saffree
3 min readApr 4, 2019

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CASE STUDY

O.School was founded by Andrea Barrica (500 Start Ups) to provide safe, accurate, consent-based sex ed to everyone — “the sex ed we never had” (some states don’t even require it in schools). I was the first full-time employee. It was very LGBTQ+ inclusive, which provided an interesting challenge: knowing that bullying is rampant online, how could we solve the problem of making sure the site is safe for people most likely to be targeted? But along the way, we discovered other interesting issues.

My roles:

Lead product designer

Lead researcher

Project manager

Product manager

Copywriter for site and for our design thinking principles

The first thing we concentrated on was making sure our community rules were laid out so it was clear that the site is a safe space with a zero-tolerance policy for abuse. There are a lot of closed communities out there and we looked at their rules to see what they had to say to their members. You can see what I wrote here.

The first interesting hurdle we encountered was finding a video hosting platform. Since people were going to be talking very frankly about sex (but not performing anything or showing nudity), a lot of platforms were not unavailable to us. At the same time, we hired a remote team of engineers to work on the site. They were so uncomfortable building this platform that the first site they sent for review was a shopping site! Luckily we had a great PM who managed them remotely and made the process smoother.

At that point, we needed UI and since I was pretty busy managing many different processes, we hired Nicole Gottwald, who went to school with me at General Assembly. We worked together to develop the look and feel of the site. As usual, many post-its died for it!

Then a new hurdle came up: despite assurances from the bank manager and investors in the site, the bank board decided they were too afraid to take our investment money because of the content (although there many sites out there for teens that deal with the same subject matter). Luckily, we did find a bank that didn’t care, but it was interesting to see just HOW stigmatized this content is.

We started in October and aimed for an April start date, so we had to move really fast. While developing the site, we were also doing photo shoots, coordinating with teachers, testing the site with ourselves and users, and building a chat tool that would allow us to block abusers. We had a really diverse team that reflected what we wanted from our users. Once we finally all got together in one room, I realized that for one of the first times in my life, I was in the minority. It made me think a lot more about diversity in tech, which is something I will continue advocate strongly for.

We successfully launched our MVP in April 2017, which was very exciting. It was great to truly contribute to a product (a goal of mine and why I went back to school for UX) and see it launch. It’s also been interesting to see it grow and change since that first day.

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