The project in a nutshell: develop a harmonious design language that can be shared by Groupon & The Point, allowing us to easily reuse ideas for both sites, while preserving a distinct experience and mood for each site.
The Point, launched in November, 2007, lets anyone start a campaign asking people to give money or do something as a group, but only if the campaign hits a predetermined tipping point. By building a critical mass of like-minded people before taking action, The Point makes collective action easy and efficient. Learn more here.
All campaigns on The Point follow a general structure if X, then we, the members, will Y. We the members will give money or do something, but only if X happens. This basic model can be used for everything from arranging a party to boycotting a multinational corporation to organizing a fan-based bid for a major league baseball team.
In late 2008, we decided to step up a search for a business model for The Point. One of the options we’d been thinking about from the beginning was group buying – use The Point to offer a product at a discount, but only if a certain number of people sign up – enough people to make it worth it for the business to take lower margins.
We wanted the group buying experience to be dead simple. Campaigns on The Point can be used for a wide range of things – that’s nice, but it also contributes to a sense of “what is this place exactly?” that is a barrier to entry for casual users. We wanted to get all that stuff out of the way and create a focused experience for people who are looking for deals. For a number of reasons, we also decided to start with a narrow geographical focus – things to do in Chicago (our hometown).
Thus, Groupon was born in November, 2008 – a site that features a deal a day on something to do in Chicago. The guts of Groupon belong to The Point – you’ll notice all the action happens inside a The Point campaign widget that has been skinned in a Wordpress blog. We did it that way to get it running quickly, knowing we’d integrate it into The Point if and when it started to look like we were onto something – and that’s just what’s happening.
We’ve pushed Wordpress as far as it can take us. Now, we’re gearing up to integrate Groupon into The Point. We’re doing this for a few reasons:
When I talk about “integrating” Groupon into The Point, I don’t mean they’ll “feel” like the same site. Groupon and The Point have different audiences – people looking for deals in Chicago, and (mostly) people looking to do good, respectively. Each site will maintain its own identity – we don’t want deal-seekers to be forced to contend with activism campaigns, and vice versa. While we’re pulling Groupon into The Point’s codebase, that is so it’s easier to add functionality; it’s a top priority to preserve Groupon’s focus and simplicity.
Looking at Groupon and the same campaign being displayed on The Point, you’ll notice that we’ve laid out the information differently on each site. In some cases, the variations reflect the requirement differences between Groupon and The Point. But in other cases, we just found a better way to do it on Groupon. We want to look at each difference between the two sites, and say, “is there a reason it shouldn’t be this way on both sites?” By doing so, we think we’ll be able to reduce the differences to a small enough number for a harmonious design language to be established.
If we can establish a common design language that is shared by Groupon and The Point, it will allow us to repurpose the elements that are shared by the two sites and develop both sites much faster. I’m speaking mostly of information architecture – can we reach a stylistic middle ground that allows us to reuse elements like user profiles and discussion?
The best analogy I can think of is Google. Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Reader are clearly different sites, but they use a common language that makes it easy for Google to repurpose page elements across the sites.
Depending on how much background you have in UX, we’ll probably do the preliminary IA work in house, i.e. we will develop an initial “unified” wireframe for you to design against. Our familiarity with the model and all its edge cases makes it easier for us to put something together quickly, but we’ll be looking for your input on the overall sanity of our IA decisions.
We aren’t looking to do a major redesign of either site – just the minimum necessary to achieve our goals. This project will be limited in scope and time (no more than a week or two), but if we like working together, we have a lot of ongoing design needs and we’d like to have a trusty standby.
We’re looking to get this project started in February and wrap up by mid-March, at the absolute latest.
To apply, send examples of your work to andrew at the point dot com.