WesMarketplace

WesMarketplace

WesMarketplace

UX Research / Interaction Design / Product Strategy / No-code

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Role

Founder, Product Designer, Front-end Developer

Team

Product Marketing Manager

Back-end Developer

Funding

Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Timeline

September 2022 - May 2023 (8 months)

Tools

Figma, Bubble.io, SendGrid, Twilio

Links

wesmarketplace.com

Instagram page

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Project: A platform for Wesleyan University students to buy, sell, rent, and donate items on campus.
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Problem: Wesleyan students lack an efficient platform for reusing dorm items, causing wastage.
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Within 6 weeks of launch: 491 users, 443 listings, 🧭 82 items sold/donated
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Data analytics
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Mission 🎯

Make campus exchanges easy and sustainable

Vision πŸ‘οΈ

A sustainable, connected campus community

Product roadmap

The project was structured around four strategic quarterly milestones, serving as essential touchpoints to guide our product lifecycle. As the project progressed and new insights emerged, we integrated additional objectives and key performance indicators to further refine our roadmap.

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Problem

Hyper-consumption

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3000+

Students

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40,000+

Packages / year

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13+

Packages / student

Located away from urban centers, Wesleyan University students are heavily dependent on online deliveries. This is evidenced by the university's package station handling a remarkable 40,000 packages each year.

Severe wastage

End of semester: students dispose of items that are in good condition
End of semester: students dispose of items that are in good condition πŸ˜’πŸ’”

At the end of each semester, dumpsters around the campus are filled to the brim with perfectly functional appliances β€” thrown away by students during their move-out. This wasteful practice is not only environmentally detrimental but also economically inefficient, considering these items could be resold or donated to peers.

Inadequate platforms

WesThrift Facebook group: hard to search and filter for items. Few sellers. Poor communication of item availability.
WesThrift Facebook group: hard to search and filter for items. Few sellers. Poor communication of item availability.

Current platforms, including the Westhrift Facebook group and mainstream second-hand marketplaces like eBay and Depop, inadequately address the specific needs of students.

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Opportunity: A tailored platform for students to sell or donate items can help reduce waste, cut carbon emissions, and save students money.

Students’ pain points

We interviewed 8 students to understand their pain points as buyers and sellers on the FB group and other mainstream second-hand platforms.

User interviews

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Objectives
  • Determine where and how students currently buy and sell dorm items
  • Understand pain points with buying/selling dorm items
  • Gauge the need for a college-focused marketplace
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Participants
  • 8 students (2 Freshmen, 2 Sophomores, 2 Juniors, 2 Seniors)
  • 15-20 min video calls / in-person
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Main Questions
  • What platforms or methods do you currently use to buy or sell items?
  • Could you describe the process you took to buy/sell an item?
  • What was preventing you from buying/selling on 2nd hand platforms?

Synthesis & insights

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Affinity Mapping
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Buyers
  • Have trouble searching for items they want on Facebook.
  • Don’t find enough variety of items on Facebook.
  • Find delivery costs too high on secondhand marketplaces.
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Sellers
  • Feel overwhelmed by the complex process of packing and shipping.
  • Struggle to find buyers on Facebook.
  • Face high platform fees and commissions on secondhand marketplaces.

Persona

I developed two distinct personas based on our gathered insights: one representing the typical buyer and another for the seller. This approach allowed us to empathize with the unique needs and challenges of each group of users.

Buyer

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Seller

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Rethinking campus transactions

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How might we help students buy, sell, or donate items easily on campus to reduce wastage and hyperconsumption?

User journeys

Mapping out the user journeys for both buyers and sellers allowed us to identify key touchpoints and pain points in their interactions with marketplace platforms, providing valuable insights into where we could improve the user experience and streamline the process for each user group.

Buyer journey map

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Seller journey map

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App features

Create a listing

Users can easily create a listing through an intuitive, single-page form.

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Form defaults: By pre-setting the condition to β€œgood” and the price to β€œFor sale,” we optimize the listing creation process. This decision caters to the majority of user entries, minimizing input time.
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Exposed selection: Instead of tucking away conditions in a dropdown selection, we've exposed them directly on the interface. This design choice enables quicker selections.
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Sticky create button: The listing creation button is designed to be sticky at the bottom. This ensures users have a clear path to action, especially once they've filled out the required details and the button is clickable.

Filtering

If users wish to narrow down their search with precision, the filter drawer offers various filtering and sorting options.

