Working at iSWAG

ISWAG’s goal was to connect local communities and smaller businesses together. This post documents my learnings as an intern and early employee at the startup

The Situation.

Connectivity is a huge problem in Nigeria and other developing countries. Lives and commercial opportunities are lost due to inefficient information sharing. iSWAG was founded to create an easier way for people to be in sync with their immediate commuunity. We spent a few months working on a tool for people to buy, sell, report security updates and status with people around them.

Research.

The user research team comprised of myself, our CEO and 2 other employees. We interviewed a total of 5 people; 1 furniture maker, 3 university students, and a hairdresser. The whole research took about a week, after which we sat together to listen and synthesize findings from the voice notes.

Synthesizing research findings
Synthesizing research findings

The Solution

Informed by our research, the goal was to

build an android app that allowed users belong to virtual geographical communities (hives). Each hive would have a feed that showed posts (buzzes) by all members of that hive. From our research, we needed to just build an android app. More than 90% of smartphone users in Nigeria are android users. This meant we had to act contrary to our initial decision of building a web, ios, and Android app.

My UX Work Begins Here.

I was solely charged with the responsibility of turning the research findings into interactions that allowed users to connect closer with their communities. Specifically;

  1. Crafting Scenarios, user journeys, user flows, and use-cases to explore future use of the product.
  2. Develop storyboards, sketches, and wireframes that would help communicate my design decisions with the whole team.
  3. Design high-fidelity screens and prototypes that would be used by the engineers to implement features and experiences.

The Process

In the following weeks, I worked closely with my friends from engineering to find out engineering requirements. I also spent a lot of time making things like this…

Flowchart of sign-up & sign-in microinteraction
Flowchart of sign-up & sign-in microinteraction

Crafting flows like this enabled me to see how large and unrelated things connect. It gave me a holistic view of the user experience.

The next steps were for me to sketch possible interactions and visual layout of the app.

Flowchart of sign-up & sign-in microinteraction
Flowchart of sign-up & sign-in microinteraction

Further down the process were a lot of wireframes and low-fidelity prototypes to give the team an idea of how things would work.

WIreframes of the screens for the app
WIreframes of the screens for the app

During this period, I learned a lot about Interaction Design and information architecture. This changed the way I interacted with every day (digital & physical) objects.

High fidelity designs
High fidelity designs

After a series of low-fidelity test with some potential users, I set out to build a high-fidelity prototype of the product. This would be finally handed to engineers to implement as experiences on the Android platform.

Screen flow of the user experience
Screen flow of the user experience

And Here’s The Sad Part 😢

iSWAG WENT UNDER…

A few months later, the startup can no longer continue to exist due to issues concerning finance and leadership. I can only say working at iSWAG as the first place ever, taught me about validating assumptions & hypothesis.

Learnings

I learned a lot from interning at a startup. Whenever I try to reflect on things we could have done better, 2 things come to mind…

Priority. The product has to launch, as fast as possible. Whatever stops the product from launching early is the reason the startup will fail. In our case, this was the desire to build a perfect product from day 1.

Objectivity. A startup is a romantic and high-risk environment. It’s hard to do basic maths and it’s more difficult if it’s your first time. There’s a lot of things we would’ve gotten right with a little more experience.

Thanks for taking the time out.