Reinvent a product | Validate Start-up


I worked with Balloon Ventures and led the design of version 2 of Validate Startup – an entrepreneurial platform that launched at Northampton University, the University of California and London Southbank University. 


Role: Product Designer

Team: CEO, COO and Development agency overseas

Time: 3 months

Tools: Sketch, Just in Mind, Invision, Typeform, Zoom, Trello, Zeplin

Skills Mastered: User Interviews, Usability Testing, Workshops, Design Sprint, Product Backlog Management, User Stories, Wireframing, Prototyping, Visual Design



The Process

I was given total ownership on how I wanted to run the project and I decided to experiment with a Lean UX approach. This was a process that was easily understood by the rest of the team and allowed constant touch point with users and the CEO to ensure we were making constant progress in a user-centred way.

In the first two weeks, I set up a Sprint Zero to conduct formative research and I met with various stakeholders conducting interviews and workshops.


I ran a series of workshop with the CEO and COO to explore business aims and to evaluate their attitude to user experience. We created Proto-personas and built a Product Vision Board that set the tone of the project from the very beginning

UX Review

I conducted a detailed review of the current website based on the Nielsen heuristics and highlighted the key areas of improvement, mapped with business objectives


I conducted phone interviews with the universities that bought the platform, to discover more about how they used the platform and the plans they had for the future. I used this time to also talk to some of the current students using Version #1 of the platform to identify pain points and user goals.


At the end of week 2, I consolidated all the data collected and drew preliminary conclusions that helped to identify the main problems.

Considering that the limitation with budget and time were much tighter as being part of a small start-up, I ran a prioritisation workshop with stakeholders and developers to understand the areas of the website that was best to focus on. We looked at every single area and feature of the website and rated them based on price, time to design/develop and importance for users. This came to be an extremely important step in the right directions:

  • We uncovered high barriers in the development of the product due to legacy code
  • We clearly defined the scope of the project focussing on a specific target audience which was students. This left to a Phase 2 the development of the platform for teachers and admins


In week 3, I started a series of face-to-face usability testing to have more information about user behaviour on the platform. This added useful insights to the information gathered from phone interviews.

Due to budget constraints, I decided to conduct Guerrilla User Testing and approach students (our main user) in various universities across London. In one afternoon I could test the website with 5-7 students and gather useful insights to inform my design and keep a clear user-centred approach.

The following sprints followed the same simple, fast approach with a 1-week length. The beginning of the week was dedicated to wireframing ideas and during the middle of the week I  tested our designs in universities and by the end of the week, I refined the designs and collated the insights for the CEO and COO to review together.




User Research/Usability Testing

The best part of the project was the chance to iterate on our designs based on the results from the testings and the constant analysis of user needs and pain points. We analysed two main different user behaviours and I changed university to ensure I interviewed and tested the platform with users that were a good match for our personas. I used Trello to keep a log of the usability testing and to categorise the insights.


 User Research
Using Trello to keep track of the usability testing results and to summarise insights


Wireframes & Visual Design

I used Sketch to produce low-fidelity and high-fidelity wireframes. I also challenged myself and stepped out of my comfort zone working on Visual Design. I created a design system based on previously generated brand guidelines and experimented with colours to delight users and connect to them also at a visceral level.


Experimenting and testing different ways to visually show the filtering option




As part of my role, I kept regular contact with the development team based in Ukraine to update them with the finding from the user research and usability testing as well as to check any limitations we needed to consider for a new feature.

Once we felt comfortable with the amount of research and ideation, I used Trello and Zeplin to share final designs with the developers and annotate acceptance criteria in order for them to develop the right functionalities.

It was the first time managing the product backlog but it felt necessary to ensure that everyone in the team was on the same page and helped us to cut any uncertainty around designs. The acceptance criteria were detailed for everyone to know what needed to be developed and the reference to Zeplin and the Just in Mind prototype ensured that the final product was of high quality.