Dribbble helps the world’s design talent share their creations and get hired. It has become a go-to resource for discovering and connecting with designers around the globe. This is the story of how we helped illustrators, logo designers and letterers share their process on the platform.
We worked independently from Dribbble, this was a self-started project.
We were a two-person team. Me, a designer, and Raul Riera, a developer. We’ve been a team for several years, supporting each other’s projects. We’re driven by uncovering user needs and pairing them with new technologies. Even though Dribbble’s acknowledgement is included at the end of this case study, this was an independent project from beginning to end.
Uncovering the opportunity
In 2014, Dribbble released their latest API update adding a lot more functionalities to play with:
“We know you can’t wait to like and comment from your preferred mobile application. Or to easily upload a new shot without having to open a browser.”
A year after the release, none of the 40+ apps available on the App Store offered the upload feature. Furthermore, the Dribbble mobile version itself didn’t have the upload option either.
Maybe it wasn’t a solution to anything. Why would anyone be interested in uploading screenshots from their phones? What do they need from Dribbble on the go?
We started researching products using this feature in other channels. Found some that allowed scheduling posts on desktop browsers and others allowed to publish from desktop design softwares. All desktop, no mobile publishing to be found.
We decided to test the waters and offer the app to key audiences to see how fast they’d jump at the idea of spearing a few minutes to use it. Time is what people guard the most these days so a positive answer would mean a lot to move forward.
What we got was more than a yes, we got our first pivoting opportunity.
Bringing people in
We cold-emailed the most active and engaged designers on Product Hunt, a site for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest releases. We specifically looked for the ones who submitted or commented on Dribbble products to increase our chances of getting a response. We asked if they were willing to try an app for Dribbble that allows them to publish shots from their phones. We were looking for reactions to the pitch and got the biggest, most insightful feedback from one of them:
“Great project! I’m probably not the best to test with as I rarely post photos from my phone anymore… Maybe logo designers might be better for beta testing? They always post sketch book stuff”
That’s it! You can’t take a screenshot of your pencil sketch, your watercolor illustration or your inked lettering work! What designers usually do is take a picture of it with their nearest camera, usually their phones, and somehow get them to their computers to be able to edit and post it. That sounds like too many steps to me.
Analogue shots on Dribbble
From left to right: Ryan Putnam, Ramotion, Eddie Lobanovskiy, Ross Moody.
Employers look for the process a designer goes through in a project. Dribbble is already the number one platform for them to search for great talent. Enabling designers to easily share their behind the scenes felt like a mission worth taken upon.
Testing the positioning with the right audience
We sent personalized emails to designers on Dribbble that were already going into the trouble of publishing analogue shots. Again, we offered to share the app with them but this time we made sure to communicate why it could be relevant to their field of work. We were looking to be either corrected or validated.
“Hey Vanessa, Sounds like a cool app. I wouldn’t mind checking it out. Thanks!”
This time email responses didn’t feel enough. We didn’t get the same rush of discovering something new. Maybe people will try it and dismiss it. Should we continue feeling like we have a blind spot?
We decided to expose the value proposition to a broader audience. To make it feel as real as possible we developed a landing page with the option to subscribe if interested in the app. This was going to be the defining moment. We would be ignored or have the final push we needed.
Exposing the value proposition to test reactions.
We posted the pitch and linked to the page on reddit (/r/dribbble/), Designer News and Product Hunt. No one replied to our posts, but luckily an influencer picked it up from the lonely “newest products” tab in Product Hunt and cross-posted it to Web Designer News. Notifications of new subscribers started to come in at a rate that you know is not normal.
It was picked up by an influencer in Web Designer News
We got a bunch of subscribers interested in the app
We now had people waiting for this product to be available. Not only that, being able to reach them through email presented ample opportunities for input at all stages -forming a partnership that will continue to be valuable beyond this phase. We were ready to start building!
Feeling validated, we started thinking about how the app would work. What does the API allow us to do? Starting with the technology is never a good approach. We ended up with a bloated list of features that our target audience didn’t need.
Then, we asked a better question: what do my users need from the API to be able to share their work?
We narrowed the desired functionality down to uploading. Our next step was to map out the tasks flow needed to publish a shot. One constraint that we encountered while doing this exercise was that the API didn’t replicate the upload process that users get when they used a desktop browser. There were holes like the ability to upload the shot before publishing, adding attachments and assigning to projects. This was a bummer, but we figured we could still offer enough initial value with the remaining tasks.
Mapping and prioritizing tasks / features
Introducing Playbbboard: Dribbble app for illustrators, logo designers and letterers to upload their analogue shots from their iPhones
To get more exposure for the release of the app, I wrote an article on Medium to list a few lessons learned from the product design experience. I’m a big fan of content marketing as opposed to traditional ads. This article showed the value of the app but also helped paint a picture of what is like to design your first product for people who have no idea how to start.
We received an overwhelming support from users who felt their advice didn’t go to waste. Users that appreciated being contacted in a personal level and ultimately were excited to give the app a try.
“All i have to say is BIG RESPECT! It’s really not easy to go from an idea to working shipped app. The app is super simple and smart, great job!”
With the amount of Dribbble apps already available on the App Store, we didn’t think Dribbble would notice another one. Don’t get me wrong, we mentioned them on Twitter like there was no tomorrow, but we were not expecting any response.
Imagine our surprise when the app got featured front and center in Dribbble’s weekly replay, an email they sent out to their entire user base! They actively recommended the app to the kind of users we built it for, in our opinion sealing the deal on validation since they’re the ones who know their audience the most.
We’re happy to see that the app is being used daily. Our early adopters continue to give us constant feedback and we continue to improve our product to make it better for everyone. We’ve already released an update and are working on bringing more visibility on our uses process.