TuShare was an Australian sharing marketplace aimed at giving unwanted items a second life, saving them from landfill and creating joyful exchange experiences.
I joined the TuShare team with a brief to reimagine their sharing marketplace in a more user-friendly way, honing in on the core experience and enabling them to enter a growth phase with confidence.
My job was to deconstruct the current product then with a user-centered, design led approach, create a new incarnation more in line with the needs of the community and the business.
A vital PR opportunity was only 4 months away. Global Sharing Day, for which TuShare was the Australian ambassador, brought with it a media focus and the potential for a significant new audience. To be able to relaunch in such a short period of time required me to quickly focus in on the most fundamental experience to allow time for development and testing before the deadline.
My plan of attack was:
- A handful of interviews with current active, inactive and new users, to understand their motivations and behaviours, and in particular the problem areas they encountered when using or joining the marketplace.
- Mine TuShare's existing research and market intelligence for context and insights.
- Create super simple proto-personas to split the audience into segments with clear needs, motivations and behaviours that we could prioritise.
- Facilitate collaborative design thinking sessions with marketing, business and development to gather all available knowledge and build their understanding of the users. Then move forward by generating ideas for a new user-centric sharing experience and deciding on a path forwards.
- Develop user flows to map the system and interactions, helping to identify critical paths and uncovering edge cases. Completeness was important here – focusing only on the golden path would mean the developer having to figure out the rest during development which would waste time, money and suck momentum from the project.
- Wireframes and wireframe prototypes to help discuss and critique ideas quickly and cheaply and provide the basis for design and development.
- User validation and testing to make sure we're on the right track.
Liquidity of the marketplace was crucial so encouraging both giving and receiving was necessary to create a healthy, active community.
Two big competitors of TuShare were charity shops and the bin. Giving had to be really simple and feel great.
A vastly simplified giving form that was also designed to work on a smartphone meant people could use their most available camera to easily post items on the site. We also made it quick to review and approve requests based on profiles and history of generosity which tied into the values of the community we were aiming to encourage.
Interest based browsing
One of the most important insights from user testing was that unless we quickly surfaced interesting, relevant content we'd lose people. To solve that problem we came up with the concept of hubs based around broad areas of interest. As part of onboarding, members joined hubs that appealled to them and were quickly shown available items based on their interests.
This approach also formed an important part of the business model since each hub could be sponsored.
Remove and simplify to focus the experience
A major factor in improving the overall experience was removing features that while valid, distracted from the core experience. Simplification of key workflows such as posting and requesting items reduced the time to complete those tasks, again enhancing usability.
A secondary benefit was a reduction in technical debt. Each feature adds complexity to the system and a burden of maintenance – anywhere this can be reduced is a net positive for everyone.
The second part of my job on this project was front end development, working with the lead developer to deliver the final site.
We chose to base the site on Bootstrap both to speed up work and take advantage of their excellent documentation and style guide. It has its disadvantages but in this case it was key to integrating the finalised templates and componentry into the Rails backend quickly and accurately.
The project was successfully relaunched just in time for Global Sharing Day. The TV and media coverage resulted in a 500% bump in membership in a few weeks and a similar increase in exchanged items.
After the initial burst of interest cooled, we managed to harness the momentum to steadily build active user numbers, gather community feedback and begin to iterate the product.
Over the next year we evolved the marketplace, growing it from 1500 members pre-Global Sharing Day to almost 50,000 members, who exchanged 40,000kg of goods in the process.
Product updates focused on three areas which closely aligned with business strategy:
- Membership Growth – mostly through increasing exposure in social networks and better sharing
- Activity – encouraging more exchange per interaction and creating more trigger opportunities for posting and requesting items
- Community – building social capital via activity and positive interactions