A Long Overdue
Revolution in Research
Most of us view technology as something that makes things easier.
For many people however, technology makes things possible.
This is my story of how I made a positive difference in market research
by helping connect peoples opinions to those who needs to hear it.
Staance is a platform of communities where people post about the things they love, make friends, earn points, have great conversations, and influence their favorite brands, studios, artists and more.
As of 2018 Staance had been available for over 5 years as a social platform, that gets people's opinions on various issues in the society through giving a stance. The founders of Staance had dozens of brilliant ideas on how brands could use this platform of taking a stance as a market research tool to helps connect peoples opinions to those who need to hear it but didn’t have a clear vision about how to execute it or what the actual product would look like.
The idea was to provide a market research service that rivaled the likes of SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics XM. Not only were those behemoth competitors with millions of dollars in funding, but they also wanted to make a have a survey platform that has at least a 60% completion rate for more than 20 questions which were more than the market's 41.94% average completion rate for 15 questions and more as at 2018. With all these big ideas, we needed a clear definition of what we would actually build to test Staance’s product-market fit.
The goal was to create an MVP that would allow Staance to prove its business model to its funders, pilot brands, and generate revenue.
The Goal Directed Design
We wanted to develop better functionality than Staance’s competitors, we stressed that engaging in a feature parity war was neither strategic, nor had the best interests of the app's users at heart.
To differentiate ourselves in an already mature and competitive market, we needed to define a desirable role for the app and how it would meet the needs of responders.
We ran 2 weeks of design sprints based on the design thinking methodology, which includes 5 stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. We eventually created and shipped a fully functional app where brands can Effortlessly capture feedback unlimited scale for confidence at a high engagement rate.
I led the design of the study viewer platform across iOS, Android and Mobile Web since the outset of the project.
Up until May 2020, I led efforts to evolve the service and address customer pain‐points related to the study experience
Customer Insights & Ideation
I partnered with two project manager , business analyst, engineers and the founder to uncover insights and translate concepts into features that address responders behaviors and motivations.
Planning & Scope Definition
I defined the product with my project manager partner. I evangelized users goals and balanced business goals. I prioritized and negotiated features for launch and beyond.
Experience Strategy & Vision
I created frameworks and prototypes to share the vision, design principles and content strategy. This helped to evangelise ideas, gain alignment and drive decision making.
Oversight & Coordination
I designed across and collaborated with 3 Engineering teams and their PM partners to translate product features for each platform context.
Design Execution & Validation
I designed down on Android, iOS and Mobile web. I executed journeys, wireframes, prototypes and design specs
I designed up and presented works to gain buy‐in from executives, senior stakeholders and many other Staance teams throughout the project lifecycle.
Emmanuel Momoh, Ankish Jain, Marios Anapliotis ,Themistoklis Bogiatzoglou, Apryl Doster, and Agnieszka Opilska
Identifying Research Objectives
Before we went into research we had to figure out a few things, First we had to define our research objectives so we could know What we wanted to learn? which where:
Understanding why people answer survey questions
Understanding why people do not complete surveys
What situations are people in when they get surveys
Understanding why will they want to start a survey
Understanding how people get their opinions heard about things they love
We Interviewed 20 people, 10 market researchers from the IIex Market research conference to understand not only the key users of the product but the ecosystem that this program needed to first successfully into.We wanted to understand the different ways people approached surveys and how they got their opinions. We also talked to market researchers to make sure we knew what kind of feedback they would love to get back from respondents and how people's opinions can help them solve their market research questions.
For each interview, We recorded the 20 people and 10 market researchers interviews using Otter.ai, which is an iOS app that records and transcribes the conversation in real-time. This allowed us to listen together, read the transcripts, and analyze the frequency of key terms after the research study. Using this approach was instrumental in helping us design with empathy and ensuring that we kept the user's voice (literally and figuratively) throughout our design process.
What Motivates People to Respond to Surveys?
After interviews with people and market researchers. These are the key insights that defined the launch version of the product:
“This looks interesting”
Sometimes the topic or brand itself sparks their interest. interest is a key driver in the decision to participate.
“I’d like to help out”
The respondent may know the company and feel an obligation to complete the survey in recognition of the time, effort and money spent by the researcher and the company they represent.
“Show me the money or reward”
Some respondents do it purely for the money or the shot at the prize. Their time = the reward.
“I’m bored anyway, let’s kill some time”
Online surveys that can be completed anywhere at any time can increase in appeal when faced with a long wait at the doctor’s office
“My opinion is important”
Respondents believe their opinions are valued and that their answers will be put to good use and may even benefit society in some way. The two main things we observed people participated in surveys were:
they feel their participation will affect something they care about, and
they want to share their opinion with someone who will listen and act on the information.
What does 'Survey' Mean to You?
The discovery phase was a quick, high‐intensity effort that allowed us to define project milestones, audit the existing work, review the competitor landscape, understand our client's vision, and begin research into user needs, behaviours and pain‐points. We also kicked off a technical discovery phase to understand feasibility and constraints.
