By Stef Michalak
The latest Wantfeed design is, in fact, the fourth major design upgrade to the platform since I launched the first prototype in late 2013.
Weirdly the majority of the latest design process took place on my laptop while slouched on a well-weathered. although incredibly comfortable brown leather sofa in my son's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class.
This really makes little sense when you consider the fact it's loud, bright, full of people rolling around on the floor grunting trying not to get strangled by someone they just met, the last place you’d imagine being able to concentrate on design, but for whatever reason, that tired brown sofa in the corner of my kid's jiu-jitsu class has been the perfect place for me to find my flow state and build this thing.
Perhaps it's the atmosphere of the environment, It must simulate a part of my brain that's next to the bit that deals with focus, yeah I'm basically an armchair neuroscientist now.
The navigation creation process.
One of the biggest obsticles was the navigaoin, I'm embarassed to admint I must of spent over 20+ hours on tying to nail it.
A navigation isn’t just a way for a user to find what they are looking for but, it's also to communicate a very important message, who you are and what you do.
It's crucial to get the navigation right, so I scoured the internet and the darkets corners of my bran for inspiration but it was no use.
I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know how to find it… I even hired two illustrators to try and nail it but it was no good.
Nothing was working.
You see I needed the navigation to have a personality but at the same time I had no idea how to make a navigation look like it has a personality.
Every time it tried to give it a personality it looked too juvenile or just a bit naff.
The only person I could think that would be up to the challenge was a famous Canadian illustrator called Scott Martin or Burnt Toast Creative.
His style is clever, unique, clean, simple, modern & contemporary but with tons of personality & humor.
If I could create a navigation that felt in some way like his illustration style then I'd finally be able to sleep at night.
Sadly commissioning Scott was out of the question, he's too busy illustrating for brands like Google, Redbull, Facebook so I doubted my budget of £32.13 and a tin of kidney beans would be enough to get him fired up.
Despite that, I trawled through his work hoping it would spark an idea. Luck would have it that it turns out that Scott happens to be a super nice guy, because on his website he decided to give away his color palette to anyone who wanted to download it.
Beyond Scotts iconic line work & his dark humour his colour palette is what always jumped out to me.
Having access to it meant I had the perfect springboard to inspire some new designs.
I spent several hours refining several icons I was working on using his color palette. I then tried to give them a personality by adding little faces on each icon, I worked out a way to make them blink which helped bring them alive, but they still needed a personality.
Imagine you were an icon, what would be the one thing you’d want?
Well, I guess you’d want someone to roll over you with their mouse & if they did you’d be pretty happy about it considering that's your sole purpose in life.
So when you roll over them I made them light up and smile.
While I was designing the icons I was also at the same time onboarding the new verified stores who were all uploading their products or services.
Unlike most other marketplaces who sell tangible products, Wantfeed also sells virtual services, this meant the navigation needed to reflect this somehow.
The problem with having such a huge variety of products and services is the navigation needed to house them all somehow without overwhelming the user with choice.
In my many years of experience in web design I learnt one important thing, keep it simple.
Think of a user as a battery with a finite amount of energy. Your job as a good designer is to use up as little of that battery as possible. The less they need to think the better.
My next challenge was to create an effective category system that every product and service could easily slot into without overwhelming the user with too many choices.
This was no easy task and truth be told I only managed it with the help of someone otherwise known as Mary Jane.
Mary Jane is my secret weapon for certain tasks that require both creativity and lateral thinking.
After a few hours alone in my office with my assistant Mary and my stupidly loud air con unit doing little to stifle the heat I / we had finally nailed it.
I decided to assign all the products & services on Wantfeed to one of three master categories.
Classes for video calls with specialists such as therapists, PTs and tutors etc,
Marketplace for any tangible products that users sold and Services for things that my sellers offered as a service like copywriting for interior design consultations etc.
These would be the three core pillars of Wantfeed that could effectively house anything a new seller uploaded.
So yeah that was the process, all thanks to a tired brown sofa in my kids Jiu Jitsu class, my favourite Canadian illustrator and my old friend Mary Jane.
If you liked this blog then I’m more than happy to continue the theme and talk about more parts of the design process.
The truth is my wife Hannah glazes over when I talk about this stuff so it’s nice to know someone cared enough to read this far.
Anyway, let me know what you think of my navigation and if you’d like more blog posts like this.
Oh yeah, and follow Scott from burnt toast creative if you don’t already, I love that guy.