Trey McKay

Building the future of consumer 3D-printing


3D TOOLS   /   E-COMMERCE   /   FRONTEND DEV

From 2013 to 2016, I helped design and build tools for easily buying, making, and selling 3D-printed products on Shapeways' eCommerce platform.

Context

I'm a digital design generalist with strengths in product strategy, functional interfaces, and frontend development. I have a background in visual design, and feel the most engaged when I'm working directly with engineers, building prototypes, and getting the details right.

When I joined the team at Shapeways, the product was already 6 years old and had been established as the leading online 3D-printing service and marketplace worldwide. As with all things, there was plenty of room for improvement and growth, and my focus from 2013-2015 was on improving Creator tools with design and code. I later shifted focus to work on Shop Owner tools which included customizable eCommerce experiences, and lastly I worked on a few site-wide navigation improvements among various other projects.

3D Tools for better 3D-printed products

In 2013, the biggest customer complaint with Shapeways' service was rejected orders (failed 3D-prints). The average rate of rejection on new 3D-printed products was hovering around 20% at the time. The business goal was to half that metric, bringing the total down to 10% of orders at the most. The customer experience goal was to eliminate rejected orders altogether since they were never a good experience.

Tasked with those goals, the Creator Tools team set out to solve the issue with software. Our strategy was simple - identify and flag potential issues as early in the process as possible.

Sound strategy, sound results

Due in part to our work on 3D Tools, rejected orders were reduced from ~20% to under 7% of all orders within six months of launch. Our strategic decision to target the design process made a lot of sense - and the numbers and feedback confirmed that.

Each avoided rejection saved time, money, and headache for both the customer and Shapeways. Reduced re-prints of failed products improved gross margins and factory operating efficiency across the board as well. NPS surveys showed the rejected order issue drop from the top 10 detractor list to number 12 overall.

3D Tools as whole was a win for our software team, as it was over a year of design, development, usability testing, and iterations overall. This project forced us to improve our customer feedback loops, get better at shipping iteratively, and leveraging an extensive beta-user test group for iterations.

Navigation designed for scale, context-switching, and mobile customers

Shapeways - like a lot of other community platforms - contains multiple different, yet related contexts based on user-type and task. There are creators, who need a web-app focused on utility and efficiency. On the other side there are typical eCommerce shoppers who need an intuitive (read: familiar) yet infinitely scalable navigation system for finding things in the long-tail of a community-generated marketplace ecosystem.

Shapeways navigation has undergone a few big iterations in my time at Shapeways, and two of them have been self-directed by yours truly. The first was a *mostly* visual design overhaul that focused on improving visual hierarchy though color and UI pattern updates.

A few of many, many lessons.

#1 - Learn from failure, but don't settle for it. When you're solving hard problems, the best solution rarely comes on the first try. Build process around this, build culture around this, and suddenly no problem is too hard.

#2 - Test assumptions. The earlier the better. Validate on paper early on. Validate with wireframes, clickable prototypes, or with code if you have to. But don't let unchecked assumptions or guesses frame your decisionmaking for too long, lest you're left with a shaky foundation.

#3 - The little details go a long way. And are usually a pain in the ass to get right. It's easy for teams to want to cut these first, but I'm a firm believer that loyalty and trust from your customers are hard to earn and easy to lose. As such, we have to get the little things right with what we make.

Shapeways user interface displayed on a laptop