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Exposed selection: By exposing options directly, we facilitate rapid multi-selections, streamlining the user's choice process.
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Real-time feedback: As users adjust filters, the button dynamically displays the number of matching listings. This real-time feedback ensures users can immediately gauge the effectiveness of their filter choices and anticipate results.
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Status visibility: A prominent red dot appears when a filter is active, providing users with an instant visual cue that a specific filter is influencing the displayed results.

Buying an item

Users can effortlessly send a 'buy request' with their contact details. Upon receiving the request, the seller will contact them to facilitate the purchase.

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Flexibility: Users can provide an alternative contact, ensuring they remain reachable if the seller can't connect via the primary contact.
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Short message: A 200-character limit and a compact input field prompt succinct messaging. The input's placeholder offers cues, guiding users for clear and effective communication.
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Request tracking: Users can easily monitor and, if needed, cancel their sent 'buy requests', ensuring full control over their interactions.

Impact

Within 6 weeks of launch

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491

Users

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443

Listings

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82

Items sold/donated

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$5

Median price of items

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$1079

Total value of transactions

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Women’s Fashion

Most popular category

What our users are saying

β€œI bought a drill for my DIY project. The app was super easy to use and the transaction went really smoothly. Seriously, students should search WesMarketplace first before looking anywhere else.”
β€œI bought a drill for my DIY project. The app was super easy to use and the transaction went really smoothly. Seriously, students should search WesMarketplace first before looking anywhere else.” β€” Ellington β€˜25
β€œI always have fun scrolling through WesMarketplace, seeing what stuff other students put up. Oh, and I even made some friends when I was selling my jewelry on there!”
β€œI always have fun scrolling through WesMarketplace, seeing what stuff other students put up. Oh, and I even made some friends when I was selling my jewelry on there!” β€” Longino β€˜24
β€œI gave away this watercolor paper I used once for art class. Felt good knowing another student could use it. They even swung by my place to grab it – super easy on my end.”
β€œI gave away this watercolor paper I used once for art class. Felt good knowing another student could use it. They even swung by my place to grab it – super easy on my end.” β€” Majaducon β€˜24

Reflection

Turning an idea into a real app ( 0 β†’ 1) is like starting a new adventure 🚡🏻, full of surprises and lessons along the way.

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Cold start problem: The marketplace's vulnerability to the cold start problem became evident during the initial beta test with nearly 100 users.
  • Despite the promising start, the absence of listings led to a desolate platform. The realization that all my hard work might go unused was a crushing moment, full of frustration and self-doubt. In the end, I enlisted friends to create listings, making the page feel active and got the ball rolling.
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User adoption: Even with extensive marketing across multiple channels, encouraging users to adopt WesMarketplace was a significant challenge.
  • Despite visibility, the reluctance to use the platform persisted, culminating in items still being discarded on move-out day.
  • The idea of a referral program with rewards was considered but constrained by budget limitations.
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Tradeoffs: Time, resources, and technical limitations meant that not all aspects of my designs were realized as initially envisioned.
  • These trade-offs underscored the value of a holistic view. Instead of isolating each feature, I deepened my understanding of its influence on the entire user experience and system.
  • Constraints can sometimes become catalysts for innovation, prompting more streamlined user flows that ultimately enhanced the user experience.

Bonus

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Trade-offs

After considering various constraints such as time, resources, and technical feasibility, certain tradeoffs were made during the implementation phase. In certain cases, constraints led to better user flow and overall usability.

1. Discover items

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Initial idea: carousel showing top items in each category

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Implementation: infinite scroll, items sorted by date

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Discover items flow
Discover items flow
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Why it's better: Carousels restrict visibility and adds an additional step to item discovery.
  • Infinite scroll enables users to rapidly discover the latest deals without the need to filter by category.

2. Filter items

Initial idea: select category β†’ filter

Implementation: filter directly from homepage

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Filter items workflow
Filter items workflow
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Why it’s better: On larger e-commerce platforms like eBay or Depop, the user flow requires category selection before filtering and sorting listings. However, for a small college marketplace, this step is unnecessary.
  • By enabling filtering directly from the homepage, the user experience becomes more streamlined and efficient. Users can quickly filter and sort items, enhancing discoverability, and even sort all items by price without the constraint of category, fostering a more intuitive and agile browsing experience.

