The Project: MerMapp

Travelling through Florida, I discovered that there is a lively community of mermaids and mermen living out their passion of dressing up as a mystical being, swimming in the ocean, meeting in events and trying to contribute to saving the oceans. Going deeper into the topic I found out that there are small groups - or "pods" - all over the world, but separately, not knowing of each other, and not being able to synergize. The project "MerMapp" - my current passion project which I'm working on in my free time - is supposed to change this by creating one app in which mermaids and mermen from all over the world can come together, share their knowledge, their passion, support each other and make the world a slightly better place together - all guided by a modern and playful app.

The Goal: A Globally Connected Community

The app brings together the different things mermaids and mermen are looking for online: inspirational videos, information about creating their own costumes and accessories, links to mermaid-related sellers, a map and calendar of events and competitions and a community to interact with the other merfolk.

The monetization is a mix between membership fees, in-app purchases, affiliate marketing and advertisement revenue and is partly used to support a different environmental project each month that users can also vote on.

In order to truly have a feeling of community, the content is created and moderated by that community itself - growing and evolving naturally, without needing to invest a lot of money into it.

The Design Challenge: Collaborative, Purposeful & Fun
Concept Phase & Wireframes

Going from the desired experience to the desired actions and gamification for a motivating daily interaction to the basic content ideas and structure of the app.

As I had just entered a new world for me, I needed to make sure that the market was actually ripe for a mermaiding app.

Research did confirm that there was a growing trend in mermaiding with a growing number of YouTube influencers and Facebook groups. It also showed me that there was not yet an app out there that was working to synergize the community. All apps were just focused on children's games and the only other "competitor" was an outdated forum.

The challenge at hand was to

  • find a cheap way of developing the app and continuously providing new content in a collaborative way

  • give the merfolk a reason to actively use (and ideally pay for) the app instead of channels like Facebook or the MerNetwork

  • motivate the merfolk to engage in environmentally friendly behavior and support environmental projects

screenshots of various mermaid resources on the internet
screenshots of various mermaid resources on the internet
User Research

After having a clear idea of what I wanted to offer and how, I validated my approach by sending out a survey to mermaids, mermen, influencers and companies all around the world and thus was able to clarify my target audience with its biggest pain points and wishes.

Additionally, I conducted a usability research with one of the original mermaids, Hannah Fraser, to get her first hand feedback on an interactive mock-up of the app to be able to adjust before getting it into development.

Vision Forward: Charting the next Course

The roadmap ahead is clear and ambitious:

  • Expanding MerMapp's reach by launching on the iOS platform.

  • Infusing the app with more social features, transforming it into a vibrant community hub and fostering deeper user engagement.

  • Amplifying our social marketing impact by collaborating with influential voices and streamlining outreach efforts.

an excerpt from a survey catered for mermaids
an excerpt from a survey catered for mermaids
The Research Phase
paper wireframes with a beautiful mermaid bra next to it
paper wireframes with a beautiful mermaid bra next to it
paper wireframes with a pretty turquoise seastar next to it
paper wireframes with a pretty turquoise seastar next to it
paper wireframes with a pretty turquoise box next to it
paper wireframes with a pretty turquoise box next to it
Development Journey: Navigating Challenges with Precision

In the realm of product development, resource allocation is paramount. My initial collaboration with a talented Ukrainian full-stack developer showed promise, but geopolitical challenges led to unforeseen setbacks. My subsequent partnership with a cost-effective Pakistani team highlighted the importance of communication and quality in development. It was with a Polish development firm that MerMapp truly found its stride. While I remain hands-on, crafting product briefs and ensuring rigorous QA testing, their proactive involvement, especially with our user community, underscores their commitment and aligns with my values.

Launch & Initial Traction: Seizing Opportunities

Strategically aligning MerMapp's launch with the release of "The Little Mermaid" movie provided a unique opportunity to capitalize on its widespread publicity. This, combined with a consistent organic social media strategy on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, led to an influx of 550 organic users. Additionally, I've cultivated affiliate marketing partnerships and integrated a curated selection of Amazon affiliate products directly into the app, enhancing its value proposition.

Key Takeaways: The Growth of a One-Person-Powerhouse
  • Embracing the multifaceted role of a CEO in a solo venture has been an enlightening journey. From lead generation and design to meticulous QA testing, wearing multiple hats has honed my versatility.

  • Direct interactions with our user base have not only been immensely gratifying but have also been instrumental in shaping a truly user-centric product.

  • Implementing the RICE model has been pivotal in prioritizing features, helping discern between essential enhancements and desirable additions.

  • Recognizing when to delegate tasks, especially when the time investment outweighs the benefits, and when to retain them due to their critical nature, has been a crucial learning curve.

By showcasing MerMapp's journey, I aim to highlight the multifaceted challenges and triumphs of leading a product from conception to growth. As a senior product manager, my experiences with MerMapp underscore my adaptability, strategic foresight, and unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional user experiences.

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. - Henry David Thoreau

Crafting success, one app at a time.