GroupStory was a small, Ruby-based photo book startup with one full-time and one half-time developer, an established visual identity and design from a designer no longer on the project, and two full-time entrepreneurs paying the bills, calling the shots, and having lots of interesting ideas.
My Role: UX Designer & Project Manager
I joined the team as a consultant with experience on a previous photo book web application, and was responsible for all front-end work.
A Small Team
Having worked on a photo book web application and seen the effort a 25-person team had gone through to bring a similar application to life using MS Silverlight, I was stunned to see the kind of progress a very small team could make using Ruby. Our developers were incredibly responsive, however, this was a double-edged sword. Our clients were changing development direction on an almost daily basis and our project began to tread water.
Project Management to the Rescue
Our team realized we needed project management, and I took on the responsibility. We were able to identify critical and time-consuming tasks that our developers were able to focus on, such as producing screen-accurate and print-ready PDFs.
While this was not my area of specialization, it was quickly apparent that event basic tracking and prioritization of tasks was able to increase morale and productivity. Our team was able to satisfy our stakeholders that we heard them, understood their ideas, and prioritized them appropriately.
User Interface Design
Branding and look-and-feel for the site and application had already been established, though the book editor and many of the features of the application itself had yet to be fleshed out. It was my job to define and create UI for such features as book customization and previewing, user group management, photo management, and purchasing.
Wireframes were created for interaction design of the book editor.
Despite limitations of the effort required for design and implementation, ad-hoc user testing and interviews were done as time permitted throughout the year. As expected, user testing provided feedback that was able to help smooth out bumps in workflows missed by those close to the project.
Communities & Verticals
Our stakeholders focused heavily on building relationships with groups and identifying communities and verticals that could provide focused markets for the product. I provided visual designs for stand-alone and brand-integrated splash pages to support these initiatives.
I enjoyed flexing my design skills and working in alternate styles. Grunge was big in 2010! Really!
The project successfully launched by the end of the year, with a fully-functional book editor, user and group management, and e-commerce system. Unfortunately, due the financial and marketing miscalculations by the stakeholders, the project failed shortly after it launched. Despite this, I remain proud of the work done by our team to launch what was a complex project in a short time with relatively few resources.