Paid Messaging Product

Product design lead
Focus Areas
Interface design, parts kit assembly, product strategy
What if you could get paid to answer your DMs?

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.

Product Validation

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.

Concept Model and Tech Stack

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.

Key Features

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.

Integrating Stripe

Utilizing Stripe's Payments API was critical to the usability of the app. It was the engine behind moving money safely between earners and senders.

This was visible in two main areas: connecting a checking account for earners to withdraw their income and connecting a credit card for senders to pay for messages.

Hooking up a credit card for sending messages takes place in the app, but the user is redirected to Stripe's secure payment UI to add a payout account in order to cash out earned income.
  • Product direction has to be guided by research and validation.
    It is critical to have each feature backed in legitimate research to make sure we're spending time building the right things that users want.
  • If we had the time, I'd restructure Sway's wallet concept.
    Long term, it makes the most sense from a usability standpoint to have a singular wallet instead of separate Earn and Send wallets, which can be confusing for people interested in both roles. It would be one of the first things I'd address if given the chance in a post MVP iteration cycle.
PRoject team
Product Design
Tyler Berg
Product Management
Peyton Chance
Product Strategy
Josh Korr
Jasmine Stammes
Leo Bauza
Dylan Lederle-Ensign
Solomon Hawk
Annie Kiley
Noah Over
Next Project
Project Beacon: COVID-19 Testing Platform