Based on our research we created a persona that captured the various patterns , motivation and attitude we saw across the interviews.
Our research revealed that the concept of 'survey' represented something different to users of the scheme. Users' motivations for participating in surveys differed, hinting at different requirements.
After designating persona types and aligning this with our phasing strategy we were able to prioritize who we would be focusing on supporting in the early stages. The app focused on supporting the goals of Callum and Carla , who were our primary Persona. We planned for later phases to support Natalie, & Alejandro.
Callum was our primary persona to focus on because he was our biggest challenge. He is not motivated on his own to finish a survey so we need to think of engaging ways to reward him and keep his attention. When designing the app we had to nail this experience for him to make sure he meets his goals. We accommodated the other personas but they were not the key drivers to our design. Carla was really helpful when considering ways of which staance could help her talk with other people who had the same opinion she had.
“We used personas constantly throughout the project to guide design decisions, priorities, and create empathy amongst the client and our team.”
Our persona hypothesis consisted of four different archetypes which we used to facilitate discussions about our users needs, desires and varying contexts of use. Through careful analysis of our research, we identified sufficient behavioral variables to segment our user audience. I discussed the personas with Team to develop a clear picture of who the design of the app would target for the MPV and later in future releases.
Exploring Solutions for User Needs
“The Best Way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” - Linus Pauling
The team was ready to start brainstorming and I had to set the rules for brainstorming engagement
Yes, and …
Anything is possible
The use of ideation prompts was a critical tool that helped us center and focus our brainstorming. Asking questions like how might we make surveys more engaging. How might we reduce drop-off rates.
What if prompts
These helped us force new thinking so we could solve our ideation prompt in a very unique way. It helped us explore many different distinct pathways. So we could generate a lot of different ideas based on the insight gotten from our brainstorming phase and also research phase. some examples: What if it was like a treasure hunt,
What if it made the persona happy and What if we made our persona want more.
Visualizing the end‐to‐end
I used experience mapping techniques to visualize and communicate the user's end‐to‐end experience across various touch‐points in the survey process. This allowed us to represent user pain‐points and see where we needed to focus our attention. Mapping out the user's emotions was key to setting client expectations about the aspirational emotional state we were aiming to design for.
Staance upholds infamously high standards for the work it produces.This has created a culture which seeks to earn trust through accountability, diving deep into the details and inviting others to scrutinise work. Heavy documentation is the artifact of such a culture.
"Prototyping was the most effective way to gain meaningful feedback…"
My process involved sketching and white‐boarding concepts and flows with my PM partner ,the lead engineer and the CEO through the Miro app because everyone was remote at this stage and then translating these directly into hi‐fidelity design comps. Since I was working with many existing design patterns from the staance app, it was relatively easy to move straight into hi‐fidelity designs
Sketching & white boarding concepts and flows with the team remotely on Miro
My next step involved slicing the comps and piecing them together with Sketch and InVision into a prototype. In the early stages, I focussed only on representing the highest risk areas of the design. Later phases allowed me to focus on micro‐interactions, which I created in sketch and principle.
Prototyping was the most effective way to gain meaningful feedback from the team, consensus from stakeholders, and approval from senior leadership. I was able to easily distribute these as videos and recycle them for Usability Testing.
Mobile Prototyping with Sketch and Principle
Bringing It All To Life
Few of the things we got from our research was that responders wanted to know where:
Who is this study for? Why should I participate? What is this study about?
With all these questions we had to introduce users to the studies with a simple introductory screen with a limited amount of characters so users can quickly get what the study is about, who is conducting the study, and why they should participate. This was also solving one of our user's motivations to complete a study where Sometimes the topic or brand itself sparks people's interest and interest is a key driver in the decision to participate.
Study reveals that what draws us to take action is not the sensation we receive for the reward itself but the need to alleviate the craving for that reward.
Rewards of The Hunt
In solving these problem we tried to understand human psychology of the rewards of the hunt. This is the search for material resources and information. The need to acquire physical objects is part of our brain's operating system. We wanted users to keep hunting for more assertions and people's opinions on each assertion.
We made the hunt easy for users. They just swipe horizontally to get more assertions and keep scrolling vertically to see threads and join conversations about what people think about various issues. Which helped solve the user's need to kill boredom and also how respondents could help researchers by giving their opinion.
Rewards of The Tribe
Another Variable reward is the rewards of the tribe this is a social reward fueled by connectedness with other people. We added a comment section where respondents can get their opinions heard and chat with other responders about issues they care about, solving the user's need that their stance or comments will be put to good use and may even benefit society in some way.
Rewards of The Self
Rewards of the Self This is the search for intrinsic rewards of mastery, competence, and completion. The thirst to get more points and unlock more things makes users want to do more. So we added a points system where users gain points from reacting to comments, taking a stance, commenting, and finishing a study.
