Aug 2017 – ongoing
Piiu Pilt (Development)
Oliver Emberton (CTO, Development)
Jowita – I was responsible for research, testing, prototyping, user flows, sitemap creation; ongoing business development
Brandpa is a place where you can find a business name with an available domain name to compliment your business. It was designed to simplify the process of starting a new business. The name also comes with a logo design.
Project overview: Research > Persona creation > User flow > Wireframes > Usability testing > Low and High-fidelity prototyping > Business maintenance.
When I had an idea about a business which later became Brandpa, the only question I thought needed answering was: “How might we help people obtain a great name for their new business idea?”, however, it soon became apparent there is more to it. I needed to make this idea clearer .
What – what problem are we trying to solve?
As a business owner and a person who knows other business owners, many times I heard them say they wanted to name their business but they did not know how and where to start. They kept asking: “What’s the best name for my dance classes?” or “How can I make sure people who visit my online store recall its name better?”. These problems helped answer the question of “What are we trying to solve?” And that’s “business naming made easy”.
Who – who is the customer?
There are two types of user base for the product: sellers and buyers. Sellers are people who sell their domain names on Brandpa, and buyers are the people who buy them. Brandpa acts as a broker and holds the domain names for sale, secures the payment in escrow and pays a seller once the purchased domain name is transferred to the buyer’s registrar.
Where – where can we improve on existing patterns and solutions?
To learn how we could differentiate Brandpa from our competitors (from the sellers’ point of view) I performed extensive research:
- reading domain name forums with the domainers being the users,
- conducting informal interviews with domainers both online and in person.
The results were gathered and analysed in Google Sheets.
To learn about the needs of our second user base (buyers), I conducted a survey via the Survey Monkey tool.
The outcomes from this research were enlightening and promising.
To organise my findings from my research and to understand our potential users better, I created three personas (2 x buyers, 1 x seller).
When – when should we begin to get user feedback?
Together with my dev team we built an MVP version of the system based on our understanding of other marketplaces. Feedback from our users was being obtained either through surveys or direct conversations with our sellers and buyers.
Why – why does our product solve the problem?
The marketplace was built to help people find domain names for their businesses. Brandpa do that and, on the top of that, provides great service to both our sellers and buyers.
My involvement: I did user and market research. I was responsible for designing, running and analysing our surveys. I was also speaking to our potential users directly and, based on their feedback, incorporating it into our future work.
There are many goals the users – both sellers and buyers – want to achieve when using Brandpa: to purchase or/ and list domain names. The following user flows were created to understand how users could do just that.
During wireframes creation a list of screens was sketched out and transcribed to clarify their functionality. Below, are some of those screens (Home, Domains, Single domain. I primarily focused on the key screens (Home, Names, About, Resources) that would be needed for the website. I created a series of wireframes that visualised the functionality and appearance of the website.
The wireframes were created in Balsamiq. I used the same tool to add interactivity to it (later on I also used for my usability testing).
The usability testing was performed with 5 users (3 females and 2 males) using low-fidelity prototypes created in Balsamiq. The major direct tasks I tested included:
- Finding a domain name they are told they would like to purchase,
- Navigating to a place where they can learn more about Brandpa,
- Finding a ‘Fashion’ industry to narrow down their search,
- Purchase a domain name (using their preferred payment option).
To test my ideas out and understand how my users think, I asked the participants to use the app and think aloud.
Feedback and error categorisation
After reviewing user testing results and feedback from my participants, I used the Severity Ratings for Usability Problems by NN Group to categorise my errors. Three major errors have been identified:
- Severity scale: 3. 3 out of 5 participants did not use the ‘Return’ key to hit ‘Search’ when they searched for a domain name using the search field. This was a major usability error.
- Severity scale: 2. 40% of the participants made a comment of the banners displayed at the top of the single domain page as looking too much as ‘Brandpa wants to sell stationery?”. This was a minor usability problem but a great piece of feedback for the future development of the website.
- Severity scale: 4. 4 out of 5 participants were not sure how to complete a domain name purchase as the pop up did not show a default option for ‘Card’ purchases. I market this error as the Usability Catastrophe.
Feedback from usability testing was used for a series of quick iterations (and more feedback sessions) to create the low-fidelity prototype. I focused on creating the screens that my potential buyers would interact with first (the latter stage of the project would focus on the sellers’ dashboard). The screens included: home (with the search box), domains page (with an advanced search feature, inc. filters) and about page (which explains how Brandpa works and clarifies to the buyers Brandpa’s purchase process).
Brandpa was originally built to be a place where I could store and potentially sell domain names that I’d purchased. It became a marketplace soon after a few people contacted me and asked whether they could sell their names with us. After some preliminary research on our potential sellers: their needs, motivations, frustrations, and current experience with selling domain names, I quickly designed and handed over my designs to my dev team who built the back-end side of the website (e.g. the dashboard for the sellers). Together with my dev team we also came up with the business model for Brandpa, and – started selling other people’s names.
When Brandpa got this much interest, I had to learn how to work with time constraints, i.e. I did not have a chance to build wireframes, conduct usability testing, and introduce any potential changes before the marketplace was launched. I had to adapt later as the project was maturing. This has taught me how to better manage my time and resources I have to best benefit my users and my business.
Managing the business
Over the last two years, I and my team have had to adjust to a rapidly growing business and the many challenges that come with it.
I have recruited and managed a small team, which includes 9 logo designers and 2 administrative staff, all working remotely. I work with buyers, sellers, help manage finances and collaborate with my CTO to help design and implement new features.
In order to spread the word about Brandpa a bit more, back in 2017, I listed it on Product Hunt. Product Hunt is a website that lets people share and discover new products. The site also allows their visitors to comment and upvote on products they see. With enough upvotes and interaction from visitors, a product can become #1 Product of the Day. Brandpa got a lot of attention and became the Product of the Day (on the 19th August 2017).
Also, when searched for ‘business names for sale’ Brandpa appears as one of the top ones in Google Search results. I am also happy to say that most of our traffic is organic.
Thanks for reading!