Experience from the development of a digital match-making platform
Since the summer of 2017 Invio has developed a digital match-making platform - Invio_match. The following are Invio’s experiences from the process.
During the Knowledge-Bridge-Project that is supported by the Danish Agency for Research and Innovation, Invio received a grant for the development of a digital match-making platform for experience industries. The platform originated from Invio having identified a large need among the network’s members, to investigate the potentials for implementing technology to support experiences. Generally, insights and knowledge are sought about what types of new technology exist, and how these can be used by experience industries to create innovative experiences. It is precisely that need, which Invio_match seeks to meet.
In order to further investigate the needs of experience enterprises, the process started by conducting interviews with the target group, that represents experience industries (e.g. attractions, amusement parks, museums etc.), technology companies and researchers.
The interviews focused on how the target group currently collaborates with other organizations and, in their view, which functions are essential for a match-making platform.
The insights obtained from this became the foundation for a so-called wireframe with which one can sketch the shape and layout of an interface. That made the functions more concrete and it was easier for Invio to describe the ideas for a platform. Wireframes are useful at the start of a design process, as they are often made with sketches or software that make them cheaper and faster to produce.
Then, as more ideas came in and the wireframes were adjusted to accommodate them, Invio began to construct a digital prototype. The purpose of this was to test the target group’s interactions with the platform early in the process so that eventual changes could be handled quickly. It should be pointed out that the interactions made possible by the prototype, almost gave the impression that it was a finished product. The prototype functioned as a path through the platform; a path from which it was impossible to deviate. The positive aspect of a prototype is that it is relatively cost-free to make design changes, while at the same time allowing the target group to test something that appeared to be fully ready.
In order to validate the core functions of the prototype, Invio held a series of workshops with the target group. Here, they were introduced to the prototype and had the opportunity to give feedback, which then became the basis for new adjustments.
After a series of tests and adjustments to the prototype, the platform was ready for development.
The first version, made by the developer was based on the adjusted prototype, but with an improved design. (See the picture below).
As can be seen, the first version was far more detailed and, not least, made real interactions possible.
The next step in the process was to get the first version of the platform tested by the target group. Here, we found it important to ensure that this test was not carried out in ”workshop format” as had been the case with the test of the previous platform, but instead was done with individual representatives of the target group, who could give more in-depth answers. Three key players in the experience-industries sectors in North Jutland agreed to be testers, as they would be able to see the relevance of such a platform. As the tests were in interview format, we received in-depth feedback on the individual functions, which were extremely positive. We passed the feedback to the developer, who used it to improve and adapt the platform into Version 2.
Following this, the platform was presented to a series of workshops that gave participants the opportunity to provide more feedback, and made it possible to begin marketing the platform.
Once we had received enough feedback, the final adjustments were made to Invio_match.
We noticed that the feedback we were receiving from the various tests and workshops was starting to overlap, which we took as a sign that the platform was ready to be launched as a beta version.
Invitations to become beta-users were sent to all members of Invio and, as a result, 50 companies became beta-users. The beta-period was primarily concerned with stress-testing the platform and finding any faults in the backend when so many people used it simultaneously. As expected, we identified a couple of needs for improvement, and the developer took care of them, which led to the final version of Invio_match.
The platform is now open to the public, which means that all companies that fall within the scope of the target group can lodge an organizational profile and get access to all the functions of the matchmaking platform. It is Invio’s ambition to make the platform into a tool that that will become part of the network’s range of activities for helping experience industries to match make. Therefore, Invio also wishes to urge members and other interested parties to upload their projects to the platform when they contact Invio.
What have we learned?
It is important to get a clear, in-depth understanding of the target group and their current collaboration processes. A digital matchmaking platform deals with collaboration between companies, which makes it essential to know the target group’s working methods, so they can be transferred digitally. We handled that through interviews and workshops that worked as intended and made it possible to further elaborate on qualitative answers.
- Find ambassadors from within the target group.
As already mentioned, our target group comprises technology companies, researchers and the experience industries. We had a strong focus on the last named, as it is their projects that will drive the platform. We recommend finding ambassadors from among the target group members who have previously signaled their willingness to become test-persons for the platform. This makes the process easier to manage, as one can agree on tests with them beforehand and thus plan for what comes after.
- Test, test, test... and test
Tests are essential for the development of a digital matchmaking platform – just as for all other digital development projects. Even though one tries to incorporate various functions, one must always remember to test the extent to which they function as intended, and find eventual errors and omissions, according to the target group. In other words, one must remember that you are not your own target group, so one is obliged to use the real target group to evaluate one’s product.
In addition, we also believe that an agile approach to development is ideal. An agile process pre-supposes many tests and product adjustments on a continuous basis. This ensures that one does not end up with a digital product that one believes to be ready, only to discover later that there is still a need for many adjustments.
As we are concerned here with a brand-new platform that the target group will want to use actively, it is important to ensure that the content is completely adequate. In this case, the content consists of inspirational material in the form of cases from others in the experience industries, together with insights into different technologies. The idea is that Invio_match shall become more or less self-operating by users who have the time. Although the platform will need a certain amount of content before the users start to employ it actively. For now, the content will be generated by Invio using cases from other experience actors in Denmark.
In addition, Invio and other interested actors will also use the platform actively in network activities so that members and other interested parties are introduced to it – in other words, there is a lot of marketing work.