Vanlifers come together.
You've might've heard of it somewhere, and maybe seen it everywhere. Van life.
It's here to stay, and the industry is booming like never before as people from all roams of life embrace the sense of adventure, safety and promise of living in a van.
Could so much hype just be an opportunity in waiting? A need perceived was soon confirmed, and a product project is born.​​​​​​​
Clear & present need...presented.
After only a number of months working as a Van Build Project Manager, phone call after phone call and emails as many made it clear.
People need help with their van build projects.
Just as any business may attest, professional van builders face constraints brought on by labor availability, customer timeframes, and most of viability.
Enter the Van Build.
Regardless of the type, van builds are hard.
Any for-profit business is required to evaluate the return on investment of limited resources.
After understanding the massive difference in project scope between partial builds & full builds, a need unfolded.
Van builders desire to help everyone, but due to business needs...simply cannot!
I found myself having to continuously turn away paying Partial Build customers, because we didn't have the labor force, nor the financial viability to accept smaller jobs on timeframes we couldn't realistically meet.
Take a look at what I was hearing:
The Idea & The Value Proposition
In line with the Lean UX Process, I made an assumption based upon a need I perceived.

Assumption: We can fulfill multiple needs by connecting partial van build customers with independent tradespeople looking for work in the van industry.
Before things began, it became clear that this was a value proposition that required (2) parties to be realized:

1. The Partial Van Build Customer
2. The Independent Van Builder / Tradesperson
One could not exist without the other. Thankfully, survey says...
User research begins!
A user survey was created using a variety of methods to generate effective questions that could lead to insight:
User Interviews with pre-screened tradespeople and customers interested to share how they desire to work
•Empathizing with customers through empathy maps & the11-Star Review Brainstorming Exercise
Conversation mining Facebook van build groups & buyer persona interviews
The survey would then be used to understand user needs, user goals, and pain points that would be solved by product features.
***Skip to Next Section (Feature List) if uninterested in research methodology / results***
11-Star Review: Feature Brainstorming Exercise
Empathy is a highly effective mental-emotional process for gaining practical insight in the user experience realm.
This exercise uses emotions associated with varying degrees of customer satisfaction to generate real features that may have theoretically contributed to an equivalent experience.
I was super surprised by how practical and interesting the exercise proved to be and I found myself actually incorporating features arrived at during the exercise.
The User Survey.
Prior user research can be used to maximize the effectiveness of questioning in costly and critical user surveys.
Gathering survey responses isn't easy and is both time-consuming and expensive.
I was able to garner extremely helpful insights using a combination of exploratory questioning and direct, feature-related inferential questions.
Using Data for Insight
Data sets generate insight through objective interpretation of their distribution, but also through viewing that distribution in relation to the question itself.
Fairly reliable data inferences can be made to uncover user needs, such as emotional pain points that arise while seeking to accomplish a task.
For example, in Question 5, it's clear that upwards of three-quarters or more of respondents prefer to have work completed in a location away from their residence. 
This realization empowers UX Writing to form trust with the user by vocalizing this need at this point in the user flow. This knowledge also informs effective Journey Mapping and Feature Prioritization.
The Feature List.
After all user research has been completed, compiling the full list of user needs, goals and pain points allows for translation of the points into product features that serve the purpose of meeting each point.
Listing each feature by user persona prepares for the next steps in the Lean UX Process centered around establishing information architecture and user flows.
Card Sorting for structure.
Card sorting is an effective method for intuitively arriving at a basic information architecture.
Grouping similar features also informs the first iteration of the user flows.
It's really cool to see all of the prior work arrive into a left-to-right visual to guide next steps.
Choosing a Brand Voice
A brand voice is not just a fuzzy exercise to do once then toss aside.
Done right, it's a living document that should be kept nearby during every content strategy session and even while writing copy.
Three to four aspects is plenty to begin thinking about copy like never before, and it should always compliment the needs of the user. Always.
Minimum Van Process: The Customer Side
We are pleased to present to you, the first process. As always, some changes occur.
Helping customers post their build. Their van. Their terms.
Project in motion.
sideroads is moving towards funding efforts as finishing touches on primary user flows are performed.
Usability testing will be used to verify achievement of key user tasks prior to launch.
Stay tuned and thank you for reading!
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