Incubating a Client: Designing & Consulting Within Arms Reach

Working in close physical proximity with a client enhanced our engagement as designers, with the result that our investment in the company’s success goes much beyond what we’ve experienced previously.

Our client is Visibook, a start-up with an appointment scheduling app for any business based on client scheduling. For Visibook customers, who range from physical fitness trainers to acupuncturists to piano teachers, time is quite literally money. Visibook provides tools for setting up schedules, displaying availability and allowing clients to self-book, all of which enable service providers to be more efficient and minimize their downtime.

With scheduling applications, what looks like a simple user interaction is morecomplex than it might seem in person. Before taking up residence with us, Visibook co-founder Brian Choe was already sold on the importance of design to their mission and success. “With an app like Visibook, it’s more challenging than you might think to make the UI work,” explains Choe.

“After working on Visibook for a while, we came to a realization that UI is much harder than we thought it would be and we really needed help to do it right.”

Choe already knew DesignMap partner Nathan Kendrick and the two had been talking casually about working together for some time. “We’d gotten off to a decent start but I knew we couldn’t get where we need to without expert help,” comments Choe.

Initial sketch exploring possible navigation options for merchants.

Choe made the move to DesignMap and we got to work, which included redesigning the entire application. His assessment regarding UX design for Visibook is right on the money. Under the app’s hood is a set of algorithms that support self-service booking and ensure that times aren’t double booked. For Visibook, we focused our work on making the experience of interacting with those algorithms obvious and easy for both the company’s service provider customers and their clients, who both have an expectation of simplicity. Visibook’s customers just don’t have the time, nor the interest, in learning a complex tool to run their business.

‍Early stages of the project showing our original primary user flows and sketches.

As designers, we’ve discovered several differences in working with a client that is just steps away. First, it’s very different to have such easy access to someone that knows the product inside and out so we can get quick answers to our questions. We’ve also been more creative with our design process, going really broad and exploring a lot of potential solutions to design problems. That approach does have a potential downside. While it hasn’t been a problem yet, taking such a broad approach could result in spending time on a design solution that can’t be built.

Style Guide for the redesigned Visibook application.

For us, however, digging in creatively is a natural result of our relationship with Choe and Visibook. Everyone on the design team feels a real ownership of the product and is very invested in its success.

For Choe, working closely with DesignMap has been “eye opening,” as he puts it. “The DesignMap team is extremely talented. I’ve been able to see things that most clients probably don’t get to see,” says Choe.

“For instance, I’ve witnessed intense and extensive discussions on font styles that really highlights how designers can see things through a completely different lens. The passion that goes into their work is really amazing.”

Choe says he believes that passion is exactly whatVisibook needed to round out the team and set the product up for success. “Their perspective and close collaboration has really helped us balance design and technical implementation,” he explains.

Detail of one of the primary flows for Merchants on Visibook.

Of 11 development sprints, around 2/3 of them have been completed. Visibook has been slowly releasing features and updates as they are designed and coded. The new features they have released are already beginning to havea positive impact. Preliminary stats show that customers are spending more time on the site, which is one of Choe’s goals. When Visibook customers spend more time on the site, it means the app is headed in the right direction toward serving them.

“Our ultimate goal is to build a great app that people love to use,” says Choe.

“DesignMap has been a great partner. They really know how to dig in, tackle a tough problem and come up with an elegant, beautiful solution.”