3. Purchase an item

Initial idea: chat with buyer

Implementation: send buy request w/ contact info

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Why it's better: Implementing an in-app chat feature necessitated end-to-end encryption, adding complexity to the development process.
  • Additionally, the website's lack of push notifications could hamper real-time communication, making in-app messaging less effective.
  • As a workaround, allowing buyers to send a purchase request with contact information enables sellers to connect outside the app. This approach is not only more straightforward to implement but also aligns better with the user's communication preferences and the platform's constraints.

4. Track buy requests

Initial idea: track chats in inbox

Implementation: Buy requests inbox with filter

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Why it's better: The initial design, displaying only user profile pictures in the chat, made tracking chats via items challenging.
  • The new 'Buy Requests' inbox enhances usability by displaying user profiles and item images and offering filters for incoming, outgoing, and item-specific requests.
  • On the item’s page, a "view requests" button allows sellers to easily filter unrelated chats. This streamlines navigation and boosts the app's contextual relevance and communication efficiency.
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Key strategic decisions

The success of an app extends beyond design; proper execution and strategy are crucial. Here's how I strategically positioned WesMarketplace for a successful launch:

1. Beta testing

Landing page: Collect emails for beta testing

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Email: Nicely formatted HTML email sent via SendGrid 😍

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Why it matters: Following a startup model, I created a landing page to generate buzz and exclusivity for WesMarketplace.
  • The initial beta testing phase enabled a gradual roll-out, allowing time to identify and engage an atomic network of early adopters passionate about the problem the app addresses.
  • By the official launch, the app had nearly 100 users, effectively overcoming the cold start problem. This strategic approach ensured not only functional readiness but also an engaged user base excited to contribute to the app's success.

2. Single Page App (SPA) & Progressive Web App (PWA)

PWA: Installing app through Google Chrome menu

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Why it matters: Implementing an SPA was key in creating a web experience that feels like a native app, enhancing user engagement through faster load times and smooth transitions.
  • Coupled with a PWA, this approach lowers the entry barrier for students, who often resist downloading new apps. PWAs bridge the gap between native and web apps, and with iOS slated to support push notifications, a PWA was the strategic choice.
  • Unlike native apps, which require separate code bases and have slower updates, a PWA allowed rapid development and immediate availability to users.
  • The combined use of SPA and PWA was essential given the time-sensitive nature of the project, with the semester nearing its end, aligning with the need for a responsive and easily accessible platform.

3. Improved social sharing

3.1. Single listing share

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Before: Clicking β€œshare listing” would open a native share drawer, allowing users only to copy the link.
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After: The native share drawer was replaced with a more versatile share screen, enabling users to 1) copy the link and 2) download the image for broader social media sharing.
  • Additionally, this share screen is displayed immediately after creating a new listing, actively encouraging users to share their item.

Before: Copy link through native share drawer

After: Copy link and download image through in-app share screen

3.2. Multi-listings share

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Inspiration: Observing unexpected user behaviors can spark innovative features.
  • A unique insight came when I discovered that Chinese students were creating collages of listing screenshots to share in a WeChat group (see screenshot). This observation inspired a new feature to streamline this behavior.
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Feature implementation: Users can now share all their listings at once by clicking β€œshare all listings” on their profile page.
  • This functionality creates a grid layout of multiple listings, which can be downloaded as a single image for sharing on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. By enabling the sharing of multiple listings in one image, this feature simplifies the social sharing process, eliminating the need for multiple posts and enhancing the user's ability to promote their listings efficiently.
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WeChat group: Students sharing screenshots of their listings

Tutorial: How to share multiple listings on social media

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Why it matters: The feature for sharing multiple listings acts as a built-in user acquisition strategy, boosting discoverability through social connections.
  • With social media sharing typically having a higher click-through rate (CTR) than other marketing methods, this feature leverages organic promotion, aligning marketing with the natural behaviors of the app's target audience. It's a user-centric approach that resonates authentically and effectively.

3.3. WesMarketplace branding

WesMarketplace branding is incorporated into the downloaded images in single or multi-listings share.

Single listing share
Single listing share
Multi listing share: 9 items
Multi listing share: 9 items
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Why it matters: By embedding the brand directly into content shared by users, it amplifies brand awareness and extends the reach of WesMarketplace's identity.
  • This not only enhances recognition but also fosters a sense of community and alignment with the platform's values, turning every shared image into a subtle yet effective brand ambassador.

