Hire Me Direct

Find the right person for the job


User research, strategy, IxD


UX optimization of
contractor portal


Prototyped and pitched
March 2016

The Brief

Hire Me Direct came to us for help in improving a pre-existing digital experience where contractors providing A/V services could connect with A/V freelancers that would help in carrying out large event contracts.

The Challenge

Our assignment was to optimize the buyer portal experience, whereby a contractor could search, hire, manage and pay a freelancer should they fit the criteria for the job.

Our Approach

Our approach was to start exploring the analog domains of event planning and A/V services. By understanding how key players in the domain operated, we were able to pick the appropriate models that solved their analog pain points.


Our primary goal was to understand the event planning and A/V domains along with the behaviors of its key players. Given the niche area we were exploring, finding users that fit the target profile was difficult.

Interviews and Affinity Mapping

We asked our client for SME contacts, whom we consulted for their knowledge on the target user, and their ability to provide contacts for initial user interviews. After gaining a better idea of the target user profile, we were able to source more interviewees from our personal networks.

Key Insights

  • Experienced contractors have established networks of trusted freelancers
  • Inexperienced contractors have not yet established their networks and tend to use online resources like Crewspace.
  • A freelancer's location weighs heavily when looking to hire on short notice
  • Current users of the service do not use it for it’s intended purpose of “finding the right guy” but rather use it to process payments in order to avoid the hassle of dealing with legal paperwork

Affinity Mapping

Through our interviews, we learned that referrals were everything in this industry. This was a community of connected professionals who preferred to work within their own networks. We took the insights from our interviews to create a task model of the contractor's journey.

Task Model

Originally stemming from a whiteboarding session, the task model we created allowed us to visualize the contractor's process and identify potential off ramps in their journey. In order to communicate our understanding of the contractor's process to our client.

Key Insights

  • Off ramps are abundant when contractors fail to source freelancers from within their network
  • A rental house or online resource (like Crewspace) is only referenced after all avenues of contacts have been closed

Task Model Whiteboarding

After getting a better idea of our users, we performed a competitive market analysis of the A/V freelancing space to get a better idea of Hire Me Direct’s competitors.

Competitive Market Analysis

Our market analysis comprised of 3 potential competitors in the live events sector, and 3 competitors in general freelancing.

Key Insights

  • There are limited tools for communication and scheduling
  • Many services in the live event space do not offer payment processing

Competetive Market Analysis


The insights from our research exploration allowed us to accurately define who our users were, how they behaved, and what their frustrations were. We presented our synthesis of the target user in form of proto-personas.


Synthesizing our user research into proto-personas allowed us to notice trends in the experienced and inexperienced contractors' frustrations. Both user groups had issues with the lack of management and payment tools available in the market today.

The Experienced Contractor


  • Provide exceptional service to end clients
  • Hire trusted specialists well in advance
  • Streamline crew scheduling and payment process


  • Outdated scheduling and document management tools
  • Inefficient communication management
  • Laborious process for finding skilled technicians

The Inexperienced Contractor


  • Build a reputation for good work in the industry
  • Find the right technicians in a quickly
  • Streamline scheduling and payment process


  • Small network of trusted contacts
  • Assessing risk of finding a tech outside of immediate network
  • Managing payments and legal overhead

We noticed a particular theme in our investors’ frustrations and identified that as the overarching problem that needed to be solved.

A/V service contractors lack adequate tools to find skilled freelancers, manage the jobs they place them on, and pay them without hassle after the job.

As a first step in shaping our solution, we established a set of product values. Product values ensure that any decision made in regards to the product (from features, content structure and copy to layout, color and typeface) align themselves to the core needs of the target user and the overarching problem trying to be solved.

The product values we created in this specific instance sprouted from our insights on the needs and frustrations of the inexperienced contractor and sub-contractor.

Product values


Hire Me Direct needs to scale to a larger audience and acquire 10 more technicians in 10 major cities. This platform could start that conversation and grow to a scale beyond those limitations.


Anybody from various skill levels should be able to use the site, work among their circles, attain new skills and grow their own freelance business.


Low level technicians now have the opportunity to work on a platform that caters to their industry and grow their own circle of contacts.


Clients won't use this service unless they can advocate it’s value by establishing; trust transparency and open communication with their technicians.


The selective vetting process reinforces the ability to get the best professional technicians in the field and ensure a quality product.



Based off our definition of the problem and product values, we were able to focus on a core feature set to build the solution around.

