AIKON was founded with the goal of pioneering the world of digital assets, eg. software rights, digital music and video streaming, NFTs (Non-fungible tokens), etc., and providing a user controls to access them. We were excited by the world of blockchain and its ability to democratize and empower people all around the world to deliver and monetize their own assets, cutting out the middle men. The first use case the company would develop as a use case would be an API marketplace that allows anyone to publish their own individual APIs and get paid directly per use, kind of like APIs on demand.

I joined the AIKON team to fill their need for a dedicated Product Designer and help with the design and launch of this new marketplace. Here I worked on end to end design and delivery working off of some rough initial wireframes. Some of the design work involved include working with the marketing team and another graphic designer to establish an appealing brand and style for the product, building a design system for the UI, UX prototypes and coordinating deliverables to our off-shore dev shop who handled most of the front end, and final front end code clean up. By that last part, we found that much of the code that we received from our devs were not well modularized so I often had to go in and clean up the HTML and CSS to be production ready.

The initial user stories and business requirements we wanted for the marketplace were:
  1. The user should be able to browse the APIs even if not logged in
  2. Users should be incentivized to login and join the marketplace
  3. Users should be able to upvote APIs to rank and create the beginnings of a API dev community we would market to
  4. A user should be able to submit their own API to publish
  5. A user should be able to license any API and start using it
  6. A user should be incentivized to interact with the APIs to understand how it works, paid in tokens via our onboarding bounties
  7. Users should be able to purchase tokens that allow them to make API calls
  8. Users should be able to withdraw their tokens into their native FIAT currency

An initial site map to understand the different flows between authenticated and non-authenticated users. This was also useful to map out the required screens and some high level user flows.

User Archetypes
We identified a few user archetypes that we envisioned will burgeon this new digital age built and powered by the people. These archetypes would help us understand how to speak the same language as our users with regards to our copy and what their UX expectations are when browsing and understanding a new API.
The Decentralist
Crypto and blockchain savvy developers bent on decentralizing and democratizing the world. Focusing on blockchain technology, they prefer working with and supporting open source technologies and seek to build digital services powered by web3.0 tech such as smart contracts.
Interests - Working on decentralized applications, moving more of their income and money to digital currencies
Pain Points - Not a fan of paying for centralized systems, privacy conscious and likes to keep their assets and identity fragmented and protected
The Corporate Developer
Developers at large companies that are conscientious of scalability and are looking for solutions to support the business needs of their company.
Interests - Want more exposure for company APIs, new ways to monetize company tech
Pain Points - Manage and monitor their services, reaching international customers
The Indie Developer
Developers that are working on amazing services and technologies on their own, with small teams or as a side project. With so many ideas in the bucket list, they come to us with the promise of a much lower barrier of entry to get and monetize their ideas without the hassle of having to build and manage an entire system to support the life cycle of their API.
Interests - To launch their own app or novel solution, love the idea of digital goods, want to deliver something quick
Pain Points - Large fees from certain services, May be international and want the ability to launch and receive payment globally
The Investor & HODler
Crypto savvy investors looking to pick up any & every coin or token they can get their hands on for a profit. Will often dump tokens once they hit a major exchange for immediate ROI. HODlers are similar but are more looking to amass many different digital currencies with the dream of huge potential upside by getting in at the ground floor.
Interests - Cryptocurrencies and new tokens
Pain Points - When the market goes down
There was a wide range of expected customers because the market was hot for different cryptocurrency companies launching their own ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) so we wanted to market to these investors that would lift the company from funding issues while still providing real value to developers around the world who stood to benefit by being able to monetize their APIs.

The brand and site saw a few iterations to meet MVP deadlines so that we could launch and build up an audience before our own ICO for our tokens. API.market was to be the first use case and we felt strongly that having a functioning product would put us a step ahead of our peers who often raised funds on projected theoretical projects and marketing instead of live product.
Regarding the brand, the existing designs definitely needed an overhaul to have us look like a modern company in the cutting edge space of blockchain, and also to appeal to investors and fellow savvy developers alike. The team knew it wanted something slick, but needed help getting there. Here I coordinated with the marketing team and the visual designer to understand the brand we wanted to create and provided creative direction starting with the fundamentals, color palette, logo and typography.

The old logo that the team was working with when I joined.

After working with marketing and the visual designer, providing some creative direction, the visual designer came up with these drafts designs.

The final designs decided by committee. A great step forward!

The visual designer also did a provided a great start as a stand in UI/UX designer, but without having previous experience in web design, needed a bit of help here.

The initial draft mock ups that we started with did a decent job addressing some of the requirements for the site.

After several rounds of iterations including launching an early alpha version of the marketplace to get the ball rolling on the marketing front, this is where we ended up with the live product.
Working with the requirements, the site included a login and landing page, individual API details pages for users to learn about APIs and license them, and a user dashboard to keep track of licensed and published APIs and to view and manage their account funds.
The cryptocurrency aspect here is that transactions would be recorded on the chain via a CPU token which acted more like a credit for users, and the user would be able to freely purchase these tokens and use them to make API calls, or withdraw accumulated tokens for FIAT.

Metrics for Success
We identified several metrics to track the success of the marketplace:
  1. # of APIs published
  2. # of Users that have licensed an API
  3. # of Users that have made an API call
  4. # of API Calls made through the marketplace
We also included several surveys along the journey to both promote interacting with the marketplace and to educate users more about using APIs from the marketplace.
Post-Launch Results
After launching, and pushing hard on the marketing side with our own home grown bounty campaign to excite crypto enthusiasts, we had a few notable API publishing partners such as HADRON and LangNet, however in the market soon entered what is known as "Crypto Winter" and the lack of market growth and ultimately, the lack of meaningful API usage from our marketplace meant we hadn't yet found product market fit and many of the users landing on the site were more interested in investing rather than using the marketplace. Crypto winter also meant that we no longer had the timing to launch our own ICO token sale, and meant we couldn't float this project alone with the expected funds from that event.

Despite the lack of growth and setbacks, what we did stumble onto was another solution that was built into API.market, which was the ability to connect user accounts with blockchain wallets, a very familiar and seamless user onboarding experience, that was way better than the other crypto user onboarding experiences that we had seen thus far. This little feature was also what continued to wow our audiences, from investors, crypto talks and other events that we demoed our product, so we decided to take this product and run with it in what would eventually become ORE ID.
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