4. Launch date and Marketing

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Official launch: Friday, April 14, was selected as the launch date, strategically timed during the second half of the spring semester.
  • This period aligns with when students are seeking to sell items before moving out, maximizing relevance and appeal.
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Marketing channels: A multi-channel marketing approach was implemented to reach the target audience effectively. This included:
  1. Campus posters
  2. Facebook group posts
  3. GroupMe chats
  4. Instagram posts & stories
Official launch poster
Official launch poster
Promoting on WesThrift FB group
Promoting on WesThrift FB group
Promoting on GroupMe
Promoting on GroupMe
Instagram account
Instagram account
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Why it matters: A strong launch was crucial to overcome the cold start effect and sustain initial momentum. Launching too early could risk losing attention and fizzling out.
  • By timing the launch to align with students' preparations to sell items before moving out, WesMarketplace could tap into existing behavior and interest.
  • Leveraging the marketing efforts of seniors organizing backyard tag sales allowed WesMarketplace to amplify its own marketing. The synchronization with relevant events and activities created a more resonant and effective launch strategy, designed to engage users at the most opportune moment.
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Other

Listing Card Design

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Space and visual load: I adopted a systematic approach to optimize space and visual load. I created a table of cards with varying levels of spacing and shadow/border, allowing for meticulous analysis of each combination.
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Gestalt law common region > law of proximity: items that are close together appear related, but a boundary can override this.
  • Proximity: Placing card information close together made them appear related, yet too close led to confusion.
  • Shadows: Created boundaries but became visually overwhelming in tight proximity.
  • Outlined Design: Aligning with common region law, I used an outlined card with a 2px light gray outline. This balanced related grouping and visual clarity without distraction, optimizing user interaction.
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Why it matters: The design of listing cards is pivotal in a marketplace app as they are the primary interface that users interact with.
  • An optimized and user-friendly design not only enhances visual appeal but also significantly boosts engagement and usability.
  • By carefully applying principles like the Gestalt laws of proximity and common region, the interface becomes more intuitive, ensuring a seamless experience that encourages continued use of the platform

Carpool

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Transportation challenges: Wesleyan's location in a small town heightens the need for shared transportation to places like train stations or airports.
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Inefficient Existing Solutions: Current platforms, such as Facebook groups, are available but prove inefficient for coordinating shared rides.
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Implementation: A carpool feature that connects students for shared Uber/Lyft rides.
  • Users can create carpool listings and others can join.
  • Students owning cars can offer to drive.
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Why it matters: Introducing a carpooling option would be not only financially advantageous for students but also environmentally responsible by reducing the number of individual car rides.
  • With an already established user base exchanging goods on WesMarketplace, bundling this feature to match users for carpooling leverages existing connections, creating an integrated and efficient solution.

SMS Notifications

Users can opt-in for SMS notifications for listing requests.

Settings: Configuring SMS notifications

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SMS: Did not include links because there were restrictions.

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Why it matters: For a PWA without push notifications (yet), SMS notifications are vital.
  • They enable immediate updates on actions like incoming buy requests, ensuring a quick response.

Email notifications

For those who prefer email notifications, WesMarketplace offers HTML emails that include essential details. The email features the buyer's profile image, a picture of the item, the message, and a direct link to the page with contact information.

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Why it matters: Providing email notifications caters to those users who may be hesitant to share their phone numbers. This option ensures they can still receive timely updates on buy requests without the need to continuously check the app, aligning with varied preferences and privacy concerns.
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Labor illusion

Users will see a loading animation for 2 seconds after each listing creation, even though the listing is created almost instantaneously.

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Why it matters: Loading animations add to the authenticity of the user experience, conveying that the system is working diligently to fulfill the request.

Empty states

When there are no listings related to a search, users are greeted with the WesMarketplace bird and accompanying buttons to guide them, rather than a stark empty page.

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Why it matters: Addressing empty states by incorporating humor and guidance through buttons adds a touch of personality to the app and helps guide users, enhancing the overall user experience.
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Beta Forum

I designed a feedback forum within the app's beta test phase to encourage users to share their thoughts and questions. Unfortunately, the forum had limited engagement, with only one other user posting besides my initial post.

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Why it matters: Testing the forum feature was valuable, even though it might not have met users' needs. Approximately 80% of design ideas may fail, but conducting tests is crucial as it helps us identify potential winners and improve the overall user experience.
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