Implement a WordPress (MOJO) marketplace into 32 separate hosting companies
UI/UX UX Research Integrations
The project for MOJO Marketplace required us to take a marketplace, which sells WordPress themes, services, and plugins, and implement that into 32 separate hosting companies.
Deadline: 6 months from conception
Each of these companies consist of completely separate frameworks, brands, and UX flows. Also, decision making was a problem. Imagine multiple stakeholders, designers, and developers from 32 separate companies all trying to decide on one thing. At first, nothing could get done. To solve this, I came up with a process that everyone had to agree on and sign off on. It was very important that we have an agreement on the process so that nobody was crossing over into each other's lanes.
1) Integrate a way to sell Wordpress Themes, services, and plugins into any platform.
2) Create a design system that allowed us to take a separate brand and plug it in with no additional customization
3) Convert the proven success of MOJO Marketplace to an untested, unproven market within a hosting company
To accomplish such a large scale task, I had to create a single, scalable process that could be repeated with each of these partners partner. The process consisted of the following, including some of the process tweaks along the way:
1) Assign roles upfront so we could make decisions faster, rather than deciding on who makes decisions later: It was important to identify and assign exact responsibilities to individuals who would be involved in the development of this project. The reason this was so critical is that 60% of time spent on a project is due to conflicting decision making between role-ambiguous players (people who have similar roles, but are unable to veto one another). Rather than creating a hierarchy of individuals that might otherwise offend someone based on position 'status', we simply divvy out specific responsibilities and enable the proper 'power decision making' for that role. I.e. "This designer will be ultimately responsible for wireframing and UX flow. This designer will provide UX research." etc.
The final output of roles: We found that the most effective team for every company consists of 2 front-end devs, at least 1 back-end dev, 1-2 stakeholders, 2 product managers (I.e. one from MOJO and one from BlueHost), and 2 designers (one from MOJO to manage the marketplace and one from BlueHost to oversee the styles/brand integration).
2) UX research: A massive chunk of this process involved doing research with users who either already have an affinity of the hosting company's (not MOJO) product or users who have acted as beta testers in the past (basically, people who were willing to invest lots of time into giving feedback). This research is done first and foremost before we ever touch wireframes or design. Ultimately, we need to know whether this marketplace is going to be a good investment for that exact hosting company's target or if we must create a new target based on their business goals. In other words, lets find out if this is viable upfront just like any startup should do or any new feature is released within other tech companies
3) Get in the flow of things: Once research has been brought to the key players (above), we decide how the product will flow. Although we had already created a marketplace with its own flow, each hosting company contained completely separate flows within their platforms. I.e. account settings and checkout from BlueHost is not 1:1 ratio with MOJO. However, I knew we'd have to work around this from the beginning as I did not expect flows to be identical. To solve this, I made sure to modularize the marketplace so that it could standalone as it's own 'product listing' app, but act as an API that would hook into the hosting company's eComm system. In other words, I made sure to keep anything except for the marketplace itself completely independent from the system.
4) Is it possible? Before starting on wifeframes, we take the flow identify technology limitations and needs. The back-end dev and both front-end devs will meet with the designer. They will either approve technological possibilities or identify the limitations for which they will need to gather additional resources or plan for more time in the sprint. So...now that we know its physically possible to create this thing, we moved on.
5) Wireframes: Again, even though we were doing a 1:1 integration, we still do basic wireframes of our existing software simply to make sure it feels consistent with their existing platform. We did run into an issue during this. Coming from one of the company's homepage to our marketplace felt very out of place. Additional customization on the layout was required, but nothing so drastic that it affected already proven conversion.
6) Icing on the cake: At this point, we need to apply the pixels and the brand. This required me creating a scalable, dynamic UI pattern library that could speak back and forth between brands. The way I accomplished this was creating an instruction guide for each company to match our style names 1:1. This is where the 'second designer' comes in from the hosting company. They are tasked with taking their style guide and updating these names, which only takes about 4-5 days maximum to do.
7) Implement: Our first test was done. We took the UI pattern from the hosting company and dropped it in. Then like magic, woosh! The styles converted exactly and they instantly had a marketplace using their brand within the click of a button.
Unlike many projects that measure success solely on conversion alone, the specifics of this project measured success on the ability to integrate MOJO's marketplace into other systems. We reached our deadline 3 months in advance.
What I learned
More than anything, I learned that communication and planning upfront is critical with massive scale projects. If you don't have the correct roles assigned upfront, have the research done right away, or don't account for technological limitations, you will be designing into a blackhole for which nothing will ever escape, not even light. I also learned that your opinion doesn't matter when data says otherwise. We can love an idea greatly, but if we want to know the truth, hold no opinions.