Spreadsheet-ectomy

Find an opportunity to replace a spreadsheet workflow with a tailored product to be launched as a desktop web app.

Team Size

Individual

Duration

2 weeks

Materials

  • Digital design tool
  • Prototyping tool
  • Presentation software

Deliverables

  • Prototype of the MVP for desktop (high-fidelity)
  • Roadmap for next 2 post-launch phases (additional features beyond the MVP that will be rolled out in the future, along with how you plan to validate your product)
  • Presentation of research and final design proposal
  • Research and design report as a PDF (landscape or portrait, at least 20 pages)
  • Optional, but encouraged: Landing page mockup that explains what your product is and its value (desktop layout; responsive as a bonus)

Brief

You are a startup founder with a deep, passionate personal mission: kill all unnecessary spreadsheets. You are seeking to research, design, and launch a product for organizations to use internally, so they never have to use a spreadsheet again. This is your Spreadsheet-ectomy!

The product will be built as a desktop web app. Your product will use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue model: meaning, you will charge a monthly per-user subscription fee. (Exact pricing is TBD and considered out of scope, though you are welcome to include competitor pricing in your research.)

You will be researching the market and meeting with employees to determine the needs of the organization and then developing an MVP based on your findings. So far, we have been designing for customers as the end user, but now you have to consider multiple kinds of users:

For this project, you may consider “organizations” to include for-profit companies, nonprofits, and NGOs. “Employees” include people who work for or with the organization. This includes part-time employees, contractors, vendors, interns, and unpaid volunteers.

Examples of SaaS products for reference:

Project Scope

You will be designing a new product. If an organization you research has tried a product to solve their problem in the past, or is considering some, good news! You just found some competitors, and your task is to design something superior. Don’t try to change or extend an existing product.

Because you are launching this product, you need to ensure that this is a service that would be useful to multiple organizations.

Research

You will need to find people inside organizations to talk to. You should focus on tech-forward organizations that are using spreadsheets internally for some part(s) of their workflow. This is why it is critical to start now so that you have time to plan and visit offices in the first week of the project. Research can be done remotely over video conference if you are connected to organizations elsewhere. You are welcome to investigate in any domain and explore areas that you’re familiar with, where you may already have a professional network to start from.

Warning: don’t design for yourself, or solve your own spreadsheet problem!

As you research

Considerations as you investigate how organizations currently work with spreadsheets:

Suggestions

Suggested schedule

Day 1

  • Project plan
  • Start networking to schedule interviews and virtual meetings with employees
  • Design report template / outline
  • Presentation outline

Day 2

  • Interviews and observation
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Desk research

Day 3

  • Continue interviews and observation
  • Affinity diagram
  • Document research findings in presentation and report
  • User Personas
  • Problem Statement

Day 4

  • Feature prioritization
  • Task Analysis
  • Scenarios
  • Use cases
  • Ideation

Day 5

  • Card Sorting
  • User Flow
  • Paper Prototype
  • Test
  • Iterate
  • Digital Wireframes

Day 6

  • Test
  • Iterate
  • Style Tile

Day 7

  • Start high-fidelity screens
  • Desirability testing
  • Test
  • Practice and script walkthrough demo

Day 8

  • Finish high-fidelity
  • Finish your research and design report
  • Start building your presentation
  • Practice your presentation

Day 9

  • Turn in your report PDF at 9:00am
  • Finish preparing your presentation
  • Practice presenting with a classmate
  • Be fabulous in front of the guest reviewer(s)!

Presentation

You will 6–8 minutes to present to and get one-on-one feedback from a professional designer who will act as a guest reviewer. Give the presentation as a pitch for your product to prospective customers. then expect a conversation with feedback afterward where you may take questions. Think of this as an opportunity to get an outside opinion from someone who is actively and currently working in the field. Working in a high pressure situation in a safe environment is going to be great practice for you ahead of your job interviews.

You’ll be meeting with the guest reviewer in the afternoon. However, your report PDF is due at the beginning of the day so that we can forward it to the guest reviewer ahead of time to give them the opportunity to review it, should they be able.

You should be prepared to answer the following questions, and your research & design report should include:

  1. What did you learn from your user research and benchmarking?
  2. How did your research and usability tests inform your design decisions?
  3. How would a user realistically navigate and use your product? (This may need to be shown from the perspective of multiple types of users.)
  4. How did you determine which features to ship in your MVP?
  5. What features are on your future roadmap?
  6. How would you validate this product in the market? What would you be looking for as indicators of success?

Research & Design Report

20 page PDF, due at the start of class.

Your report should serve as a more detailed standalone document representing your process leading to your final result. While the structure and format of your report is up to you, here is a suggested outline of things to include:

Sample Outline

  1. Hypothesis and goal (spreadsheets are a problem / don’t solve the problem they intend to / create more problems than they solve)
  2. Research (how you validated this hypothesis)
    1. Methodology
    2. Sample questions / interview subjects / benchmarking
    3. Findings (key insights) - pain points
  3. Problem definition
    1. Problem statement (this product seeks to solve X for user Y by doing Z)
    2. User personas
    3. User journey
  4. Design iterations and usability testing results
  5. Final product screenshots with annotations (should follow demo)
    1. Feedback from prospective users on product
    2. Connect back to insights - does it solve the problem?
  6. Design system
    1. Fonts, colors, and other base styles
    2. Key components used throughout
    3. Layouts
  7. Roadmap
    1. Current MVP feature list
    2. Future features
    3. How to validate / indicators of success
  8. Appendix (as needed)
    1. Any additional information. Ex: key user flows, raw research data, feature prioritization list, site map.

Landing Page Mockup

Optional, but encouraged! This should be a mockup of a single-page website in desktop layout (include responsive version as an extra bonus) that users would visit to consider purchasing your product. If you want some extra practice with HTML and CSS this could be a good opportunity to try building out the landing page (even after the project is finished).