In early 2021, a marketing entrepreneur approached Viget with a mission to monetize the inbox. He was overwhelmed with all the messages he was receiving on multiple platforms. Why not funnel those into one place and monetize the time he spent answering them?
Over the course of three months, we solidified product-market fit, confirmed the problem with user research, and designed and developed the MVP for SwayDM: a messaging application that gives anyone the ability to send direct messages to in-demand users for a fee.
Today, the app is live and ready to use for beta users – and can continue to be used as a tool for Sway to secure more investment in the future.
I led the design portion of the engagement, focusing on strategy, interface design, prototyping, and parts kit assembly.
Our challenge centered around making sure we were building the right product for the right group of people. There are plenty of existing products that let you pay for exclusive reach.
As Ash Maurya says in Running Lean, the biggest risk for startups is building something that nobody wants. After conducting moderated research sessions, we concluded that targeting micro-influencers with a smaller audience reach would give the product the best opportunity to succeed. We learned that this group was interested in finding ways to leverage their expertise for profit, so that they could get a return on their time and effort spent responding to DMs.
Once we validated that there was a need for the paid messaging concept and we had a segment to specifically target, I worked closely with our engineering and product strategy team to nail down a data model to guide our development setup.
For the MVP, there would be two types of users: a sender (user who pays to send the message and receive a response) and an earner (influencer who receives the income for responding). We did this as a starting point, primarily because our research had indicated that in-demand earners weren't likely to be senders, and vice-versa.
Our developers made the decision to build the app with Elixir, Phoenix, and LiveView to allow for instant renderings of the content on the page (new messages) without having to reload the browser.
I started the design production process with wireframe iterations, followed by high fidelity interface design and interactions in Figma, through assembling a parts kit to streamline front-end development.
Earners can set two different prices for prospective senders: charge per view and charge for reply.
When earners receive messages, they can choose to respond directly (to earn the $), or waive the payment if they don't want to charge the sender for the message. After connecting a checking account, they can withdraw their balance at any time and view their individual message-by-message transactions.
Senders can upload funds to send messages using a credit card. Instead of charging their card separately after every single message, we charged the card at the end of the day with all the transactions bundled into one cost.