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Cautionary Tales: The High Cost of Ignoring Product Research in Startups

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

As a Principal Designer, I was invited to contribute my UX/UI design expertise to a project to enhance nonprofit organizations' fundraising capabilities. This endeavor centered around leveraging blockchain technology, presented both a challenge and an opportunity to apply human-centric design principles.

CONTEXT: BRIDGING TECHNOLOGY AND PHILANTHROPY

Tasked with developing a user-focused solution, I embarked on a journey to align blockchain's potential with the needs of nonprofits. The initial hurdle was the complexity and need to understand blockchain technology among critical stakeholders. My approach was rooted in empathy and user engagement, prioritizing interviews and in-depth research to uncover the real-world applications of our technology in the nonprofit sector.

 

RED FLAGS: IDENTIFYING AND ADDRESSING CRITICAL GAPS

The project's early stages revealed oversights. Despite the advanced technology at our disposal, there needed to be more paying customers and a reliance on assumptions rather than concrete data. Recognizing the gap, I spearheaded an initiative to validate the application of blockchain, nodes, and erc-20 tokens in our target sector, driven by a commitment to creating meaningful and impactful solutions.

 

RESEARCH AND INSIGHTS: A DEEP DIVE INTO THE NONPROFIT WORLD

My journey began with exploring online communities where nonprofit professionals congregated. This immersive research provided invaluable insights into the challenges faced by these organizations, such as donor engagement and establishing trust with potential supporters. Furthermore, I thoroughly analyzed market competitors, identifying gaps and opportunities where our product could offer unique value.

PIVOTAL DISCOVERIES: REFRAMING OUR APPROACH

The findings from our research led to a significant realization: the emphasis on cryptocurrency as a differentiator was misaligned with the actual needs of nonprofits. This mismatch prompted a reevaluation of our product strategy, advocating for a shift towards more fundamental, user-centered solutions, such as website-building tools and donation widgets.

 

CONFRONTING ROADBLOCKS: CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO

Armed with data and insights, I proposed a strategic pivot to our VP of Engineering. Despite presenting a well-researched case for a more user-centric roadmap, I encountered resistance from the leadership, anchored in their original vision and feature set.

AN EXIT AND A NEW BEGINNING

Faced with the realization that the project's direction was incompatible with my principles of human-centric design and product excellence, I decided to pursue projects where my skills and approach could be more effectively utilized, by bringing my concerns that I am not the right person for this project to my VP of Brand Development. This decision coincided with broader brand changes, further affirming the need for a new direction.

LEGACY: BUILDING A LASTING IMPACT

Throughout my tenure, I contributed to the branding and design system of the product, leaving a lasting imprint on its visual and functional identity. This experience, though challenging, reinforced my commitment to designing solutions that are not only technologically advanced but also deeply rooted in human needs and experiences.