NOT YOUR AVERAGE MARKETPLACE

In 2000, KSL launched a classifieds section on their website, allowing locals access to a buy and sell platform, free of charge. Beating out its competitor Craigslist in 2004, KSL Classifieds became Utah’s #1 local marketplace. Now, twenty years since its initial launch, KSL Classifieds gets over 100 million-page views a month and the app has over 1 million installs.

KSL started as a small and simple platform, now it has grown into a true mid-western online marketplace. With a larger, more complex pool of items, services, and people, comes problems. The largest being lack of security, ease of use, and rapport between buyers and sellers. This project addresses these issues, making the KSL Classifieds app above and beyond its competitors and arguably the best user-based marketplace available.

Sector

Marketplace, Exchange, News

Challenge

Take an extremely open, insecure platform and establish a facilitated process that allows the users to buy and sell safely and efficiently. Focusing on the ease of use, user engagement and credibility.

My Role

Concept Creator, Project Manager, User Experience Designer, User Interface Designer, User Researcher

Project Time

3 Weeks

visual Design

Color

Primary colors were chosen to give contrast while still remaining familiar to the original KSL brand.

Secondary colors were selected to accent and highlight the primary colors. The greys chosen to balance either blue or white regardless of the theme. The cyan blue is meant to attract the user and highlight certain important features. 

Typography

Typeface

RobotoRegular

RobotoMedium

RobotoBold

PoppinsRegular

PoppinsMedium

PoppinsBold

Hierarchy

Header 1

Type: RobotoMedium / Size: 26 / Color:
#000000 / Use: Primary Title

Header 2

Type: RobotoBold / Size: 28 / Color:
#000000 / Use: Stand Out Title

Header 3

Type: RobotoMedium / Size: 24 / Color:
#000000 / Use: Secondary Title

Body 1

Type: RobotoRegular / Size: 19 / Color:
#000000 / Use: Secondary Title

Body 2

Type: RobotoRegular / Size: 16 / Color:
#000000 / Use: Secondary Title

UI Elements

Header

Search Bar

Scan Button (Footer)

Standard Button

Icons

Dissection

Understanding the Foundation

The best place to start was to fully understand the current system from the ground up, beginning with the foundation. Simple, open, and trustworthy. From the initial launch up to now, the foundation has remained the same.  These are the grounds that have kept KSL ahead of it’s competitors for all these years.  

Strengths

Community Trust

Simple Structure

No Shipping

Free Market

Weaknesses

Rapport

Ease of Use

Security

Personalization

Screen shots of the current KSL Classified app.

DIscovery

Early Insights

I interviewed 8 current users with completely different demographics and interests. My goal was to discover the deeply rooted issues ingrained within the current system. Emphasizing on problems not immediately visible to a new user.

This helped confirm my predefined theories. The shortcomings affected users on every part of the process.

  • Lack of organization, especially when it comes to messaging
  • Missing ability to receive notifications for newly listed items
  • Search and listing process takes too long and is tedious
  • Spam concerns regarding direct messages

“If you're competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.” -Jeff Bezos

Next, I spent some time reading through positive and negative comments online. I was looking for common trends, complaints or even suggestions. I was surprised at how many complaints I found and even more surprised at the way KSL was addressing these issues. Or should I say, not addressing them.

What surprised me the most was particular comments regarding competing platforms. Numerous users mentioned having more success when using other platforms and just like every other complaint, KSL sends a generic automated response asking them to send feedback to an email address.

Deeper Insights

Defining Success

In order to reach my destination, I needed to define what that is. How can my efforts be considered successful? 

My goal was to create something not only equal to the industry standards but to surpass it entirely. I wanted to take something already unique and special to the community and make it whole.

To establish a destination, I had to break down the process from the beginning to the end. That way I can define the user’s end goal.

Process Breakdown

Understanding the user’s process from beginning to end. Since there are two types of users, I broke down the process from the seller and the buyer’s point of view.

Wireframes

Before designing, I wanted to understand all the different trajectories a user can take when using the app. This helped me focus on the important pages, build a framework and start coming up with design ideas.

Page Brainstorm

Understanding the purpose of each page helped me design each one individually. This allowed me to come up with not only page layout but also the features included. This is really where I was able to brainstorm ideas and lightly test them with simple and basic design concepts.

Reconstruction

Re-Defining KSL

I now understood the entire platform front to back, from the basic framework, to the user goals, strengths and weaknesses. It was now time to start brainstorming for solutions. 

The best way to be inspired is to look at what common traits successful competitors included within their designs.

Common Traits:

  • Basic Corporate Facilitation
  • User Friendly Search Engines
  • Organized Messaging
  • Persona Profiles
  • Legible & Simple Interfaces

The More Obvious Solutions

Meeting the industry standards already solves a few major issues. Primarily speaking of security and credibility.

First, establishing an integrated messaging system would help resolve numerous issues, especially security and organization. Keeping the messages in house allows users to keep their information as private as possible. Not only does this minimize spam messages, it also allows sending and receiving messages to be all in one space specifically designated to buying and selling.

Second, implementing a user profile to build credibility between buyers and sellers. Both buyers and sellers can now view important user information that will establish rapport for both parties. Displaying things like, time as a member, average satisfaction ratings, review information and past sold and bought listings helps users get to know one another before getting in contact. 

My primary focus was to make important changes while still allowing the user to decide how they want to interact. If the user likes using email or text messages, then they should have the option to continue their preferences. Some users may solely choose to show their first name, product photo, title and price. I never intended to dictate the personal experience with these changes. I mainly wanted to give users more options. Preferred methods will be defaulted and encouraged but never enforced.

