Student print costs have sky rocketed with some universities reportedly charging 50p per page. Obviously for students with minimum finance this quickly adds up.
Advertisers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways of communicating with their target market, especially with tech-savvy students who have quickly learnt how to ignore traditional methods of advertising.
This time around the major challenge was definitely the deadline. I know deadlines are always a challenge, but this was incredibly tight! Aiwip wanted to completely rebuild the way that students organise and print their documents (using bluetooth and ibeacons to detect when they are near a printer) which essentially meant starting again.
The platforms that needed designing and building were:
We recommended an iterative roll out, building one part first (likely the student homepage/dashboard), then build the different apps once the system was solid. Unfortunately that wasn't possible. Aiwip needed all the platforms live in October to coincide with the new academic year.
Stressed was an understatement, but I focused and worked on as much wireframes as I could so that the web and mobile teams could both start building with some direction in mind. This obviously lead to a few headaches as everyone wanted their designs yesterday but only having two hands and one computer I had to jump between platforms every hour or so to deliver what each team needed.
Aiwip had also just raised a round of funding and so the investors were looking for the product to start generating revenue asap, which meant the advertiser part had to be ready to go as well.
A major thing we needed to agree as a team was that I wasn't going to be able to design everything. There's a great post on the Nine States of Design which totally rings true but I literally didn't have time to design a solution for every situation. This led to a lot of verbal back and forths with the dev teams agreeing on how to handle the odd empty state or form error.
The strict deadline was also inspiring as we had to make decisions instantly, there was no time to go back and forth. Looking back I would love to have had more time to do rigorous testing (I managed to a couple of geurilla tests in student libraries) but I feel this would have helped guide the direction I took even more.
I kicked off the project by thinking through the flow on iOS. The goal is for the app to be the main platform for students so we wanted to get that right. Everything else relies on a lot of happy students using the app.
I mentioned earlier that we changed the technology to allow students to print their documents (previously scanning a QR code from a mobile site). We introduced iBeacons which meant relying on bluetooth and wifi to trigger the printing.
Working out the correct flow was tricky. Obviously we looked at other solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive for how they handle document uploading etc, but there was nothing out there for an app based printing product. We experimented with showing a preview of the document when you click on it, then going through the printing flow, and also triggering the printing flow straight away, with a preview later as part of that process.
As this is an app primarily for printing (as opposed to Dropbox which is storage) we opted to feature a preview as part of the flow, not as the first thing you see. In hindsight this may have been a mistake as once the app was in the wild, students were expecting the other behaviour.
Not to blame the timeline too much but this was definitely an oversight on my part and we will be looking to update the flow in a forthcoming release.
Keeping to a very similar style as the student homepage with more relevant content. The takeaway from our V1 launch last year was that advertisers didn't fully understand what Aiwip is and who it targets. I tried to clear that up with this update by having a dynamic header which updates every few seconds with a different University and interest. This was to make it a bit more targeted than something more generic like 'Advertise to University Students'.
It was also paramount to show advertisers what their various banners etc would actually look like to the students. A banner printed on the bottom of a students document is a very new concept, so to make it crystal clear we showed an example on the page. There are also a few other products (Physical Products and Digital Vouchers) which are yet to launch but will again be explained through an eye catching heading, supportive copy and a clear image.
Putting the current clients front and centre builds trust and showcases expertise. For a young company, Aiwip have worked with some big brands like Uber and Domino's Pizza which will be instantly recognisable by advertisers.
There were some pretty major trade offs that had to be made when designing the student dashboard. A month or so into the projet, Aiwip decided to remove printing from the student web dashboard. This was a huge change to not just the designs, but to the way students would use the Aiwip system.
In essense a student would now upload a document to the desktop platform, and then need to print it from inside the app. All in all it is obviously quite a convoluted process, but again we were having to make decisions quickly and do the best we could do with the timeframe and budget.
The advertiser dashboard was a very complex product to design as there would (hopefully) be a lot of money flowing through it. Advertisers are looking for cool ways to reach a digital audience who are increasingly overlooking traditional banner ads. Aiwip gives them this opportunity, but they have come to expect a lot. With competition from Facebook, Twitter and Google our dashboard solution has to be tight with data easy to digest and campaigns easy to create.
Was I able to design a perfect solution? Probably not, but in the time we had, I was able to work out the major flows and build at least a basic solution that we can build on in the future.
Signups definitely reduced in the months after rolling out the new system as it was quite buggy and we had to iterate on the sign up flow whilst it was live (like I said, it was tricky). Things are settling down now and we're receiving lots of great feedback from students.