Minutizer wanted to know if it's worth to launch a new service
here's an overview
Think PayPal for time.
Minutizer started as a payments system for live interactions on Skype. Their vision is to become the go to solution when it comes to changing for your time spent via communication tools.
Being around since 2013, they managed to expand their tech on 3 markets: adult, esoteric and expert consulting & entertainment. They empower teachers, lawyers, psychotherapists, entertainers, trainers and coaches to charge for their consulting sessions via Skype and lately, Discord.
While traveling to conferences across Europe and US, clients and partners suggested that an expansion of Minutizer’s services into phone call billing would be highly welcomed. This was in line with Minutizer’s product strategy to offer charging services on top of live communication channels. Launching a new service could lead to a new revenue stream, but being the first on a new market is not always easy.
beneficiaries & target audience
Minutizer’s customers are medium to high level professionals, offering consulting, training and entertainment, remotely. Making yourself available across the globe opens your freelance operation to a plethora of opportunities. But not everybody wants or needs to do it via Skype & co.
There are some professionals that need to jump into a quick call to clarify details, or their clients prefer the phone as the main means of live contact. And adding minutes in a spreadsheet when you invoice in not fun. What if your expertise and talent could be offered without any administration challenges and money would be instantly available? llowing others to offer more by consulting or entertaining using their voice led us to consider offering this opportunity.
roles & responsibilities
As the product designer I worked with the Minutizer team, my client, and Adonis Software, the developer, to design the minimum viable experience for one of their innovative services. I was part of a team of 4, containing the CEO, the CTO and a representative from the developing agency, handling:
Research – to inform the design strategy of the product
User Flows – to clarify the journey of the users before and during the interaction with the service
Information Architecture – to present relevant information to the user at the right time
Sketching – to align stakeholders and clarify the scope of development
Wireframing – to further aling stakeholder’s views and cover key details
User Interface design – to offer a branded visual expression to the service we designed
Prototyping – to further validate flow, available functionality and necessary information
Quality Assurance – as a second layer on top of the services provided by the agency, to validate detailed implementation
scope & constraints
for the business
Testing a new service that would allow Minutizer to expand their offering. In line with the brand vision allowing them to get the necessary intel to develop a sustainable new revenue stream.
for the customers
Make it easier for current customers to charge for the extra time spend with clients offering services via phone. Allowing others to offer more by consulting or entertaining using their voice.
- validate that there is enough interest for the new service
- gauge the user needs and expectations to ensure long term viability
- explore the mobile application development sector
- map the service functionality to user behavior
- explore a new communication channel with customers
- be able to review calls & transactions
- live time tracking functionality
- mobile Skype calls charging
My collaboration with Minutizer spread across 3 years, I was familiar with their product. But this was a new market so my first question was: who’s our competition? I started with individual interviews with the CEO, CTO and customer support representatives to gather the vision and expectations regarding the product and make sure it’s feasible from a tech perspective with the current setup.
That is how we reached the consensus that a mobile app would be the best approach to deliver and test the new service.
Looking for inspiration and direct competitors, what I could find were at best apps that relied on a built in VoIP service that could be used as a reference for charging.
User research was informed by tens of support requests gathered by the customer experience team and private live chats at two of the events that I attended, along with the marketing team in Europe.
So whom were we going to serve? What would we offer that actually helps them?
It turns out that our customer was the one that was already charging for phone consulting, albeit in a less precise or comfortable manner. They would be willing to give our solution a solid shot.
The app was not going to be actively promoted. Only a couple of hundreds of users would use it, a very small percent of Minutizer’s pool of clients.
Our intent was to get as much intel as we could about user’s needs, expectations, use cases and behaviors. We could not have done that without an actual working service.
This translated into developing an Android app that would be able to track the duration of incoming calls from specific phone numbers while logging and charging would be handled by the already existing backend.
There were plenty of questions to answer:
– what do we show, when and how?
– how visible should the app be without bothering the user?
– where’s the right balance between scope and quality?
After three iterations we clarified the basic flows and set of features we would provide the users with.
Finding a developer willing to take on the challenge of logging calls on Android was not easy. Trying to minimize project costs led us to consider enlisting the services of a freelance developer.
There were 3 weeks with no visible progress. We had to move the needle, so we went back to looking for a more reliable solution, with an increased budget. In the meantime I proceeded with sketching the main screens of the application to validate main content items.
After weeks of searching, the negotiations with a brave development company were going well and I went ahead and shared the specifications that were clear, up to that point. We had a kickoff meeting and agreed on a development calendar.
The initial estimate meant that the app would be ready to launch within 3 months. We had the developer onboard so I proceeded with validating the wireframes with the whole team.
Reaching consensus, they started developing a skeleton for the app based on the wireframes and also the research regarding hooking onto incoming and outgoing phone and Skype calls, in order to log them and track their duration.
Having received validation from all the stakeholders (now including a tech representative from the developer) I proceeded with the visual design of the interface using Sketch and tied the results screen into a live prototype using InVision.
I remained in the project to oversee the implementation of the app and also acted as a second layer of QA, on behalf of my client. Managing a project with technical conundrums is not a comfortable role. It wasn’t easy to to balance expectations and patience to reach the merry end.
A group of 10 beta testers were the core source for feedback and input on how to improve both the application and the service on the whole. After one month of active contact, the customer experience department took over communication and monitoring.
outcomes & results
Towards the end of the fall we published the first stable RC (release candidate) and in December, after ~6 weeks of iterations we had a solution that covered most of our initial goals. Over 2018 we would monitor the KPIs we set during the strategy step and launch the current service, which doesn’t involve any app installed. Which is awesome!
While it seemed like a small project at first, the actual development took well over the initial 3 months. This made me set a flag in mind when it comes to estimations for projects that involve pushing the limits of tech.