A few weeks ago we appointed an impressive leadership team and received our first tranche of funding. We’ve been feverishly building Foxley for some time now, borrowing resources from our web design business, and juggling both has been tricky to say the least.
Due to our recent fundraising success, we decided to take a step back, assess the work that’s been done so far, and move into the next stage with a fresh set of eyes.
Here’s how we’re using UX to build Foxley… the world’s first universal platform to create an awesomely profitable web design business you love.
Not many of us have ever have the luxury of actually ‘designing’ a business from scratch.
Which is kind of ironic considering.
For the most part, we start moonlighting, burning the midnight hour taking jobs here and there to get the word out — usually for far less than we’re worth — completely naive about the monster we’re creating for ourselves.
In the blink of an eye, we wake up one day and find ourselves with a fully-fledged design business. Buried in juggling cash flow, managing clients/staff/prospects/contractors/tantrums/developers/mood swings/payroll/P&L’s/invoicing/etc and wearing precisely 342 hats on any given day.
And the worst part?
You barely even get to design anymore.
Whatever happened to the dream? The freedom? The lifestyle? The balance?
What the hell is this hungry-shit-of-a-beast you’ve created?
Come to think of it…
- When was your last holiday?
- When was the last time you just chilled out with friends?
- Where does all the money go?
- Where did all those wrinkles come from?
- Those extra few kilos?
- The sacrifices?
- And the stress? OMG, the stress!!
Is this really what you signed up for?
Or were you just an innocent victim like the rest of us thinking that building a web business would be fun and for the most part, easy?
All the tools, jargon, code, plugins, platforms, providers, learning, Google changes, SEO guff, marketing speak etc is enough to make any designer cry.
But let me ask you something…
What if you could go back in time and design your business from scratch?
Knowing everything you know now?
Putting all 7,598 mistakes, or should I say ‘lessons’, to good use?
Designing the ultimate culture, products, services, tools, hours, workplace, people, processes, systems, platform etc that would make you pinch yourself every morning when you wake up.
Breaking all the rules?
Doing it like it’s never been done?
Putting people (YOU) first?
What if you could UX your web design business and design the ultimate life?
What would that look like for you?
- What would be the ideal day?
- How many hours would you work?
- What would your clients look like?
- How much would they pay?
- Where would you work from?
- What tools would you use?
- What does your team look like?
- What sort of holidays would you take?
And more importantly…
How happy are YOU?
Going from graphic designer, to web designer to small business owner and now founder CEO has taught me a lot of things.
- Things I hate about the web industry.
- Things I intuitively know from doing over 3,000 web projects.
- Things I love about helping clients.
- Things I’m desperate to change.
- Things I know about scaling.
- Things I’m grateful for from failing.
And the most exciting thing for me right now?
Is being able to design a web design platform and business model from scratch that’s 100% for YOU.
It’s quite an inspiring position to be in. To be able to design everything knowing what I know now after 15 years in web.
- A vision
- A set of values
- A code
- A brand
- A voice
- A board
- A culture
- A product
- A toolbox
- A community
We’re building the type of web platform, toolbox, community, support and motivation that YOU want.
One that you deserve!
- Because we’re sick to death of seeing designers get the rough end of the stick.
- We’re sick to death of seeing more than 90% of websites fail.
- And we’re certainly sick to death of seeing the web industry just keep doing the same old same old thinking this is as good as it gets.
We’re creating army of digital rockstars with a common goal to make things better.
– To make web better.
– To make marketing better.
– To make life better.
Which brings me to where we are now.
PLANNING this almighty quest!
Our new Chairman, James, gave me some great advice a few weeks ago.
“Don’t fall into the trap of racing ahead into development just to get the Beta out quickly. Spend 80% of your time planning, and 20% doing.”
(Solid advice, thanks James.)
Applying the 80/20 Planning Rule To Foxley Midway Through Development
We’re already a good way into the development of our whitelabel website reseller platform but before we ramp up our development team, I decided to schedule an intensive 10-day workshop with some of the best minds around, to take a step back from the ‘doing’ and ensure we take a big step forward with the right ‘strategy’.
We kicked off the workshops last week with the goal to firm up who Foxley is exactly, what problems it solves, what features and functions are required to solve those problems, and how we’re going to set about bringing our Beta to market.
- We hired an experienced Architect and Senior Business Analyst to assess what we’d built so far and create a new Architecture strategy to ensure it could handle the load as we scale.
- We engaged a leading Agile agency to facilitate the workshops and help us map out our minimum viable product (MVP) with the latest and greatest UX techniques around.
