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Axial's Sell-Side Experience

Helping business owners & investment bankers connect with the right capital providers to grow or sell their companies.

Selling a company is always a big challenge, and part of that is finding the right buyer. Investment bankers want to connect their clients (CEOs and business owners) with institutions who understand the value of the business. Axial's algorithm and confidential platform connects them discretely with the right institutions who might otherwise be outside of their network.

My Role

January 2017 - June 2017     |    1 Designer, 1 PM, 5 Developers

As design lead on the project, it was my responsibility to work closely with product managers, engineers, and other stakeholders to prioritize features, conduct user research and craft the user experience itself.

You can also read about this project from my Product Manager's perspective in this Medium post.

Axial's Users

Axial's market place is composed of those seeking capital (selling businesses or raising debt) and those providing capital (buying businesses or lending capital). Users seeking capital are CEO's of small to mid sized businesses (under $30 million in revenue), or businesses represented by an investment banker. These investment bankers may only be handling a few deals a year, and although they are well connected, they do not have as many resources as institutions like Goldman Sachs.

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Problems

Over the years, the product had accumulated user experience and technical problems. Interviewing users, watching Inspectlet behavior, observing sales & support calls, metrics tracking, and meeting with our customer support staff were all sources of learning about the frictions our users had with the platform. The issues couldn't be solved with any one new feature or incremental improvements. In order to improve the product, we needed to rethink the entire experience. 

  1. The home page lacked a clear CTA, and the newsfeed showing users' activity on the site opened up many CEOs to receiving frequent spam from brokers.
  2. The "Publish" button created confusion & concern for users wanting to bring their deals privately to the platform. The perception that their deal would be public caused many to leave the process, and created bad brand perception.
  3. The lack of clear CTA, and hiding matches created confusion.
  4. The CTA "Move to Deal List" was not well understood, and users became confused what to do for next steps.
  5. Looking for more information on the match popped a too small window that also lacked some important information.
  6. "Acess Granted" was not an easily understood mental model, and some users became confused as to what information their match had access to.

These smaller problems accumilated to larger ones:

  • Poor match results between buyers and sellers due to insufficient information when creating projects.
  • A perception that Axial was not private, and that it was a public listing site for companies selling.
  • A confusing user experience on the platform. Copy and user flows that were out of touch with the way our users worked, created a service people did not want use. This also lead to a heavy reliance on our staff services.

Process

Defining the scope of work and prioritizing problems was a collaboration between the VP of Product, Design Manager and Product Manager.  I mapped the seller's user experience from initial project creation to the final interactions with a buyer. I brought in other team members across the organization for feedback. This stage is where product management and design started establishing language, mental models, and a user flow that would be carried into the rest of the work.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 10.36.01 AM

Sellers receive hundreds of matches for their project and each match contains the same basic information (financial range, industry, match strength). In order to sort through so much information, and dive in deeper in to interesting matches, we came up with a core dashboard experience. I created a prototype in Google sheets to allow for quick information hiearchy iterations across the team.

Rough paper sketch let me explore larger interactions, such as in-line detail expansion versus a card slide out for the dashboard page, at an early throw-away stage. 

I explored what content should go on the homepage (notifications or activity feed? most recent projects or all projects?), before comitting to digital.

Understanding space constraints was easier in digital wireframes for the details tab. Once in digital wireframes, I was able to stress-test things like text lengths and scrolling height. 

We tested out a prototype with people fitting our customer profile, whether or not they were Axial members. Research participants tested clickable prototypes via Invision share, and we visited some at their offices.

A few lessons from these sessions, that were incorporated into design changes:

  • Some language was confusing (ex: difference between a project & campaign, "save for later", "Draft")
  • Financial infographics were more easily read than if the information was written out
  • "Send Teaser" was a more confusing CTA than "Contact"
  • Users were not motivated to continue tracking their interactions after initial document sharing

The initial product launch was a lean MVP, containing only the most essential features. Most of the scope was determined by the VP of Product, who was motivated to get the project launched on time and demonstrate the team's capability of following up with quick iterations. Designs for follow-up features (such as filtering lists, bulk actions) were created and prioritized based on users' feedback. Below is the design as it exists currently on the site.

Improvements

  • A better & more transparent matching algorithm based on more relevent data. Using Harvey balls and infographics, the matching is explained in a detailed slide-out.
  • More sophisticated copy that used industry language and was easier to understand.
  • A user interface that was easier to navigate and use. This included a better flow of moving contacts from "New" to "Contacted" once matched, an information form that could be edited and checked as one page, and a way to see conversational history on the deal.

Example: Filters

Filters are an example of a carefully considered detail. Creating a component with a reuseable pattern was essential, so that it could be used on other parts of the site (such as homepage and buy-side). The drop down expands into a module containing other modules, and can be placed at the top of various dashboards. 

Outcomes

The key metrics we tracked (project completion & project sending) initially dropped with the launch due to a number of factors. A slower, buggy platform created a lot of friction, but over the weeks the team shipped fixes and feature improvement at a quick pace. Those metrics have sense gone back up. Simple design iterations like changing copy from "Draft" to "Not Shared", adding an explicit "Select All" button, and the ability to export the contacts list to .csv created greatly improved user experiences.

Thankfully we've also received positive feedback, such as:

“Thank you so much, this is really great. I don’t think you guys could have made this any easier to use.”

“More on the UX - I think the more users log in and see the updates, for those who need to give Axial another shot, they'll be inclined to use this again because of its straightforward direction. I think more adoption will come from this interface because of the overall clarity and dare I say... beauty... it's aesthetically pleasing :) "

“This tool is absolutely terrific. We love it.”

“We’re slapping ourselves on the head for not using this sooner.”

Selected Works

AxialProduct Design

CircleUp BrowseProduct Design

CircleUp User ProfilesProduct Design

WritingProject type

BetterBoxProduct Design