Beauty Discovery & Booking App

Company: Founders Factory, Role: Product Design Lead

UX Design UI Design Ideation Strategy Research Product Management Prototyping
Woman's hands holding an iPhone with the Belle app on screen

The fast and the fashionable

Founders Factory is a renowned startup accelerator and venture studio based in London and responsible for creating and supporting ambitious fast-growing startups. It is backed by some of the worlds most influential brands including Aviva, L'Oréal, Johnson & Johnson and Guardian Media Group.

The venture studio identifies market opportunities and works to craft an appealing mass-market solution that can quickly launch and monetise. A typical product founded within the venture studio has been designed rapidly over a couple of months using lean methods to gain quick traction. Projects are also supported by a wealth of research and data provided by the corporate partners.

During my time at Founders Factory, I was responsible for ideation and birthing of various businesses, including an on-demand style and beauty app named Belle. Working with L'oreal, Belle was designed to captivate the evolving beauty market and appeal to the cashed-up millenial beauty seekers.

The project's origin was with corporate partner L'Oréal looking for new ways to support independent beauty and hair salons in their effort to access younger digitally engaged customers. I worked across all stages of developing Belle, including research, ideation, prototyping and pitching.

Making the right cut

I set about understanding both sides of the market as much as possible. I conducted in-depth interviews with salon owners, hairstylists and beauticians; looking to better comprehend the problems they faced in their businesses. This research's key findings had validated my initial hypothesis; they were time poor and struggled to provide a highly personal experience due to busy schedules and a need to move quickly. Salon owners mainly felt they weren't competitive enough with the emerging digital platforms and couldn't provide the modern, digital sales experience customers expected.

Sticky notes and scribbles on a whiteboard
Collecting Insights: Laying out all the feedback and insights provided around the room helped us as we prepared to generate solutions.

I ran questionnaires and in-person interviews with our targeted young, digitally engaged and style-conscious women demographic to determine what features and offerings would get them into the stylist chair at a new salon. The insights from this discovery phase were revealing. The emerging pattern suggested that most felt they didn't have the confidence to try a different or alternative stylist. Additionally, they believed they didn't have the right vocabulary or weren't given enough time to explain to the stylist what hairstyle they would like to try.

I usually just save photos from the internet onto my phone and hope they understand what I want.

I also heard that many customers would come into a salon with example photos on their phone, usually from Google. Stylists appreciated this but mostly felt they didn't have enough time to ask questions about why the client had chosen those looks or time to prepare for that style. .

Stylish solutions

Armed with all these findings, I followed up with our survey and interview participants, presenting them with a list of solutions and features; collecting votes and responses that would allow us to quickly produce a desirable prototype for pitching.

Diagram showing the pages of the Belle app
Proposed Flow: The core flow of the proposed solution. Onboarding and creating a taste profile to identify suitable styles.

The proposition that received the most positive feedback and proved to have the most viability was a phone app that would allow users to discover highly curated styles and find a verified stylist who could deliver a chosen look. The app would also include the ability to book, schedule and pay for service instantly; modernising how most salons were operating and providing a reliable revenue stream to the product.

It would be great to tell or show the stylist what I like beforehand.

Belle would also offer stylists the chance to gather more relevant information about a client before sitting in the salon chair. Seeing customers' favourite styles from their companion app would give the stylist a rich understanding of how to best work with the customer and offer a truly bespoke service.

Research findings, business model, wireframes, and architecture diagrams were provided along with a design language and app interface; the Belle look and feel were inspired by glossy fashion magazines and Instagram, playing to the strength of users familiarity with both.

Two iPhones showing the Belle discover and style screens