Explore the opportunity
While running sharing marketplace TuShare, we identified the potential to create a stand alone product from the delivery service we'd built as part of the site.
It was an intriguing idea but as a small team of less than 10 people, with one startup on the go, it was a serious commitment and therefore crucial that we validated the opportunity in the most efficient way. My role was to lead the team through a user-centered design process to explore and validate the opportunity.
Starting with the fundamentals
Our team had relatively little logistics experience and, at this point, we hadn't identified a clear market or product – there was a pretty big design challenge ahead of us.
To get us started I designed and facilitated a series of workshops. These aimed at getting us oriented in the world of logistics and answering some of the fundamental questions such as why are we doing this, who's would use the service such and what's our approach going to be.
Proof of concept product
During the workshops we'd identified and developed four personas who we thought could be potential users of the service. Two of these shared a number of clear user needs that we also felt we were well placed to tackle.
We came to the conclusion that a proof of concept was required, firstly to test the end-to-end service with users but also to explore solutions to a number of technical, support and product challenges that directly impacted the viability of the service as a whole.
The service had a couple of key constraints that significantly affected how the designing the product was approached:
Integrating with couriers
We were utilising exisiting courier services so their processes and technology became strong constraints within the design process. Tempting as it was to reimagine a delivery service from scratch, we instead had to add value with the parts we controlled such as the application, rather than the physical service.
Unfamiliar process for customers
While parcels were going to be booked and managed online we were actually facilitating an in-person interaction, preparing customers to have parcels collected by a courier. While most people are familiar with how post works, couriers work in a way that far fewer people are familiar with.
This was addressed in a few different ways. For example, careful layering onboarding elements in context through the process meant customers weren't overloaded upfront, and use of clear, natural language and familiar terms reduced unnecessary industry jargon.
I explored the user flow, information architecture and experience design initially from the point of view of mobile. I found the constraint of a smaller screen size helpful to focus in on the most important information first, plus it's quicker to sketch.
I also worked closely with the lead developer to assess feasibility and effort to make sure we were genuinely making a minimum viable product. It was crucial at this stage not to just focus on the golden path – a truly viable product needs to consider alternate paths, failure states and anticipate user problems that affect the quality of experience in key areas.
The product approach we took was ultra-simple sending – no signup, no accounts and one parcel at a time. Notification of key delivery milestones was done via transactional emails.
While it was a limited set of functionality, it satisfied the core user needs and gave us an end-to-end proof of concept from the technology side without going to too far too soon.
The service was built as a responsive web application. Native applications would've been nice but with limited resources we'd have needed to pick a single platform (iOS or Android), excluding us from some of our potential customers and reducing our ability to iterate quickly the way would could on the web.
We engaged a number of parties in our potential markets with the prototype version and after getting some positive signals and solid feedback, we were confident that our prototype service was feasible.
To be able to extend the trial to a bigger audience we identified that a more approachable product and refined user experience was required. This led us to developing a brand, updating the product design and creating a marketing site articulating the core proposition of the service.
After learning a lot about the market, business, technology and product opportunities we concluded that we had proved the concept and were set up to move to the next phase when Sendle became a proper business.