Mobile app for first time parents
For first-time expecting parents who are confused about what to get for their baby, Bundle is a mobile app that gives independent, practical advice to help them get the right products for their need and guides them all the way - from researching through to recycling.
Bundle is a 9-month-long mobile app project by Choice.com.au. It has a core team of three, with expansion by the time near launch. I was involved in the project for 3 months, from May to August 2017 to revisit user pain points, reshape the user experience approach, and forming the content structure for the app. The beta version of the app was launched in September 2017.
CHOICE (choice.com.au) is a membership-based organisation that works tirelessly to make the world better, fairer and safer for Australian consumers since 1959. They test, review products, write on topics of consumer interests and campaign for consumer rights.
The company recognises that its membership base is ageing. In order to stay on and thrive, CHOICE needs to attract a younger audience. Instead of trying to fully convert their offering into a mobile product, CHOICE wanted to experiment with a small subset of their content and target audience.
After some initial research, we decided to experiment with the baby and kids product in the mobile app space, for the following reasons:
- Mobile usage increases every year for product research, especially in younger audience.
- Having a baby is an important life stage that triggers the needs for product research.
- CHOICE has both expertise and authority in baby and kids products.
We spoke to mums and dads about their experiences researching baby products and learned that it’s an overwhelming experience. While there is no shortage of information and advice available, much of it is conflicting, confusing and not considerate of their own needs.
Information sources included websites (reviews, product specific), online baby forums, Facebook groups, friends/family, books, and shopping centres.
- Keeping track of research varied and ranged from hand drawn notes, SMS or email trails, website bookmarks, spreadsheets, and software like Trello.
- Items that require significant investment (e.g. prams, cots, car seats) are high on the list of confusing purchases, but there are also more questions they have along the way. Specifically - what do I really need?
Insights and opportunities
The core team took an Agile approach with two-weeks sprints of rapid prototyping and testing. This was paired with regular customer interviews and users testing sessions to gauge early feedback and respond accordingly.
We followed the Design Sprint method: outlined a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. It was an interesting and useful process. Converging and diverging into a testable solution that focused on the biggest problems.
As one of the first exercise in the Design Sprint, we drawn out a high-level product map of how our users will interact with the app. This helped us being focused for the rest of the week.
Sketching ideas with Crazy 8s
The team took on the Crazy 8s exercise - a core sprint method for quick idea generation. It’s a fast sketching exercise that challenges people to sketch 8 ideas in 8 minutes (not 8 variations of one idea or 8 steps of one idea, but 8 distinct ideas).
We discussed the different ideas and vote on the one we thought work best for the product.
In a Storyboard, I mapped out each step of the experience that we wanted to test. This helps clarify the pieces we needed to prototype.
Based on the storyboard I mocked up the different screens for the app and worked with our interactive designer/prototyper to build the prototype in Framer.
User testing & refine
We took our prototype to a shopping centre that has a few baby shops. We approached some young mums to ask them to go through the prototype, get their impressions on the product and its usability.
Seeing the positive user reaction on the prototype, we were confident we were on the right track and worked on further develop the content for six key categories out of over 130 products. By this time, I worked closely with UI designer and the content writer/editor.
The web app was launched to a closed beta group in September. Participants were recruited through personal networks and the CHOICE social pages. Key to engaging participants and getting valuable feedback was the management of a closed Facebook group.
The final decision
Four months after its beta launch, CHOICE reviewed the Bundle business case. The app was showing healthy signs of product-market fit with positive numbers for engagement, activation, retention and customer feedback. However, there was less certainty in the areas of technical resourcing, revenue and strategic priorities of the organisation.
Due to Bundle’s lacking in business viability and technical feasibility to scale up, the leadership team decided to discontinue the product. While this might sound like a gloomy outcome, both the team and the business have learned a lot from the project and avoided the sunk cost fallacy.
Lessons in hindsight
As the decision to discontinue Bundle was made, I called for a post-mortem session with the core team to reflect on the project. Here are some of the key things we’ve learned:
While the team was given the brief to solely focus on creating a product that met user needs, business models, testing for willingness to pay and technical integration should have been parts of an early conversation.
If revenue is a key success factor, the release strategy must reflect that, for example:
- Release to earn - where you’ll play and how you’ll win
- Release to learn - start with early adopters and ‘nail it before you scale it’
The team didn’t consider platform / tech constraints in order to quickly build a prototype, which was a conscious decision. However, the lack of a regular digital resource on the team caused problems when looking to scale Bundle.
Involve a digital resource throughout the project to ensure scalability constraints are realised and accounted for.
We didn’t anticipate the effort required for content planning and writing which meant that our content writer took on much of the writing process close to the launch of the beta.
Identify the need for a content resource/owner from the start of the project so that content requirements, implications / tradeoffs and realistic timeframes are discussed and planned for early.