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Project Overview

Project Overview

4M Ecosystems in an online management platform that helps consumers connect and discover new resources.  Initially designed to be a capstone project, it offers students a chance to work with a client and solve a real world business need. 

Our client Rick, the owner of 4M Ecosystems comes from a background of business and finance. He recognized that capturing the essence of a startup ecosystem is necessary to reach its full potential. This case study documents my approach in solving this problem.

My Contributions
UX & Product Design

Generate ideas, define a process, and understand the problem at hand and how it needs to be solved.

Research & Strategy

Identify project goals and restraints, firmographics, personas, and conduct user research, and product requirements.

Graphic Design & Branding

Concept design, wireframes, interface design, as well as brand identity .

Challenges

Challenges

Avoid Brand Confusion

Targeting too many audience segments risks confusing what product is being offered.

Flexible Platform

Design a system which adapts to its user while able to sustain the data it compiles.

Capture Information

Simplify the process of capturing, storing, and sharing data within an ecosystem

Define Ecosystems

Outline how users interact within an ecosystem and how they benefit from it.

My Goals

Goals

User Engagement

Create a business model that encourages users to interact with one another.

Encourage User Trial

Allow users to browse portions of the network without registering an account.

Practical Dashboard

Give users valuable insight without overwhelming them with meaningless numbers

Discovery

Prior to starting the project, each group met with the stakeholders to address any questions they had. I brought the following questions to the table:

Who make up the current user base? Which market audience are we to target

Understand how our client views success and how it can be measured.

What does the product consists of and a reason for the redesign?

Business Goals & Requirements

Business Goals & Requirements

After the meeting with our stakeholders, the following topics regularly emerged indicating their importance.
Offline Interaction

Our platform should encourage users to form networks outside of 4M Ecosystem's data base.

System & Admin Hierarchy

Admins should be able to create roles for users in their ecosystem and assign them accordingly.

Security & Privacy

With sensitive information flowing through the database, security is to be implemented early on.

Effortless Customization

User settings should be easy to customize to fit the needs of the consumer and/or organization

Constraints

No User Analytics

Without information provided of the user base I was working with, it became challenging to find a starting point.

Limited Communication

A set number of meetings was assigned for us to interview the stakeholders. We were limited afterwards.

Ambiguous Goals

Each stakeholder measured success differently. One valued functionality while the other gave priority to user experience.

Research

To better understand 4M Ecosystems, I had to familiarize myself with the industry identify the user base. Topics of interested included:

What's necessary for ecosystems to remain healthy?

What determines it's characteristics?

How a each user benefit when a part of an ecosystem?

The Game Plan

The Game Plan

Finding a starting point required knowledge of the industry. I conducted task analysis, competitive benchmarks, and other research methods, to paint a better picture of the playing field. Doing so allowed me to begin taking steps forward.

Competitive Benchmark

Competitive Benchmark

To immerse myself into an unfamiliar field, I conducted research on several websites and verified what current the current industry standards are, common design patterns, and who the leaders were in the market.
Clean & Simple Hero

The audience can quickly identify who Gust is, what they do, and how they are able to do it.

Allow Users to Browse Their Network

Gust gives visitors a chance to test their network and demonstrate their services without any commitment.

Software Catered for the User

Each component that makes up Gust's customer base obtains a software catered to serve their specific needs e.g., Startups, Investors and Accelerators.

Conceptual Analysis

Even though this is a term I personally made up, it is the best way I can describe what I do. To understand how a website communicates with its audience, I break it down and write simple conceptual terms describing the overall section of the website.
Focused Calls to Action

With large text and clear call to action, a user is left with no room for confusion. They understand what role they play, and how to get there.

Large & Proven Network

By flexing their muscles, AngelList demonstrates a giant network and the companies that partner with them.

Memorable Branding

While this is a logo you don't see everyday, it takes one time for you to see it and you remember the brand.

Task Analysis

I used Task Analysis to identify opportunities that improve the UX process and also generate ideas on features that 4M should offer.

Empathy Map

Empathy maps give insights about the target audience by looking to their thoughts, feelings, needs, and goals. By putting myself in the shoes of Angela, a startup founder, I was able to empathize with him as a user and think about what value 4M could offer.

Personas

Personas aid in creating a realistic representation of potential user groups. After getting a better understanding of users through empathy maps, I was able to create several personas to summarize that information.

