Course: Civic Media Collaborative Design Studio - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Partners: Lucia Liu, Declan Keefe, Samer Hassan, Micky Metts
Tools: Axure RP and Adobe Photoshop
Our project, Co-Everything, involves developing the concept and prototype of an online marketplace for co-ops by analyzing existing platforms that serve similar functions as our envisioned product. Thus, we were able to collaborate with Loconomics, an online marketplace for freelancers, and gain valuable feedback and data about its current website model.
Loconomics is a service-providing website and app co-founded by Joshua Danielson. This platform is similar to TaskRabbit, in which users can search for freelancers through the app and, alternatively, freelancers can set up a profile and list their services to be hired. Loconomics is currently in its beta stage, and we are working in collaboration with Joshua to gather user feedback. The feedback will not only serve to improve Loconomics but also give us insight on which models would work best in our development of Co-Everything.
Co-ops need help connecting to other co-ops, connecting to clientele, advertising their services, and formalizing their transactions. On the other hand, consumers need help finding providers that match their values. Co-Everything will fulfill these needs and target consumers who are looking for specific services and those who want to support co-ops, local businesses, or freelancers. Collaborating with Loconomics on their user testing and prototyping process will advance our research in determining a platform model that would work best for Co-Everything.
Though it currently only exists as a prototype, Co-Everything is a single platform or reference list meant to foster a network of cooperatives, local businesses, and future clientele in the Boston area. We aim to develop this platform to form an accessible, easy connection between co-ops and their consumer base. We also envision Co-Everything providing a more efficient method for clients to buy co-op services, which would encourage consumers to buy more from co-ops.
From our interviews with potential users, some common themes were:
- Primary source of networking and/or referrals is by word of mouth
- Always looking for more networking/advertising opportunities and a more stable workflow
- Interest in local network, but nobody likes meetings or conferences because it requires much effort and is not an efficient way to get actual results
- Fear of competition from other co-ops/freelancers
- Existing stable relationships with other co-ops/freelancers (e.g. subcontracting)
- Social media (Yelp, Facebook, mailing lists) is important for outreach, but it requires time and effort that could be spent on co-op/freelancer work
In agreement with some of the feedback comments from last time, we studied various existing platforms, including Loconomics, TaskRabbit, and even non-coop related companies such as Airbnb, in order to develop the structure of our website.
The features we added to our second prototype included:
- A dashboard (including upcoming bookings and new messages)
- Scheduling and calendar functions
- A client list (including their booking history and a fast way to reach their profiles)
- An inbox feature for accepting bookings and answering inquiries
Although Joshua’s current Loconomics platform is essentially pretty intuitive, we made some changes that would decrease the amount of clicks necessary to reach a certain task as well as making the site more visually appealing without sacrificing its functionalities.
For our third iteration, we decided to stay true to our original idea of creating a marketplace for co-ops by creating a co-op centered side of Loconomics and proving the benefits of including co-ops on this platform as opposed to the original idea of solely freelancers. I edited the prototype so that a user could now sign up as a cooperative. Differences include the option to be able to select a specific person to service you from the co-op as well as different areas necessary to fill out during sign-up that are co-op centered. The rest of the features on the co-op side of the prototype are identical to those on the freelancer side.
Micky, Declan, and Lucia were able to attend the DiscoTech on May 1st, 2016. The DiscoTech, which stands for Discover Technology, was sponsored by the MIT Co-design Lab and other Boston organizations that support the cooperative movement. The event invited the general public to stop in and experience a sampling of technology displayed by the four cooperatives in this course, along with other local developers and creative makers who wish the promote cooperatives. The Placetailor team set up a workshop for user testing both our team’s prototype as well as Joshua’s prototype of Loconomics. Our process included prompting the users with certain tasks to perform for each prototype (for example: we asked them to sign up as a housecleaning freelancer named Kimmy Schmidt) and asking them to fill out a post-test feedback form. The subjects were encouraged to speak their thoughts during the user testing, which we found very informative about their user experiences. The feedback form gathered information about their backgrounds (if they were involved as a freelancer or a cooperative member) and their general thoughts on the two prototypes.
The current version of the prototype is updated with changes based on user feedback gathered at the DiscoTech. During this testing session we were able to see what may have not been as intuitive as we had thought as well as gather suggestions for how to improve it. In addition to these areas of confusion that we were able to fix, users also had suggestions for additional features in the prototype. For example, a user said he’d like it if, when clicking on a message in the inbox, a pop-up would appear where the co-op or freelancer could message the client back. Following along this idea, we decided that the freelancer or co-op accept an inquiry and message back the client (but only after accepting the request). After accepting, the co-op or freelancer can see the client’s address and additional notes about the service request so that there is no breach of privacy and a client isn’t sharing their personal information with those they have not hired.
From user feedback at the DiscoTech, we identified key issues with Loconomics’ current signup process for freelancers and modeled a new approach. In addition to sending them our prototype with suggestions, we paper prototyped a proposed model for other important suggestions we weren't able to adapt into our clickable prototype with the time we were given. We've sent all of our findings to Josh and he plans to use our suggestions in his next version of the Loconomics platform.