Direwolf

Championing Zero-to-One Products

This case study demonstrates how to efficiently develop a new product in a fast past environment. It offers insights into my process and the UX methods employed within the given time and budget constraints. Additionally, I share workflow structures that facilitated smooth coordination, communication, and seamless design hand-offs to the engineering team.

My Contribution
Product Strategy
UX/UI Design
Wireframing
Prototyping
Branding
Role
Product Design Lead
Year
2023

Goals and Challenges

The Product

Direwolf is a freight marketplace that connects owner-operators and carriers to flatbed loads across the United States.

Biggest Pain Points

The complexity of moving loads.
  • Complicated customer journey for drivers
  • Antiquated booking method (wrong paper documents, late payments, many parties involved)
  • Poor experience for load ingestion on the shipper side

Biggest Pain Points

  • Direwolf entered a highly competitive market, with tech players like Uber Freight and Convoy already attempting to disrupt the industry.
  • After 8 months it became clear that the market was changing and contracting dramatically, which led to a shift in focussing on shippers rather than drivers.

Top Level Goals

Create simplified driver-centric process of moving loads.
Design a differentiating, best in class brand experience.
Craft a modern and connected platform to manage freight for shippers, support, and brokers.

The Process

Following a human-centered design process, starting with research, problem identification, and design exploration. Direwolf, being a startup, there was significant time pressure to deliver both the brand and product, with limited resources for user research. However, this situation was familiar from my years of self-employment, during which I successfully executed similar scenarios for numerous startups.

I embraced divergence and carried out interviews, competitive research and analysis, created user flows, and UI design simultaneously.

After 2–3 months, I consolidated the results into a cohesive product experience, marking the development of the Direwolf brand.

UX Research

Interviews

To validate product hypotheses and develop personas, I conducted qualitative interviews with potential users. The interview results were consolidated in Confluence instead of Google Docs, enabling the creation of a concise summary table highlighting key takeaways. This approach made the information readily accessible and facilitated team discussions.

Screenshot from populated interview table
Personas

The interviews reinforced the industry intelligence we possessed, unveiling two distinct personas: Local Ben and Longhaul Paul.

Local Ben, aged between 35-45, prioritizes regular working hours and aims to be home every evening to spend time with family. 
In contrast, Longhaul Paul, in his 50s with grown-up kids, drives to save for retirement and enjoys the adventure of cross-country travel.

Working closely with these personas helped our decision-making process.

Personas derived from interviews
Competitive Research

Fortunately, our affiliation with JLE Industries, our mother company, provided us with access to Uber Freight, Convoy, and several other competitors. This allowed us to closely examine their approaches and position ourselves strategically against them.

Overview of the competitors board with pros and cons at the top for each app
Social Media

I found valuable insights by searching for YouTube accounts that reviewed different apps and shared their experiences. These insights not only helped us understand our competitors' products but also provided a deeper understanding of our users' needs, proving tremendously beneficial to our overall understanding.

YouTube reviews from users working with Uber Freight and Convoy

Impact

Conducting the research helped gain insights into our users' desires, values, and aspirations. By uncovering their needs (See Limbic® Map), we were able to identify potential product features that address the deeper desires and create a more meaningful and satisfying experience.

For instance, when considering the implicit needs of our persona, Local Ben, we discovered that security and reliability were paramount. As Local Ben aimed for a regular, predictable income and preferred to be home every evening, we prioritized the development of a weekly scheduling feature.

Limbic® Map highlighting our personas implicit needs

Design

Every feature in the app was developed based on written requirements. To ensure a seamless user experience, we established clear principles for each feature, acting as guiding rails as I explored potential solutions.

Once we had a clearer understanding of the feature, we would collaborate with the engineering team to gather their feedback.

I found that engineering often had the most valuable insights and strong ideas in order to push and improve the user experience.

Example card exploration
Design Exploration

After confirming with engineering I started going into a UI design exploration.

Screenshot of the card exploration file
Excerpt

This is an exploration of the load card. The outcome was close to the design in the top right corner.

Keeping our competitors in mind whose cards are functional but not visually appealing, I tried to design a card that holds the information while being pleasant to the eye.

Example card exploration

Testing

We tested the product in different areas and stages. We did qualitative interviews where we shared prototypes with truck drivers and  sent out quantitative  survey emails.


Testing our early stage product as a prototype with the drivers helped us uncover misconceptions early.

For example fonts sizes were either too small or a lot of our users would have increased font sizes set on their phone which broke parts of the design in the app.

Learning about this early was very helpful to not loose speed in going to market.

Brand Experience

To address the aforementioned desires of our users, I wanted to test different color schemes by associating them with needs from the Limbic Map®.

I then created a simple Google survey, which we sent out to our potential users.

Admittedly, this survey was far from perfect, but it helped us get a signal. The results confirmed the hypothesis that a green color scheme would be associated with safety and wealth.

Workflow

My goal is to establish a structure that enables efficiency and scalability. Documentation, file structure, and the right tools are key to achieving this.

Confluence Wiki

Used to document all 
research results and to make them accessible outside of Figma.

Figma

I aimed to enhance the accessibility and discoverability of the design files, benefiting both our engineering team and our CPO in navigating them effectively.

Additionally, to ensure scalability, 
I prioritized establishing a transparent structure that would prevent me from becoming a bottle-
neck and facilitate the seamless onboarding of new designers.

Sprints

Working with the engineering team hand in hand helped delivering faster and better design.

The Outcome

Project Direwolf started in March 2022 and ended in March 2023. The trucking industry was heavily affected by the post-pandemic logistics market contraction. Nonetheless, our product received positive feedback from users and industry leaders.

The Direwolf app delivers a driver-centric experience that makes the driver’s lives easier. We achieved that by simplifying the booking process, turning active loads into a manageable and guided process. We have also made fast payments available to our users.

We accomplished that at launch while delivering a differentiating and premium in-app experience.

Thank you.