These points could be used to unlock rewards such as gift cards and discounts from brands solving our user's motivation to complete a survey which was purely for the money or the shot at the prize. Their time = the reward.
Testing Our Assumptions
Once the team had a prototype ready for use, we knew we needed to put it in the hands of our customers.
1 months before launch we doubled‐down on validating our wildest convictions. We held an extended beta and conducted Guerrilla user testing which highlighted the top risks in the product to be:
Comment text where pretty small.
Users wanted a way to skip and market researchers wanted to know who voluntarily skipped.
Users not understanding how we split agrees and disagree in the comment section to left and right.
Most users from facebook not interested in the Introductory page because they already saw the information on the facebook Ad and this led to a 40% drop off rate.
Last Minute Pivots
I had to work with the product team to investigate the top categories for customer feedback and develop a proposal to address the top risks by launch.
I created 3 sets of documentation for each platform during this project to communicate requirements to the engineering team and support our quality assurance teams in writing test cases.
These deliverables consisted of the CX Spec—requirements and customer journeys and the Visual Design Spec & Keylines—the design system. I used zeplin to export all my assets and document most of the visual design specs.
We also set up a process on zeplin to help collaborate better with remote engineers :
This documentation required the most rework during the project and was the highest overhead to maintain.
I also experimented and came up with complementary documentation to communicate animation and timing keyframes for our micro‐interactions.
A Good Start…And It’s Still Day One
It’s still early days for the service, yet the results have exceeded our expectations.
This the first survey platform that we are aware of that has an average of over 80% completion rate for more than 20 questions in the market.
We Created a new model for Staance to start generating revenue.
This was the major product that led to the series B funding of Staance.
Pulling The Trigger
On the evening of September 13, 2019 we began rolling‐out Staance’s study viewer to Mobile Web and later that month released for iOS and Android. The launch went off without a hitch—an amazing achievement considering the scale and complexity of the deployment.
I had to work with the product team to investigate the top categories for customer feedback and develop a proposal to address the top risks by launch.
Strategy with Tactics
I spearheaded a research plan with the assistance of our community manager Apryl Doster to gain deeper qualitative insight into the product pain‐points and to look for opportunities to evolve the product.
In a week we ran user testing and usability studies. We also used this time to test the viability of future concepts.
To disseminate the research learnings, I created a customer journey maps and storyboards. This allowed me to communicate the severity of the pain‐points and facilitate conversations about the areas we wanted to fix.
The map highlighted how broken the Navigation system was which caused a lot of drop off after the first assertion and created a deeper empathy amongst the team. This little research was a major breakthrough for Staance and allowed us to focus our energy on creating the right experience, this time.
After two months of design and development, we launched our first of many updates to the Staance study viewer. Now we can help connect people's opinions to those who need to hear it.
We had finally created the minimal desirable experience for Pilot Brands and investors.
What I Learned
Your Users Won’t Forgive You
…because it was quicker and cheaper to build it *that* way
Throughout this project, I observed how bias‐for‐action mutated into a bias‐for‐delivery. Our team disproportionately focused on measuring outputs, rather than learning and measuring outcomes. This inevitably led to a lot of waste, short‐sightedness, and distraction for the team.
We let the question “how quickly can we build it?” define it, more than we let our users define it. We let the phrase “let’s just get something out there” define quality, more than we let our customers define quality.
If we had asked “are we building the right thing?” as much as we asked “are we going to meet our date?“, we would have launched a more reliable, intuitive, and polished product, sooner.
Viability should have been defined by our customers way before the technology and date already did.
Launching Is Only The Beginning
Sometimes friends ask if I am proud of launching staance’s study viewer. I’m partially lying when I say I am. Let me clarify why.
I value simplicity, focus and utility. I aspire to make people happy by designing experiences that solve their needs and understands the gravity of those decisions as they impact their life. Craftsmanship and carefully thought out details are important to me.
When it was time to launch, I had difficulty accepting the reality of this product, because I knew where all the dead bodies were hidden. I knew the solutions to the myriad of usability issues. I knew which critical features were missing. I knew how much waste was incurred building non‐critical features and inevitably how the performance and reliability of what mattered most was compromised.
My dissatisfaction is not a case of perfectionism, yet rather a request for quality. Quality that ought to never be undermined, even in the first version of a product. Quality is the responsibility of an entire organization and I have learned that magical experiences are only possible if the whole team truly shares the same values and aspirations.
Fast forward to the present, and I realize that my satisfaction and insistence for quality does not seem to matter at all. The success of this product had nothing to do with how I feel, but everything to do with if and how the product is being used.
So, if you ask me if I am proud of what I launched I would still say not really, but I would then tell you that I am very proud of what I accomplished for Staance. I am proud that the team is in a better position to learn, and that launching this product needed to happen in order to expose how badly things were broken both in the product and in the way we were working. I believe that great design takes time and wisdom, which is only possible if the entire team is in a position with an accompanying mindset to learn.