Midwest Founders Community

Overview

The Midwest Founders Community (formerly known as Milwaukee Founders Community) was founded in 2023 as a passion project to connect founders to one another and has grown as a full blown initiative. MFC is a decentralized, asynchronous group of volunteer founders. Membership is free to aspiring and current founders, with their mission for every founder to find resonance, a space to share, learn and grow. Their community vision鈥檚 pillars are Community, Capital and Customer. The previous website was built on Webflow and managed by a previous founder curator. With the fast growth and 2024 goals to achieve, a website redesign was part of this roadmap and plan as they expanded regionally to the Midwest. How do we simplify the overall user experience for current and prospective members to gain more information on MFC? My solution was to migrate the CMS to Squarespace for an optimal out-of-the-box solution with a user-friendly functionality and simple information architecture and user interface.

My contribution

User research UX design Copywriting UX writing

The team

2 脳 project leads 1 脳 UX designer

Year

2024

Discovery

Website auditing and usability heuristic analysis

Before diving into the definition and ideation stages of this project, I found it useful to audit the current website and its content and usability. Based on our kickoff meeting, I used the outcomes and direction gathered from the team to begin noting what to omit, add or revise during the redesign. I also had the team further provide feedback to get a better understanding

Takeaways:

  • Minimal photography was used and had more illustrations and graphics 鈥 consider adding more photography to balance illustrations and authentic imagery
  • Pages are content heavy overall 鈥 simplify the information architecture and main navigation and CTA buttons
  • Overall complexity 鈥 by and large, a website like this felt very complex. Simplifying from all ends (user interface, design elements, content) will greatly reduce cognitive load and potentially attract more prospective members

How do membership organization websites stack up?

Membership organizations luckily aren鈥檛 a new thing. There are many membership organizations all with their own purposes, typically connecting members surrounding a particular activity, geographical location, industry, interest, mission or profession. Seeing how various membership organizations showcase themselves online was essential to gather any further insights for our own redesign. The insights varied, but I did note the trending themes I saw throughout as something to consider implementing.

Highlights:

  • Clear about sections and mission statements 鈥 while this did vary for each organization, a clear story of the member organization felt imperative to successfully telling the story. Whether it was on the homepage or on a separate about page, this was present.
  • Event calendars displayed upcoming events in various visual formats with past events also shown to give prospective members more of an idea of the organization. Specific event pages included more information and details with links for registration (if needed).
  • Blog pages were either included or not at all 鈥 this is likely up to organization discretion to keep content for members only (possibly as an added perk). The client wanted a blog to be added to the site to share past webinars as resources and the mission statement, giving prospective members a taste of MFC.
No items found.

Define

The Midwest founder mindset

From my initial client kickoff meeting, I was able to get a better understanding of the members of MFC. I also was able to look at the current member directory to further validate assumptions of their user behavior. Ultimately this helped to inform the user persona creation that would guide my design decisions going forward. While MFC does also have a SaaS Club specific to this industry, the overall focus was still on the average founder, at least at this stage.聽

Reorganizing the information architecture

The menu navigation and overall sitemap was one of the bigger priorities for this redesign. Though it already had a simple information architecture compared to a larger member organization, there were some redundancies and small tweaks that would further enhance and simplify the pages and their respective content sections into buckets that better matched people鈥檚 mental models.

Ideate

Designing streamlined website pages

The user persona and sitemap guided me in this next step of designing wireframes for the pages. Before building online, I developed mid-fidelity wireframes to get a better sense of direction on where things were headed. With the branding already in place, I used this to move from mid-fidelity to high-fidelity.

Highlights:

  • The minimal and slightly redundant content on the about page was folded into the homepage, omitting the need for an about page which downsized our menu navbar.
  • The Google Forms for MFC and SaaS Club registration were initially embedded within the site, but exist now as CTA buttons to external Google Form URLs, cleaning up those respective pages.
  • Password-locked pages were added for members to access the membership directory once they became a member so they could have easy access for referencing when needed.
  • The Sponsor page was stripped down to highlight the sponsor logos at the top and promote sponsorship opportunities with a brief section on the MFC mission statement pillars.

Testing

Testing 1,2,3鈥

Using our group of founder curators, I conducted usability testing with the team to test overall site functionality. Through usability tests, feedback and insights were gathered to make necessary iterations before going live with the relaunch of the new brand and expansion to a regional community. While most of the iterations made were minor tweaks.聽

Revisions:

  • The blog page was renamed 鈥淩esources鈥 to better reflect the content housed here, which is the mission statement and previous webinars.
  • Updated image thumbnails for the blog posts to differentiate each of them.
  • Added hyperlinks to sponsor logos for better visibility to the companies.
  • Confirmed all links and CTAs directed to correct URL.
No items found.

Outcome

So how鈥檇 we do? What鈥檚 next?

With the newly launched website and brand being expanded regionally, this is just the beginning for MFC鈥檚 website experience that will likely be ever-evolving. While the current pages, functionalities and features work now for the MFC鈥檚 goals, growth is inevitable, especially with the spectacular growth they鈥檝e already seen. Eventually, it would be ideal to develop specific location pages within the region.

What did I learn?

  • Shorter sprint 鈥 this project was done in a shorter time frame due to a smaller budget. With proper time management and prioritizing what deliverables needed to be done in the process, I was able to deliver within the deadline.
  • Gain knowledge upfront 鈥 while I did have the initial kickoff call, there were still some unclear items. When I had shared my mid-fidelity wireframe mockups with the stakeholders, there were some parts of the site that were no longer necessary going forward. Having known this prior, I could鈥檝e saved even more time in putting together the wireframes.

Next project