Slidepick - Solving the photo organization problem

abstract

An initial team of three people, CTO, Growth Hacker and Product Designer (myself) start a two-year product development process to find pain points regarding digital photography. Having validated early concepts of a solution using interactive mockups, we launched an MVP with the help of a programmer who joined the team. This lead us to create a start-up around the product and several stable public releases on Android.

This is a teaser!

This is how the final product looked like but don’t miss the process down below 😉

1. The Problem

My friend Matías Honorato (who later was slidepick’s growth hacker) reached out to me because he wanted to validate an idea he had for a social network for new parents, so we decided to “get out of the building”and validate the need for such a product so we went to the best place to interview our possible early adopters: A family park on a weekend.

These are real pictures taken by us, we wanted to see our possible early adopters behaviour in context. 

Quickly we noticed that this demographic was trigger happy with their cameras towards their children and rather than sharing those pictures in social media the problem was related to the organization of them, specifically these three:

    • They hate to waste time selecting or filtering photos
    • They fear to lose their photos for not having them backed-up
    • They don’t like to have their pictures spread or stored on different devices

Persona, Empathy map and customer jouRney

The interviews made clear that photo organization was the problem we wanted to solve and also allowed us to define our Early Adopter (Persona), Customer Journey and Empathy Map, here’s a translated version of them (our research was in spanish, click to enlarge):

2. Problem and customer validation

We wanted to dig deep into the problem of our early adopters but we needed to reach more people and without any other resources aside from our working capital we were forced to have a rather frugal but not less effective approach to this process.

AdWords + FB ADS = Value proposition A/B Testing and list building

Using free credits for new accounts of Google AdWords and Facebook Ads we drove targeted traffic (based on our persona) to three simple sign-up landing pages (made for free with launchrock) with different copies of our value proposition, later we invited the people who signed up to have a “Co-Creation Coffe” to talk about photography.

Linkedin + Sign-Ups = MailChimp

In order to widen our reach we created an email list using our merged linkedin contacts plus the sign-ups we got through the landing pages and emailed them for free with mailchimp also inviting them to have a coffe and talk about photography.

As you can see changing a single word in the email title can drastically improve the open rate!

Google Forms Survey

Using same the mailing list we built with our landing pages and linkedin contacts we ran a survey about photography habits getting 100+ responses.

Results

After 40+ one-on-one interviews with people and all the responses from the survey we confirmed our hypothesis about pain points on our initial research and had a clear view of our early adopters:

    • 40% were female and 60% Male between 18 and 35 years old
    • Their top 3 preferred storage devices were (in order): Smartphones, External Hard Drives and Cloud Storage
    • In most cases, they had pictures scattered in more than one device or storage service
    • They prefer to filter or select their best pictures manually by looking at them one by one
    • The biggest pain when organizing their photos was the amount of time that it took

And the best of all was that many of the interviewees were willing to offer their feedback for free through our development cycle in the future!

3. Prototyping the first version

After brainstorming & ideation sessions with the team we came up with an initial solution and we wanted to offer 3 main features:

    • Simple and manual gesture-based selection process
    • Management of different photo sources in one place (ex. clouds)
    • Ability to do organization process anywhere (mobile first)

We were working with a Lean UX Cycle and we needed a mockup for our first MVP, so I Sketched a short and simple user flow and later created an interactive mockup with POP (which later was bought by marvel). We decided to take the simplest approach possible to validate one of our core features: The “slide-to-pick” selection process.

First user flow of the solution's mockup

Slidepick's early mockup design

1st Interactive Mockup

Validating the prototype

With the mockup, we were able to show to our group co-creators a first version of the solution and do guerrilla usability tests. We also used every chance we had to publicly show Slidepick in order to get more feedback, that’s why we participated and won the first place in a startup contest organized by the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum.

After the event several incubators approached us and many of the spectators asked: “Is it in the app store already!?” That moment was when everything clicked! We were excited about having aproduct with a real use case in our hands but we also knew we needed a programmer to join the team ASAP.

The team holding the 1st place prize, $1500 USD in credits for Amazon Web Services.

4. First MVP’s and the road towards the v1.0 Stable Release

Soon after the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum, Nicolás joined our team as a lead software developer and we were able to create a first MVP that as you can imagine was super rough and unstable, but allowed us to validate that our idea was possible on a smartphone:

With the 1st MVP we continued to run guerrilla usability tests with our co-creators but we discovered several new issues.

MAIN ISSUES FOUND

    1. Users needed visual feedback of the work they did in the app (album creation) and they wanted to see the results outside of the app also
    2. Users needed better controls during the selection process because the use of only gestures was sometimes misleading
    3. Besides organizing their pictures they wanted a way to “pre-organize” their photos

HOW WE SOLVED THEM

    1. Intregration of sync between Slidepick’s album gallery with Android’s Native Photo gallery
    2. Integration of action buttons in the photo selection process
    3. Integration of“Instant Album” feature that allowed to launch a proprietary camera and automatically create an album with all the photos snapped in that moment

Prioritizing
features – value v/s complexity

Discovering problems and pains is exciting because they are an opportunity to find new and creative ways to solve them but let’s not forget the fact that we didn’t prioritize features, rather business goals. Along the development we put our ideas in a value v/s complexity matrix to decide wether to implement, test with an mvp or run a simple experiment for each new feature before putting an effort on it.