Messaging System

User Profile

Important Reformations

The two important implementations I decided to make were designed to maximize both the search functions and the home page individually. 

Building a personalized home page allows easy access to all the app’s primary features all while creating a unique user experience. Including images of recently viewed listings, favorites, and even recommended listings allows KSL to connect to the user on a personal level. Not only will this increase user retention but it will also make buying and selling a whole lot easier.

Developing an all-in-one search engine simplifies the user’s process tenfold. Instead of having the user slowly narrow down search results by each section, have the computer do the work for them. Including features like recent searches and favorite categories, allows users to speed up the search process while still giving them flexibility. 

Bells & Whistles

Based on user feedback, I came up with a few forward thinking features that focus on the user’s overall experience. Mainly focusing on helping simplify the overly complex search and listing process.

First, I focused on the listing process. To build buyer/seller rapport, there needed to be more ways to help your post stand out. Things like item condition, brand, and tags are vital to help shoppers easily find your listing. The problem that already exists, is the fact that it takes time and effort to fill out everything needed to post a listing. 

One of my primary goals contradicted valid user feedback. That is when I came up with Smart Fill. Using modern technology, Smart Fill will compile the data of the title, description and photos to fill out the other form fields. This allows the user to add a listing effortlessly, while remaining an accurate and quick process.

Second, I wanted to improve the user’s offline experience. This is normally addressed with notifications. I wanted these to be tailored to each user’s specific needs. That way, no matter what reason you are on KSL, you have resources to help you buy or sell effortlessly.

 For active shoppers, I wanted to include a few features that make the buying process much more efficient. 

  1.  Shoppers are notified when an item you’ve been searching for is listed. When searching, the user can put a watch on a specific item. This can be especially helpful for items like cars and homes but also great for smaller items that are hard to come by. Like collectibles or antiques.
  2. Shoppers are notified when a favorited item goes down in price. When shopping for items slightly out of your price range, mark the listing as a favorite and receiving a notifications regarding updates and price drops. This can help buyers who are on the fence pull the trigger and sellers get their listings sold quickly.

For current sellers, I wanted to make it easier to keep track of listing activity and to interact with those who favorite their listings.

  1. Sellers can choose to be notified hourly, daily or weekly, filling them in on analytics. Informing the seller updated information regarding listing views, favorites and even when similar listings are posted.

These features can be customized to suit any user’s needs. They are designed to allow the user to determine how many notifications they prefer to receive in order to fully enjoy their experience. By default, they are turned on but mildly introduced. This helps users that aren’t accustomed to using notifications understand the value. 

Reflection

Filling In The Gaps

The primary concepts seemed fairly straight forward but they came with a few loose ends. Especially when it comes to building a user profile. 

Questions arose:

How are bought and sold items reported?

If items are bought in person, how can users receive reviews?

This is where the everything has to comes around full circle. I had to allow users to somehow connect while still maintaining a simple user-friendly process. At the end of the process, both users generally meet and exchange money for goods. I decided to fill the gaps by incorporating a Scan & Go payment process

When users meet to make the exchange, the seller finalizes the sale on the app then allows the buyer to select method of payment and scan a QR code on the app. The buyer will then be directed to the appropriate payment method to arrange payment. If the buyer is paying with cash, they can still scan to automatically record the transaction. For those who don’t use the Scan & Go process, there is a way to manually report the sale. It now includes options to list the seller, the payment method and the date, that way it will stay in your records as a transaction.

After a transaction is made using Scan & Go, both users receive a notice congratulating the user. Immediately afterwards, the user has a quick three question survey reviewing the interaction with the other participant. Asking simple yes or no questions like, “Did they correspond within a timely manner?” or “Was the product description accurate?”. This can be filled out immediately or snoozed to be done within 10 days from the transaction.

Scan & Go

Transaction Survey

Introducing The Updated Product

Handing off the new changes to existing members with an easy setup process. 

  1. Select favorite categories
  2. Set account preferences
  3. Edit visible profile information
  4. Set up payment method

Account Set Up Process

Wrapping up

User Feedback

Once the prototype was complete, the last and most important step was to conduct user testing. My primary focus was to verify that the initial challenge was met.

Once again, I conducted user interviews introducing the final product from beginning to end. I was pleased to find that not only were the users gratified with the updated product, they also easily understood and enjoyed the newer concepts such as Smart Fill and Scan & Go. It’s safe to say the project was a success.

Properly facilitating KSL not only helps the user experience but it also allows KSL to gather much more data to further enhance their platform as time goes on and the user’s needs change.

Conclusion

There were numerous things I learned from this personal project. The biggest take away for me was discovering the ideology that designing for the user means you are always evolving in the direction they take you. Every product is unique because they all have different users that interact in their own special way. I also learned that heavily focusing on early research and developing a solid understanding of the products framework saves a lot of time down the road. When you have a solid foundation, brainstorming and prototyping goes by so much faster.

I faced a few unexpected challenges along the way. Due to my years of experience using the KSL app, I already had a few enhancement features in mind prior to starting this project. After conducting early research, I realized how my anecdotal experience differs from others. In the end, I as the designer make the hard decisions, but balancing personal anecdotes with user data is always easier said than done. The second big challenge was learning that just because I come up with a great idea, doesn’t mean that the developers are capable of bringing it to life. A few of my design concepts include some more advanced development techniques. Understanding coding basics myself, I don’t believe any concept I’ve introduced are impossible to develop but with every project there comes constraints. I had to come up with a few back up plans for concepts like Smart Fill or Scan & Go. These are fairly new and more complex ideas by nature. I don’t solely mean difficult to code, but also potentially difficult to correspond with third party apps. Understanding constraints is important but it doesn’t mean you should limit your imagination.

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