I began by interviewing parents one-on-one, in-depth, about the highlights and pain points of parenting. I then ran design thinking sessions—some focused on technology, others on shopping, and others on coordinating activities. The common denominator everyone expressed was that they waste a lot of time doing research online, scouring Amazon reviews and going 2-3 pages deep into Google results mostly because they're looking for some reassurance to feel like they're doing a good job as a parent. They wanted to get more trustworthy answers to their questions, faster.
Working closely with our founder and software engineer, I led the charge on some quick sketches of various product directions we could take to solve the problem diagnosed. We talked through the pros and cons of each, and chose a couple directions to iterate further before deciding what our product would be. One of the solutions I came up with—a parenting products review website—is illustrated below. My goal was to create a visual solution to quickly and easily get a feel for the overall sentiment that parents have for a product, without being limited to only a star rating system. This cold to warm sentiment wheel sifts through Amazon reviews, scores them based on a semantic search of the words and phrases used, and allows you to see the overall cold and warm percentages for a product, as well as unravel the wheel into a list of reviewers, and click into individual reviews for more detail.
Below: Product Reviews Mobile App: Community Ratings vs Our In-house Ratings, divided by quality evaluated
We decided we needed to give equal weight to a mobile solution, since we would be relying on a lot of user input on the go: at stores and while using products. We also decided we really just had a glorified positive/negative rating system, not too far off from a star rating.
So I expanded on the previous idea but instead of a conceptual structure of "good or bad," I assigned colors to universal qualities used to rate parenting products. Our team worked really hard to think of what these essential qualities could be that apply to every product. Our goal was to make it easier to get more of a sense of what's good and what's bad about a product, rather than just overall good or bad, because different people might value different qualities differently, thus biasing an "overall rating" that doesn't consider these contextual subtleties.
We discussed the prototypes and decided we shouldn't make a product that requires massive amounts of input before it has any value. I led the team in finding what our MVP should be, based on that initial feedback we had received from parents, and what we had learned from iterating. We decided the solution needed to be more about a trusted place where people can find answers to their questions, rather than concrete ratings. Our beta was open to a private group of parents, and was limited to publishing curated content—articles, Medium posts, etc—that serve as good answers to the most common and important questions parents have—which we selected. In essence we were still a publishing platform at this point, but we also put a lot of thought into how to structure privacy so that we could begin to introduce community interaction tools while keeping parents at ease.
V1, V2 & V3
After our private beta community gave us feedback, we decided to refine the tools for users to generate the content rather than having us publish it. This is where we finally made the pivot to a personalized forum. With each version, we handed over the reins more and more to users—less moderation, less adding content ourselves on the backend, and more focus on tools that can help users ask and answer questions important to them.
Summary of Versions:
Version 1: First post-beta release on the App Store. Design similar to beta, with changed navigation.
Version 2: Total redesign, with the goal of making the app feel lighter, with more white, more clarity, and less reliance on imagery so that users could ask questions that still look good even without images. I also prioritized better exploring and browsing, linking content (such as showing "Questions Like This",.
Version 2.1: Feature expansion to try and have distilled information through our Product Digest feature, which surfaced all the products recommended in people's answers, to the top of the answers.
Version 2.2: Prioritized new onboarding to make data collection easier and more likely, as well as sharing. With better info gathered during on boarding, we were able to create a notifications strategy based on people's interests and the age groups of their kids, to try and get more more relevant information in front of people, to keep them returning to the app.
Version 3: At this point we needed to think hard about monetization strategies that would align with our values of only showing quality information. I worked on a strategy to introduce sponsored products into the product digests, and also worked on filtering the feed so that browsing could be more personalized.
Below are some snapshots from Version 2:
Below is a portion of a large diagram showing all the flows through the app, covering every view and every different possible road into the app. Click the image to expand and see a full PDF.
I'm a big believer in being able to navigate to every part of an app from the main view, rather than burying views in a burger menu. When creating the redesign for V2, I structured everything around those principles, and our developers were great at working with us to make our navigation dreams a reality. We were very excited to win the Best Navigation Award from Silicon Beach App Awards. We also won an Honorable Mention from the Webby Awards for Best Sites & App for Families & Kids.
I was in charge of all aspects of design, from high level to pixel-perfect, within the app and for all aspects of the company outside the app. Some of the visual materials I designed include our logo, website, business cards, Google & Facebook ads, postcards, fundraising decks, & social media shares. Examples below:
FINAL VIEWS & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We covered so much ground and I'm really proud of the work we did at Village. Sadly, we weren't able to raise investment, and our founder closed shop in April of 2016. We're forever grateful to the parents who guided us through this crazy venture, and all the friends, family and colleagues who helped us test and learn along the way. For a team that was just two people in-house, and one then three part-time contract developers, we made so much happen and I'm grateful to all of you. Our beta developer was Russell Quinn, owner of False Vacuum, and from V1 on we worked with Shane Zilinskas of ClearSummit, and Noah Labhart & Taylor Bell of TouchTap . You can still download the app here, although it is no longer being managed or monitored. Thanks!