How it affected the design?

The feedback set a clear path for our 2nd MVP and this is how I updated the design of the app towards that release.

The 2nd MVP

We prioritized the feedback and focus on two of the most requested features: Album Gallery (with native sync) and better controls on the selection process, this was the result that later lead us to the v1.0 stable beta release:

5. Getting Global feedback

So far we had feedback from our Chilean co-creators which was useful but since we were solving a global problem we needed the input of people from different parts of the world to continue our development. That’s why we recruited people from smartphone and apps forums and created the Slidepick Beta Program with a group on Google+. Why google plus? Because it was integrated with Google Play so we were able to upload privately beta (and sometimes unstable) versions of the app which were available and restricted for members of the group only.

You can still visit the community here: https://plus.google.com/communities/105593037994435394140

Soon we started to receive lots of feedback, and yes, there are lots of good people willing to help you for free! This was a review from one of our beta testers who uploaded it to his gadget review channel on youtube:

6. Let’s not forget this is a business

Slidepick was meant to be a freemium app and our business goal was to sell subscriptions that unlocked premium features. We doubled our efforts towards improving quality assurance, user experience, and support to offer a solid base product and incentivize the purchase of the features we wanted to charge for.

How this affected the team and the design process?

We changed our process in several ways, we introduced data and analytics to the mix but also changed our development schedule completely:

1. User Analytics:We started to track users activity with mixpanel and later on with Google Analytics for apps, the goal was to uncover our AARRR metrics

2. Bug tracking and error management: We started tracking app crashes with Crashlytics, if we detected a critical bug we pushed a hotfix (as an update) in less than 24 hours.

This also made us re-think the error management and we applied a little bit of emotional design every time the app crashed, now aside from getting error logs we got real messages from users in context.

3. Improved Support: We wanted to join conversations about Slidepick as soon as possible so we started monitoring brand mentions with mention.com and we responded Google Play Reviews immediately or in less than 6 hours

4. 1-on-1 Interviews: We had weekly interviews with the most active users through Skype (because most of them were from other countries)

5. Listening to Our Users: We created a User Voice page to receive new feature suggestions and prioritize them according to the vote system and our value v/s complexity matrix

7. More Data and Quality Feedback = Big Re-Design

This new strategy was effective, we had better information to make decisions and if we wanted to improve activation and retention a re-design was needed. Since Google at the time had just announced material design I used that opportunity to apply it to SlidePick but I also designed new user flows that later ended up in a new signup and onboarding experience.

onboarding - Sign up / Log in

onboarding - first time tutorial

slidepick material design look and feel

8. Media Coverage

SlidePick’s re-design was a milestone not only in terms of improving metrics but also in getting media coverage because we got the attention of several international websites.

9. Validating Freemium Features

During the initial research phase, we found that one of the biggest pains of our users was having their pictures scattered in different devices or cloud services, so since the beginning, we thought about integrating cloud services to the selection process, we even teased the feature in our promo video.

But we delayed it for two reasons:
1- We wanted to polish the local selection process (our core feature) first and then test if there was a real demand for this advanced feature.

2- Since in this was a high business value/high complexity feature, the implementation would require our lead (and only) programmer full-time dedication so we wanted to be sure to offer a stable app before dedicating all our scarce resources to this.

Fake Door Testing

Before using all our development resources on cloud integration we wanted to really assess the demand for our paid cloud features so we set up a fake door testing in one of the important steps of the main user flow: the new album modal.

We put different cloud options to save your photos on but if the user tapped on one, a modal would appear with a coming soon message. We wanted to know which cloud to integrate first, so Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive and Box were the options but the most tapped one was by far was Dropbox.

Finally one of the last features we added was a partial Dropbox integration, meaning that you were able to save photos in the cloud but not retrieve the ones you already had there (but we were already testing a full implementation of the feature with 100% cloud content from Dropbox).

Conclusions

Creating a start-up around a solution like SlidePick was quite an adventure and certainly one of the biggest learning experiences I had in product design, but there’s always room for improvement.

Important Takeaways:

    • Making the team part of your product discovery process is key to have an aligned vision and a sense of direction

    • A good relationship with the development team is built though good deliverables and making them part on how to execute certain features so you can “negociate” a solution that ends up in something that’s feasible, valuable for the user and in track with business goals.

    • Having close contact with your final user and setting up different channels to receive constant feedback is crucial to understand your customers and their problems and shows you a path on how to achieve business goals

    • Is important to make validation experiments all the time specially when you are evaluating the features that have a big impact on the business

In case you missed it, this is how the final solution looked like!