Our core feature set comprised of:

  • Enhancing the scheduling tools
  • Building communication channels to ensure good management
  • Streamlining payment for quick and easy financial transactions
  • Establishing a network of easily discoverable freelancers with strong reputations

With this, we were able to explore different implementation models through a best-in-class analysis.

Best in class analysis

    Models Explored

  • Scheduling and project management: Basecamp
  • Search, filtering, and payments: AirBnB
  • Professional networking: LinkedIn

Given our insights on effective models from our best in class analysis, our next step was to converge onto a single content strategy. For this, we whiteboarded a site map.

Site Map

The site map we created stemmed from a whiteboarding session. In addition to content suporting utility functions (search, login, creating accounts, etc.) our domain-specific content was organized into two main wells; Finding a freelancer and starting a new job. Drilling down into either of these sections would funnel the user to a conversion point of either logging in or creating a new account.


After sorting through models of pre-existing solutions we found applicable, and taking insperation from their UI patterns, we felt ready to start prototyping our solutions.


Given the complexity of the system and the quick turnaround expected from us, we decided to sketch the wireframes and prototype them in InVision. The sketching allowed for quick iteration and revision as needed.

Wireframe sketches

InVision sketch prototype

Sketched wireframe screen: Project Management


Sketched wireframe screen: Networking


Sketched wireframe screen: Scheduling


After creating interactive prototypes, our next goal was to assess whether our proposed solution was valid in the hands of a real user. We decided on a set of strict criteria, but given the niche domain and time constraint we faced of 48 hours, it was difficult to find user that find the criteria of acceptable user testers. To get around this, we ended up widening our search pool by scaling down the criteria.

Key Insights

  • The Air Bnb model for searching for freelancers tested well
  • Users liked the BaseCamp interface for project management, however, found the scheduling ticket-style interface confusing
  • Users liked seeing a tiered network like LinkedIn’s community model
  • Usability issues with payment


We now had to take the key features from previous testing and craft an improved experience. At this point, we were still unsure as to whether to continue with a web or mobile. If we chose to go either way, how would do we elegantly fit in features concepted for the other platform?


After testing and iterating on our prototypes, we converged on a single solution that we delivered to Hire Me Direct. Our final deliverables consisted of Hi-Fi annotated wireframes along with suggestions on how to move forward.


Annotated wireframes: Project overview


Annotated wireframes: Event creation


Annotated wireframes: Payment modal


Annotated wireframes: Search filter and results

Moving Forward

Adopting the Venmo model for creating payment-based network

Contractors currently on the site use it to avoid legal overhead in processing payments. Furthermore, they require their subcontractors to create an account on the site in order to pay them. These same contractors will only hire people that they have either previously worked with, or someone that has been vouched for by a party they trust; assuming that party has worked with said subcontractor in the past.

Given that a financial transaction between these parties can be used as proof of work, much like Venmo, we can leverage the financial transactions occurring on the site as proof of two parties having interacted with each other, and start building a tiered network of professionals based on whom they have worked with in the past. This makes professionals easily discoverable while also settling the ever-prevalent trust issues around working with a subcontractor whom a hiring contractor has not yet had direct professional contact with.

Adopting an Uber model for location-based discoverability of service technicians

Situations of needing to hire a technician the day of an event are par for the course in this industry. In these situations, proximity to the venue plays a large part in the time and travel cost it takes for a subcontractor hired the day of an event to reach the venue and perform the task they were hired for. Very few subcontractors take a job where the travel costs exceed the compensation they receive for the job.

This can easily be solved by leveraging the Uber model for location-based service discoverability, where a client enters their criteria and the system finds the nearest service provider that accepts the request.

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up this project, we learned a lot about working within the technical constraints of a pre-existing platform, development constraints of what was technically feasible, and the value in being able to communicate design concepts to a client. In speaking to the final constraint, gained a better understanding in how to step outside the boilerplate UX process everyone learns, and crafting deliverables that bypass the ambiguity many clients experience on the receiving end of being presented with such deliverables.

What is a deliverable?

The purpose of a deliverable is to enhance the quality of knowledge transfer between two parties. In that respect, the presentation of that knowledge can take many forms, and there is no “correct” way to create a journey map, persona, mental model, etc. Ultimately, the inclusion or exclusion of the information presented (along with the visual representation of that information) is driven by who the information is being communicated to and what they value.

My takeaways from this project would influence my approach to solving problems in my next project for GPP Malls.

Want to talk digital staffing?

Email me at venkat.k.murali@gmail.com

Coded by Venkat Murali