- We attracted an amazing UX and Front-end superstar, Zakk, who’s pushing our thinking to a whole new level and making our heads *almost* explode. Thank you Zakk.
- We got our own UX & Culture extraordinaire, Bernard, our wildly talented (and downright funny) Product Manager, Matt, and myself in a room… and we got to work.
The first day we brought everyone up to speed and reflected on where we’ve come from to get to this point.
Using post-it notes, we did a retrospective around:
- What’s pushed us forward.
- What’s held us back.
- What we need to watch out for.
- And what is still unknown.
(That’s us in the boat.)
Richard and Zakk during our retrospective. (Thank you Richard for your artistic drawings — you know the way to a designer’s heart.)
We also agreed on the top 12 major feature sets that were yet to be scoped in detail, and silently prioritised how we wanted to address them the next day; meaning we had to actually prioritise them as a group without speaking to each other. You can see them all listed down in a row next to our not-so-white whiteboard above.
The following day we did a design studio around the 12 major feature sets and what they meant to each of us. You can see some of our scribbles below.
This allowed us to come up with some really innovative ideas we hadn’t yet imagined and also ensured we were all on the same page. Everyone walked away with a shared understanding of each feature set and also a new rush of energy from all the possibilities that had been thrown around the table.
But we all agreed that no more features were to be added until AFTER the Beta was finished.
Next up, we set to work affinity mapping our user problems — all 87 of them!
(And we could have kept going too.)
One advantage we have in building Foxley is that we are also our customer and experience first hand a lot of the pains, but we didn’t want to have bias in what we are building so we grouped user problems into 6 key areas:
We brainstormed all the problems we have, plus all the problems our users have told us they have which brought us to this point…
After we had listed the problems, we expanded on each of our feature sets with specific functions, again with affinity mapping, and then arranged them in circles around the table to see how much weight each one had.
We typed up and printed out each user problem and started matching each user problem with the specific feature or function to see if what we were building was actually on target to solve user problems and whether we could do away with features we didn’t really need for Beta.
We also needed to see where the most attention should be directed early on with the limited resources we have, so we could go to market with a solid product that was different to everything else and addressed our core user problems in a way that hasn’t been done before.
That’s Matt on the right cutting up all 87 user problems whilst we arrange post-its into feature sets using ‘orbits’.
When all user problems had been assigned to one or more features or functions, we added up each feature set and could start to see what was going to add the most value to users.
Surprisingly, it was not what we thought!
A snapshot of our solar system using orbits as a way to measure the weight of each feature set and gravity required to get to market.
Using ‘orbits’, a solar system methodology created by Zakk, we were able to easily see how we can split the Maximum Viable Product into Alpha, Beta & MVP.
Then we came up with a grading system to see how our features compared to those in the market, not limited to the web industry, but anyone online doing what we’re setting out to do or similar.
Zakk came up with with a rating system which was:
Each one got a score based on how many products or services existed already to determine our feature sets’ overall rating, then we sorted them on the table in order of where they ranked to give us a visual of what was already out there.
You can see here we have quite a few common features (which is to be expected) but also a good amount of Rare and Epic feature sets as well. The dots you can see are the user problems which give a great visual as to what’s really important from a problem-solving perspective.
Interestingly, nothing fell into the Legendary bucket.
The next day we set out to design an in depth user survey to challenge our assumptions and ensure we are on track to build a product users will fall in love with and rapidly adopt.
We first played a game of Planning Poker to start organising problems into a format that would be useful to gather user feedback and validate or challenge our assumptions.
Then we nutted out our test methods and survey criteria and got busy writing and designing Problem Vs Feature user survey.
Day 6 wrapped up with a solid understanding of remaining features, functional points, user problems, weightings and enough research to test our findings and assumptions with users.
Which brings us full circle to where we are right now… more user testing!
(That would be with you Rockstar.)
We’ll have our Problem Vs Feature Survey ready soon and we would la-la-LOVE you to participate to help shape Foxley into the web design business platform of your dreams.
We intend for Foxley to be an amazing product, a tight-knit community and an incredible support network and we want nothing more than for you to be involved at this early stage.
If you’re already part of our inner circle, keep an eye on your inbox for the survey, and if not, jump on our invite only Beta list here and be a part of shaping Foxley.
The last four days of our workshops will see us analysing your super valuable feedback, validating our assumptions, prioritising the remaining features, writing user stories, wire-framing like nuts and ramping up development teams to deliver Beta.
Thank you for being part of our journey so far, and remember…
You were born for this.
Pssst. Before you go, tell us in the comments what your #1 challenge or frustration is right now as it relates to your web design business.