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modelhouse

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Project Overview

Scenario

In order to succeed in the fashion world, a model usually signs with an agency. These contracts often grant full power-of-attorney to the agency and are not conducive to transparent business practices. This can leave the model with minimal knowledge and control over the state of her work opportunities and finances. I wanted to find out how to give models more autonomy over their careers. 

Goals
  • Make it straightforward and easy to find and connect with job opportunities

  • Increase financial transparency and ensure timely payment

  • Allow models to showcase their portfolios and brand image 

Challenge

Help models achieve greater control over their careers.

My Role

UX/UI Designer and Researcher

Tools

Sketch, Marvel, InVision

Discover

Process
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Empathize

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Define

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Ideate

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Prototype

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Test

Discover

Empathize

Secondary Research

For the most part, the way fashion models obtain employment isn't public knowledge. It was through working in the industry personally and reading through several agency contracts that I realized how little independence models have over their job prospects despite being classified as "independent contractors."  

In April 2020, the Model Alliance, a New York-based advocacy group, conducted a small survey to shed light on some of the issues facing models. Financial challenges were at the heart of many of the respondents' anxieties with already-existing payment issues being further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the time of the survey:

  • 55% of respondents said that clients still owed them money

  • 49% said that their agencies still owed them money

  • 30% said they had outstanding payments for which they had waited more than 90 days 

  • 45% said they were concerned that they would receive fewer jobs if they requested extra protections due to the coronavirus 

User Interviews

To gain a better understanding of the issues facing models, I recruited five participants who had worked professionally in the industry and were currently or had previously been signed with an agency. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I conducted these interviews over the phone or Skype.

Some of the main concerns that were expressed centered around financial matters, agency transparency, body image, and control over personal schedules. 

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"I don't know if I'm going to be paid two months from now or 6 months from now or a year from now..."
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"I was told quite a few times to lose weight so that I can fit sample sizes that were usually 2-4 which is really slim for the average grown woman."
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"My agency is in charge of which clients I get pitched for. There's not really anything I can do to control whether I get work."
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"I often won't know I'm booked for a job until the day before. It's so hard to have a work-life balance."
Affinity Mapping

I jotted down the comments that felt particularly insightful or relevant onto post-it notes and placed them on my wall into groups based on common themes. The five main categories that arose helped clarify to me what models enjoyed about the industry, what they perceived as the drawbacks, the role of the agency, the particularities around being paid for jobs, and the importance of self-promotion. 

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User Personas

Based on what I had learned about the general behaviors and attitudes that the average model might experience in her daily life, I came up with two main types of users for my product: the full-time professional model and the aspiring part-time model.

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How Might We?

To clarify the core issues that I'd be addressing through my designs, I came up with several How Might We questions.

  • How might we help models achieve greater control over their schedules?

  • How might we provide aspiring models with the resources they need to break into modeling?

  • How might we help connect models to clients directly?

  • How might we help models experience greater control over their finances?

  • How might we help models achieve greater control over their image/brand?

Design

Define & Ideate

Brainstorming

Based on these "how might we" questions, I put pen to paper and sketched out some bare-bones ideas for possible solutions.

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User Stories

After selecting a solution idea, I identified the functional needs of my product by considering the various tasks a model might want to accomplish on the platform. I prioritized these tasks from most critical to least critical to determine which ones should inform my Minimum Viable Product (MVP)—the version of my platform that would contain only the most essential features. 

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Sitemap

Now that I had clarified what the main tasks would be, I sketched a diagram of the various pages a user might interact with on a website version of this platform.

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User Flows

Next, I considered the series of individual steps my user would take to achieve her primary tasks. I crafted these into two red routes.

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Mobile Sketches

Using the red routes I crafted, I took the first step towards turning these ideas into something tangible by sketching out a mobile representation of what the screens could look like.

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Guerilla Testing

I then conducted a guerilla usability test on five participants to gain quick feedback and an understanding about what aspects of my designs were working so far and what might require adjustment. Some ideas that emerged from these sessions included:

  • An option to browse through job listings before committing user information 

  • An option to skip through some of the required sign-up steps during onboarding

  • Clearer navigational icons

  • Clickable "info" icons to clarify why certain information is being asked of the user

Validate

Prototype & Test

Low Fidelity Wireframes

Using what I'd learned from my guerilla testing, I began the process of digitizing my wireframes into low-fidelity form to get a better sense of where to place my elements and how I would construct my overall layout.

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Edge Cases

The next step was to consider any unusual scenarios the user could encounter and design for this ahead of time. Thinking about edge cases allowed me to reflect on areas of friction that might otherwise come up in later stages of the design process. 

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Wireflows

Lastly, I combined the low-fidelity wireframes with my user flowcharts to create wireflows. These allowed me to showcase specific interactions that the user would have when working through common tasks on the platform.

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Building the Brand & Style Guide

I had to get clear about what my product represented in terms of its values and vision. Putting together a moodboard allowed me to visualize the essence of my product and then harness this into creating a style guide (Note: Booked was the initial name of the platform before it evolved into ModelHouse).

Browse Jobs and Add to Profile 
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Establishing rules and standards for my platform would help in creating a sense of consistency. Based on my brand's personality and attributes, I created a style guide by choosing elements that represented its values of transparency, empowerment, professionalism, and reliability

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High Fidelity Prototypes 

Now that I had my low fidelity wireframes, brand platform, and style guide as references, I produced a series of high fidelity mockup screens for the user to onboard, browse or submit to job listings, and create a profile

Onboarding
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Browse & Submit
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Add to Profile
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Usability Testing

To figure out what was working and what would need improvement in my designs, I had to test out my hifi prototype on users and assign them tasks to complete. After two rounds of usability testing with ten different participants, I discovered relatively minor areas of friction that could use adjustment.

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Examples of Modifications

Before

After

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In the photo on the left, the original "add" button lacks sophistication. As seen in the second photo, I modified this by decreasing the size of the cross, changing its color to a more subtle gray, and placing a slightly translucent white circle beneath it. 

Before

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After

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I added the call time on each listing under "my jobs." I also added a screen to show what it would look like when the user clicks on the confirmed job to review details.  

Before

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After

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I added a "favorite" function so that users could save jobs that they're interested in revisiting, but not immediately ready to apply for. After the listing is "hearted," a small heart icon shows up in the lower right corner on the listing in the listings section. 

Modified Prototype

After making several modifications based on my usability test findings, I managed to create a more polished iteration of my prototype. 

Interactive Prototype

Reflections & Next Steps

Working on this project required that I frequently revisit the needs of a ModelHouse user. Most importantly, how do I create trust in an industry that isn't known for its transparency? How do I build a professional platform that will set a model up for success while also making it friendly and delightful to use? 

My final prototype testing session indicated to me that ModelHouse was off to a good start with users commenting that the product was straightforward and easy to navigate. If I were to expand futher on this project, I'd have many opportunities to experiment with adding more advanced features as well as potentially opening up the platform to other types of creatives. 

  • Add a balance section so that models can manage their finances

  • Enable models to set their own rates

  • Design a direct messaging function

  • Create a version of ModelHouse for clients

  • Open ModelHouse up to other creatives who want to collaborate such as photographers, stylists, makeup artists etc.

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