Insights

After compiling and analysis my findings, I determined the following to be necessary in delivering value to the clients.
Clear Explanation

Barriers to entry need to be minimal to non-existent.

Give the User Control

Establish your authority and reputation by example. Success stories, testimonials, & knowledge in the field all help in doing so.

Show Relevance

Relate the solutions offered back to your consumer and the benefit gained

Accountability

Give members accountability and incentive to be active in the community.

Encourage User Trial

Keep your message simple unless users wants detailed information.

Safe & Secure

Illustrate your commitment to protect consumers with the best technology in security

Establish Authenticity

What do you do and how can they benefit from your product?

Eliminate Barriers

Motivate Users

Clear Explanation

Provide a concise explanation of the services offered.

Allow Customization

Let the user easily customize certain aspects to better serve their needs.

Value Proposition

Demonstrate the value a user gains by using your service

Safe & Secure

Show your commitment to protect the user base with the best security.

Encourage User Trial

Allow users to test your network before committing.

Data Analysis

Create a self sustaining database that provides valuable insights.

Eliminate Barriers

Ensure the layout makes it easy for viewers to find detailed information.

Reward Your User

Create a ranking system that rewards good business etiquette.

Landing & Navigation

Point of Reference

Users are likely to land on pages other than the home page, which makes it important to show where they are located on your website.

Visualize Unfamiliar Concepts

The concept of an Ecosystem isn't familiar to everyone. With thoughtful visual design, 4M can clearly define what it is and viewers will associate a term they learned with your brand.

Use Videos If Possible

The current web is picking up speed as more and more people find access to high internet speed. Ensure to use videos when explaining product functionality. It takes less effort to watch a video than read a paragraph.

Incentivize to Care

Visually Differentiate B2B & B2C

Create a clear distinction between enterprise vs client solutions. To decrease levels of confusion, create a seperate website for enterprise solutions.

How Does the User Fit In?

Summarize the different categories that make up ecosystems and invite users to learn more with the click of a button.

Visually Relevant

With each component make sure to differentiate them in order to avoid them mixing up roles. An organization/individual can be multiple components, which is visually separated once logged in and verified.

Charts & Graphs

While designing the dashboard, I found myself forgetting what relationships certain graphs are meant to portray. Pretty visuals can convolute or over complicate, until I went back to the basics and sketched out simple charts to further my understanding.
Outdated & Irrelevant

In the world of startups, relevant information can be the difference between a major gains or loss. The platform must consistently search for errors and cross check it for quality.

Information Overload

It’s easy for information to become overwhelming and meaningless. To prevent this, 4M Ecosystem's platform will sustain itself and organize data based predefined characteristics

Discover New Patterns

With the use of machine learning, it is now possible for computers to make predictions and discover patterns humans can’t normally recognize.

Design

My goal was to make informed decisions while designing 4M. I set out to accomplish:

A responsive design that can maintain the same value it would in desktop view

Modern designs patterns that are consistent with current design trends.

Color code sections that relate to one another to help users identify what they are searching

Dashboard Wireframes

While each component has a unique dashboard with functionality specific to that component, I focus on the process I underwent in developing investor dashboards. The following contain sketches, wireframes, and final visual components.
Variation 1
Variation 2
Variation 3
Variation 4

Dashboard Components

After logging in, users are directed to the "Overview" section which comprise of key information important to that component, unless indicated under settings. Since customization became a selling point, every dashboard overview may look slightly different depending if the user decides to adjust it.

After logging in, users are directed to the "Overview" section which comprise of key information important to that component, unless indicated under settings. Since customization became a selling point, every dashboard overview may look slightly different depending if the user decides to adjust it.
User Profile

The right hand side will always indicate who you are logged in under. Changes made under original accounts reflect on any connected accounts.

Quick Search

The search bar always remains in view to be accessible. Trending stories automatically pop up under recommendations as well.

Multiple Roles

If an individual performs multiple roles, they can toggle between them using the tottle below.

Social Media Graphs

An example of what an investor would see is a chart which maps different social activity surrounding a campaign or venture

Branding

Final Screenshots

Get In Touch!

I am currently looking for new opportunities! If you have any inquiries, suggestions, or anything else. It's easy to reach me. Thank you!

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