Brian Orlando | Product + UX Designer
Brian Orlando
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Tapastic | Revolutionizing Comic Publishing and Reading

A platform for comic book creators and readers.

 

Tapastic

The Best Way to Read and Publish Comics for Web and Mobile Devices

 

Type
Mobile and Web Product for Tapas Media Inc. called Tapastic (now Tapas)

My Role
Product Strategy, Design Research, UX Design, Visual Design, Product Evaluation

Timeline
Mar 2013 - July 2015 (2+ years)

Goal

To design product features for the Tapastic platform (now Tapas) to increase comic reader engagement and growth and allow comic creators to easily publish and monetize their comics. We used a set of key metrics to keep track of these goals.

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted confidential information in this piece. The information in this piece does not necessarily reflect the views of Tapas Media.

 

Process

 
 

Research

Research as a product manager and designer at a startup was an ongoing, cyclical process.  Below were my most effective techniques to identify key user insights to increase user growth and engagement.

 

Customer Feedback

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To identify problems and potential opportunity areas with our interface to increase engagement and growth, I'd scan through customer feedback via UserVoice, email inquiries, and our app reviews. Using this data, I'd then create a list of high priority items to apply to the next update. I'd also create thematic groupings of customer needs to apply to major updates.

 

Product Analytics

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In addition to gathering qualitative feedback, I worked with our engineering team to set up our product metrics system. We used both Google Analytics and Mixpanel to measure product efficacy.

 

Semi-Structured Interviews

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To further understand the context of customer feedback and product analytics, I preformed semi-structured interviews often while guerilla testing our mobile and web interfaces. This really helped the team triangulate our data to identify key product insights to act on for major product updates.

 

Community Events

To build empathy with our creator and reader community, I'd join in on live streams and attend comic conventions, one of which was San Diego Comic-Con.

 
 

Competitive Analysis

A large portion of my role also involved monitoring the competition and identifying key areas in which our product could provide unique value to our users.

 
 

Key Findings

 

We identified the following reader needs:

Seamless Reading Experience

Readers wanted an all-in-one platform that allowed them to easily get caught up on all their favorite webcomics

Improved Comic Discovery

Readers wanted a quick and easy means of discovering the best new comic series on the platform


 

We identified the following creator needs:

Easy Publishing Platform

Comic creators wanted to focus on making comics and didn't want to have to worry about creating a website or app to publish their content

Reader Insights

Comic creators wanted to quickly understand which comics were bringing in the most reader engagement to improve the quality of their content

Monetization

Comic creators wanted a means of making money from their comics beyond low-paying online advertising

 

 
 

Ideate

In this stage of the design process, our team translated our research findings into ideas via sketcheswireframes, and interaction flows to share with both the content and development teams.

 

Sketching + Flows

Because we operated on a 2 week sprint cycle, sketches were the most effective means of low fidelity prototyping to communicate screens and flows to the development team.

Most interaction flows were done on white boards, or with a pen and paper given how quickly our team operated.

 

Wireframing

 

These are just a few of hundreds of wireframe concepts that I did. This would often have to be done very quickly to accomodate our 2 week shipping cycles.

 
 
 

Refine

In this stage of the design process, our team turned our ideas into high fidelity interfaces for the development team. This would often involve creating product specifications and style guides

 

Visual Design

The Daily Comic Snack, a collection of hand-picked comics sent out daily, helped readers discover new up and coming comics, and new creators get recognized by the community. Because this was a unique feature for the apps, it drastically increased our downloads and growth.

Seamless Reading Experience, Improved Comic Discovery

 

This Homepage design made it easy for readers to discover up and coming comic series. We also designed clear call to actions to download our Android and iOS apps to increase growth.

Improved Comic Discovery

 
 

The Creator Page outlined all the key value propositions for comic creators to publish on Tapastic. Having this page made our platform an easy sell to new creators.

Easy Publishing Platform

The Creator Dashboard made it easy for creators to see which of their comics were receiving the most engagement. It also gave them a snapshot of their monthly earnings from online ads and their Support Program.

Reader Insights

 

The Support Program allowed readers to financially contribute to their favorite comic creators monthly. In return they'd receive exclusive digital content. This provided a more stable income beyond online ad revenue for creators.

Creator Monetization

 

Red Lining + Speccing 

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Before handing off high fidelity designs to the development team, I'd create detailed redlines and specifications.

 
 

Ship

Shipping often involved burning the midnight oil with the development team to ensure all updates were ready to push. Once launched, we'd announce detailed updates to the community.  

 

Product Announcements

Immediately after shipping an update, I'd write product announcements on our company blog and forum to keep users up to date on the latest changes. I'd also make announcements on other communities such as Product Hunt.

 
 

Evaluate

After shipping an update, I'd evaluate our product's performance based on key metrics set at the beginning of the design process. I would then present those findings to the whole team. This helped increase transparency in regards to our product successes and failures.

 
 

Impact

After diligently working on the product, our team's efforts resulted in a number of noteworthy achievements: 

Reader and Creator Growth: Grew the product to over 1 million users and 9,000 comic creators.

Engagement Growth: Grew user engagement 7x (pageviews, likes, subscriptions and comments)

Featured App: Tapastic was featured in the comics section of the App Store.

Press: Tapastic was featured on Product Hunt and TechCrunch.

Creator Recognition: Helped numerous comic creators like the Awkward Yeti, theodd1stout, Lunarbaboon, Sarah’s Scribbles, and many more grow their readership and earn money.

*Special thanks to Daron Akira Hall and Chang Kim for their product design and product management mentorship.