project

Product validation

CareerPath, a startup that supports people making career moves, wanted to define and validate their initial product.

b2c
web
professional development
startup

Background

CareerPath is a startup focused on providing support to individuals who are looking to make career moves. Whether they are just getting started or making a transition, CareerPath supports their journey with content recommendations and clear action items. (Or at least that's what we thought before taking on this project.)

CareerPath wanted to define and validate which initial features to prototype and pitch to investors.

This project focused on preliminary user research to help us get to know our audience and what kinds of career support they are looking for.

Challenge

The project needed to be done in order to get CareerPath (CP) off the ground. Before this project, CP was a collection of product ideas and assumptions based on individual experience and observation.

We knew that early customer discovery would breath life into these ideas and give us a better shot at getting real users and/or early investment. By the end of the project, we wanted to:

  • Have a better understanding of who our user might be
  • Solidify our initial product definition
  • Gauge the viability of our product in the market

Roles & Responsibilities

I worked directly with Devin Miller, a former product executive and current Entrepreneur in Residence at Pioneer Square Labs in Seattle. We tag-teamed the project together on evenings and weekends.

I created wireframes, mockups, and the website we used in our testing. We collaborated together on demand testing which entailed ad creation, survey creation, and interviewing prospective users.

Scope & Constraints

As a two-person team side-hustling with no funding, we wanted to keep things as lean as possible. We devised an unmoderated user test that would get us a lot of insight for relatively low effort and cost.

Process

Initial wireframes and mockups

Before this project began, we kicked around ideas for CP and created some initial designs. We decided to use these as visuals to aid in our customer discovery.

The test

Ads

We chose to run ads on Google because it's a low cost way to drive some traffic and gain some insight.

We ran a few different ads on the same set of key words. This gave us some indication of what people were interested in that we'd later backup with our survey data.

Website

The website communicated a brand promise complete with screenshots of our initial designs. It was designed to look like a full-fledged product. (I know, I know. I don't like lying to users, but sometimes you've gotta fake it till you make it - right?)

We included 3 different pricing tiers, which would give us data on what people were initially interested in.

The website included "Get started" buttons that lead to our survey.

Survey

Our survey started by first, level setting with the user that CP is in development and not something they would get to use right away. (This marks the end of the deception in our user flow.)

The main goal of the survey was to dig further into their appetite for a product like this. We asked questions about their reaction to the website, which features they were hoping to see, and what they'd be willing to pay. We also included demographic questions and an option to have us followup with an interview.

Outcomes

Over the course of a week, we got 576 clicks on our ads, 125 clicks to "get started", 43 survey responses, and 3 interviews.

Success! Our test got us the data we needed to validate our ideas and select which initial features to prototype.

Understanding our users

Our survey provided us with a snapshot of the type of person that was most interested in what CareerPath offered.

  • Average age of 24
  • 55% female
  • Stage of life: 74% starting career, 21% changing careers, 5% looking to accelerate their career
  • Current jobs: File clerk, Security officer, Lifeguard, Retail

Product Definition

Our survey asked specific questions about features. Salary data, assessments, and live coaching were the most popular 'Must Have' features.

This lead us to shift the focus of our designs away from providing learning resource recommendations. Our new design focused on:

  • Providing quick access to salary and career data
  • Various career assessments
  • and upsells to paid live coaching

Market Viability

Our ads on Google helped us gather some initial findings for what it might take to acquire users. Overall, our ads performed really well against the average for ads in this space.

Another data point we collected was which "Get Started" button people pressed. Of the 125 clicks, we had 84 of them on paying options (as opposed to free). This indicated some willingness to pay and more testing could be done in the future to dig deeper.

Lessons

This project was really an exercise in the Empathize and Define phases of IDEO's design thinking process. It reenforced the importance of connecting with users early to figure out what they are actually looking for. Our initial guesses about which features to include in our design turned out to be wrong. By running our test early, we saved ourselves a lot of time and headaches later on.

In teaming up with a really experienced product guy, I got a crash course in how to conduct tests like this. Devin has become a mentor of mine over the years. His skill in extrapolating the business implications from early user data is impressive and it gave me a window into how product leaders think about scaling products.

Then what happened?

We went on to receive great feedback from investment community. Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit, some things changed for the team and we decided to shelve CareerPath for now.