Defining The Challenge
The influx of students from China has opened new opportunities for global cooperation. However, a lot of these students face “the unknown” when they enter America and aren’t always clear on how to assimilate. A Chinese student named Oliver decided to confront this issue head-on, and establish a safe space where students could share lessons they wish they had known. Aptly, Oliver decided to call this platform “I Wish I Knew”, or IWIK (https://iwik.co)
I was asked to help Oliver bring his vision to life, and to walk him through the steps of starting and launching a product-based business. The concept for the platform was entirely conceived by Oliver, and he brought me on board to help design and build the product. I used Startship and other curricula I had developed to help him understand the world of digital products along the way.
Development was handled by Alexey and his crew at Dev-Better. The UI was designed by myself and Vlad at Arounda. Grant Lechner and I collaborated once again to build the brand. I took charge of product management and helped Oliver make design and development decisions along the way. We initiated the project in June 2017, and launched the live product in September 2017 (one of my fastest turn-arounds to date).
Oliver had experienced the pain-point he was trying to solve first hand, and had access to many other students who were facing a similar problem. We explored the processes of customer discovery and user research, and put them into action with surveys and interviews. Oliver was tasked with conducting the interviews and recording the data, and I assisted him in interpreting his findings.
Laying Out The Plan
Once we had extrapolated actionable insights from the research phase, I took the reins and started carving up epics and development tickets for each feature. Simultaneously, we also kicked off work on the design and identity fronts. Oliver uploaded the feature descriptions as tickets to Trello so Alexey and Sergii could provide estimates and begin setting up the foundations for building IWIK.
Creating The IWIK Identity
IWIK is inherently a global brand, and Oliver wanted it to resonate with users from anywhere in the world. Given Oliver’s Chinese nationality, Grant and I decided to play around with the Mandarin character “问” or “wen” which translates to “ask” in English. From there, we worked with Oliver to iterate on different compositions and combinations of colors and strokes. In the end, we built a strong identity that fit our product goals: global relevance and modern appeal.
Building the Platform
With our identity in place, we were able to iterate on the screens that Vlad and his team had produced. We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel, so we took cues from comparable sites and patterns. At the end of the day, we decided on a clean look that was intuitive and familiar.
Development of the platform was a textbook process of sprints and bugfixes. Oliver got to practice communicating feature details with Alexey and Sergii. The team also spun up a user and question management Admin Panel for user management and to customize the entire site experience.
After 2 weeks of testing, we launched IWIK in September 2017. Oliver’s main goal was to promote use with his friends and classmates, and to use the website as a live example of his skills as an entrepreneur and product thinker.
Final Thoughts and the Future of IWIK
IWIK was the most rapid product development cycles I have run. We were able to complete the entire project end-to-end in just under 10 weeks. Since this was an educational experience in addition to being a product build, I made sure that the entire product cycle was properly observed and no corners were cut. Oliver put in the hard work, time, and due diligence needed to bring the site to life. The live product does a great job of realizing his original vision, and serving as a safe space for students to learn from one another.
This was an extremely unique opportunity to combine my passions for education and product strategy, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with a student as talented as Oliver!