O3 Case study — Designing an ecosystem on a (resource) budget

Alex Knight
Jun 3, 2019 · 6 min read

Note: this case study is a short overview of some of the work done at O3, a full case study is available on request.


It’s been just over a year since I joined the awesome team at O3 labs as Lead Product Designer, since then, the product has gone from a humble light wallet app, to a full blown cross platform, family of products, integrating and expanding into many different projects and communities.

At the time of joining, I had only limited knowledge of blockchain, which was exactly part of the reason I was excited to join the team and learn about it more in depth, seeing as it was generating so much hype across the world. Following that, I saw it as a great opportunity to join a small, but extremely passionate team, that believed in the power of good design and making great products.

I wanted to write a small case study, looking back at how we were able to achieve so much in the last year, with minimal resources, through creating good design process, understanding our users needs and maintaining laser focus, to ensure we were building the right things and not wasting time.

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The challenge (s)

Young tech that is still being built
Blockchain and cryptocurrency technology is still very young, and the foundation we chose (NEO & Ontology) to build on is younger still. They are making great improvements and releasing regular updates, but the platform is in development, growing closer to its V3 release. This requires a lot of attention to ensure everyone is aware of the up coming releases and changes etc. On the other hand, it also allows us to play a major part in helping build those foundations and have a say in its future direction.

New concepts for users to learn
Another issue with new technology, is many new concepts being introduced at once, creating a bigger learning curve for users, making it harder to on-board new users who may feel unsure about it.

Risk of asset management
As with any finance or asset management, there is risk involved, and user experience can play a big part in helping to reduce these risks to the user.

Small team and limited resources (funds and team)
Due to being a small team though, we are time poor, everyone already has lots of things to get done, and the list is always growing and changing. In order to keep our standards of quality at the highest level, we needed build a process for design and development of the products, and maintain laser focus on exactly what was most important.

The solutions

Exploring ways to maximized resources.
The most important thing for our team was to ensure we maximized the time we had, and focused on parts of the application that had the best potential for success and improving our services. With this in mind, we had to figure out how to best approach each project or feature, to ensure we understood the reason and results we wanted to see.

We introduces OKRs (Objective & Key Result) as a way to track these over time. Breaking our efforts down into quarterly reviews and shooting for the stars each time. If we were hitting our OKRs, 100% each quarter, then we were not aiming high enough. These OKRs helped the team to ensure we were all working towards the same goals and remaining focused on what matters most.

Understand our users
The only way to to build great products and know what we should be focused on is to understand exactly what our users wants and needs are. So one of the first steps as leader designer was to start gathering as much information I could from the community, through surveys, interviews, user tests (monitored & un-monitored), competitor analysis and support request reviews. This is always a continual process as we build up our products and offer more services, so regular reviews are required to ensure we are working with relative data.

Another part of this is sharing the huge amounts of information to the rest of the team in an easy to digest way, through presentations, journey maps persons, and overviews of the metrics that mattered.

Every member of the team should know exactly who for and why we are building something.

Think outside the box
We employ a number of various methods to drill down to the problems and come up with solutions that creative and innovating. Picking the right methodology to reach a solution is important, so a deep understanding of these concepts is a must.

Using concepts like, Jobs to be done, users interviews, affinity mapping, card sorting, 5 whys, heuristics and so on, we can cut down to the core of the issue to come up with better solutions for problems.

From there, we use a Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, building prototypes and MVPs, testing with users, then persevering or pivoting before we have invested too much time and resources in to it.

Design systems for quicker UI design and implementation
Another key process for us was to implement a solid design system that allowed use to design UI and implement it very quickly. Using tools like Sketch and Invision to manage it, we are able to quickly build & share UIs, assets and concepts without too much hand over each time. This allows for a more consistent and fluid workflow between team members working together.

Check out some other amazing design systems for inspiration.

Voice and tone
In order to take a product to that next level, we believe voice and tone play a huge part in how people feel about products. Companies that take this seriously (Mail Chimps voice and tone is awesome), whether it’s through their marketing material, websites, in app microcopy or support, are able to connect with their customers on a new level.

Through techniques like social mining, character personas and microcopy testing, we are able to produce a consistent, bright, and fun tone across our products and marketing, that make people feel welcome and relaxed when using O3.

Strong analytics to track changes and result.
Of course, all of this effort is almost pointless if you cannot see the changes it makes (or doesn’t make), to help inform your next plan of attack. For us to continue to improve as fast as possible, we need to know exactly what works well, what is ok but needs more consideration and what is simply not working and should to be shelved. Building cohorts and funnels to see how the users flow through our products is essential to understanding where potential bottlenecks are and improvements can be made.

Reviewing analytics is a continual process and can be used as a baseline when reviewing the success of updates released to the public. It also allows us to monitor split testing (A/B Testing), to understand how changes effect the products.

The results

Over the past year we have take the app from its humble beginnings to a fully cross platform experience with many integrated services, that is highly regarded as the leading wallet in the NEO and Ontology ecosystem. Often suggested between peers as the go-to wallet for fantastic user experience, support services and overall functionality.

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We were able to achieve all this, with a very small team, by understanding what is important for our users and implementing process to help focus on what needs to get done.

These processes are constantly in flux and we are making them better every day. Our next major challenge will be on scaling these processes to ensure that as the team grows, we will be able to maintain our consistency, share our vision across teams and ensure we are building the best products for our users.

I’m incredibly excited to see where it takes us next.

Thanks for reading.

Alex Knight
Lead Product Designer
O3 Labs

To learn more about O3, check out our apps, hit us up on Twitter or at the O3 Community Forum

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