In 2014 I joined The Busking Project as co-founder, building it into the world’s largest arts organisation that focuses on supporting street performers. We created a platform where street performers can create a portfolio profile to promote their work, get cashless tips, distribute their music online and get hired for events.
These were entirely new products for a market that until then had never been specifically targeted. But perhaps the biggest challenge we had to overcome was in changing both the mentality of street performers—who have historically been wary of digital payments—and the behaviour of the tippers, to make them comfortable with donating money to artists on the street using their phones.
As the Chief Product Officer, I implemented lean, user-centred product development processes. We gathered data from the users through surveys and web analytics to identify, analyse and address real-life problems or product improvement opportunities. I came up with design hypotheses around the key insights, created maps and wireframes to discuss and assess their potential impact against our objectives and team capacity. Then I designed the chosen solutions or tests that were implemented and measured their impact for future iterations.
Each of those iterations taught us something about our users, our services and our business; it was fascinating to experience this process and see how much our designs impacted people’s behaviour.
In the beginning, we implemented minimum viable features (MVF) and installed analytics tools to measure them. We then let the data—user demand, conversion rates, success/error rates and other usage statistics—determine which features to improve and where to focus our resources.
One of the nice things about working in a startup is that you can change and prototype ideas rapidly, which I did a lot! I wish I could show you all the versions that have existed over the years. A key aspect of lean development is always keeping in mind the purpose of each of the improvements, and measuring their impact.
However, the hard part is working with limited resources, limited staff, lots of features, and staff turnover. At some point, the site became a bit of a Frankenstein, with different sections having different styles. I learnt, the hard way, the importance of UI Style Guides and design systems.