Final Boss Project


Introducing Bliss, a new wedding planning website which puts the power of wedding planning back in to the hands of the Bride and Groom. Since news broke about the new website, competitors in the market have been in fear of the new technologies Bliss will be introducing after the launch in Spring 2019. Haleigh Staalner, founder and CEO of Bliss, stated that “the competition should be updating their resumes after they see what we have up our sleeves.”

Staalner, a recent Bride herself, noticed a gap in the market while planning her own wedding. She used competitor sites such as Wedding Wire and the Knot and found much to be desired with the tools and technologies they offered, or didn’t offer, their users during one of the happiest but confusing and frustrating times in their lives. While her wedding went off without a hitch she couldn’t get the idea off her mind that future couples wouldn’t have the same luck she did while planning their special day.

After being accepted into the University of Georgia Emerging Media Master’s Program and learning that she would have to complete a Capstone project aimed at solving a problem using technologies, Staalner knew her idea for an all-in-one wedding website would finally come to fruition.

Problems Bliss is Addressing

Staalner describes Bliss as an “all-in-one wedding website” that “puts the power of wedding planning back into the hands of the Bride and Groom.” But what does that actually mean in terms of the tools and technologies which will be available on the site?

The first problem in the market that Bliss addresses is the need for transparency up front. While we live in a digital age where information is readily available with a few clicks online, wedding vendors and venues are notoriously vague with their listings and information found online. Brides and Grooms have to scour the wedding websites and forums to track down a venue or vendor based on their desires only to find out that they are already booked for that day or they are too much for their budget to handle. Bliss aims to solve that problem by offering price structures on their vendor and venue profiles on their site. They will also have a lengthy questionnaire for each business profile owner to fill out about their offerings before being approved by Bliss to publish. This means that each business listing will feature all necessary content and answers to questions that Brides and Grooms are looking for.

The second problem being solved by Bliss is availability. It’s disheartening to go through the process of planning a wedding and speaking to different vendors and venues only to find out that they are not available for your date. That’s why Bliss is creating a tool which business owners can keep an updated availability calendar on their business profile so that potential Brides and Grooms don’t run into that problem while using the site. Staalner suggests “while it’s not always fun to see that a venue you had your heart set on is not available on your wedding day, it is nice that Bliss will save you the time you would have spent waiting on a response from the venue so you can go find your next best option.”

Finally, the last and biggest problem being solved by Bliss and what really sets it apart from Wedding Wire and the Knot is through the content form on their website. Staalner noticed that on other sites you can select options from curated lists to find vendors or venues in your area such as searching by zip code or wedding size. These preferences will pull up a list of vendors or venues in your area but when it comes time to contact ones you want to learn more about, none of the pre-selected information is pulled into the contact form while reaching out to the businesses. This proved to be a frustrating came of copy and pasting for Staalner so she knew this would be the main feature of Bliss that would set them apart from the competition and gain loyal Brides and Grooms in the process.

“Bliss is already saving the couple time by showing availability and transparency in the business listings up front but now they are also cutting down on time and energy when contacting your preferred vendors. It’s a no brainer for couples ready to tie the knot” said Staalner. So how did Staalner figure out what would set her apart in the industry? Turns out she did a lot of in-depth research she’s willing to share.

Research – Competitor Assessment

Staalner started to dig deep into the tools and technologies offered by wedding websites in the Fall of 2017. She noticed that there were many successes, some failures and many missed opportunities throughout the three main websites used for wedding planning, Wedding Wire, the Knot and mywedding.com.

  
Similar to Bliss, Wedding wire was founded in 2005 by a frustrated Groom, CEO Timothy Chi. Chi, while planning his wedding, realized that the wedding industry needed a single site with all the necessary information and tools to plan such an important event. What started as a to-do list for weddings has now grown into the leading site for vendor information and is referred to by some as the Yelp of the wedding industry.

Wedding Wire offers impressive tools such as ‘Checklist’ which manages a customized wedding to-do list, ‘Seating Chart’ which allows users to build a reception seating chart, and ‘Wedding Date’ which shows vendor availability as of Fall 2017. Wedding Wire falls flat when it comes to ‘Featured Listings’, where they heavily promote paid content and ‘Contacting Vendors’ with a very simplistic messaging feature which offers no information except through the text box option.

Wedding Wire Best Features:

Checklist
Brides prefer the checklist on Wedding Wire versus what is offered on the Knot due to User Experience and convenience.

Seating Chart
Brides also prefer the seating chart features on Wedding Wire over the Knot which does not offer this technology.

Wedding Date
New for 2017, Wedding Wire has worked with vendors to keep their availability up-to-date on the site so you don’t have to contact a vendor unless they are available on your selected date. This cuts down on time spent for both the bride and the vendor. No other wedding website currently offers this service.

Not So Great Features:

Featured Listings
The first few pages of listings for vendors are filled with ‘featured’ listings with paid content. This means that users will have to dig through listings to find what truly matches their needs, not vendors that are paying to have a higher listing on the site.

Contacting Vendors
Wedding Wire has a list of questions to choose from while finding vendors but when it comes time to contact them they have a very simplistic contact form which does not pull any of that information when you reach out to the vendor. This means you have to enter the information multiple times. 

 


The second most popular wedding website for customers is the Knot. While the Knot proves to be the most popular in terms of brand recognition, the user experience and lack of necessary tools and technologies means it falls to second on the list. Started in 1997 by Mike Steib, the Knot stands out from the pack with The Knot Shop, an online shop integrated into the Knot which offers customizable wedding presents as well as hosting sister sites the Nest and the Bump for all phases of your life. Best features of the Knot include the ‘Contact Form’ which does not pull any of your pre-selections but does have a five step series of questions before contacting the vendors. The Knot falls flat with ‘Featured Listings’ similar to Wedding Wire as well as user experience with their existing tools such as the ‘Guest List Manager’ or their ‘Wedding Websites.’ Brides in forums all suggested they started their wedding journey on the Knot but quickly jumped ship to Wedding Wire after finding the Knot’s technologies and tools to be too complicated or overall lacking.

The Knot Best Features:

Contact Form
The newly upgraded contact form asks a series of information you may want to pass along to a vendor before contacting them for a quote or availability.

The Knot Shop
Unique to the Knot is the Knot Shop which features customizable gifts and decorations for brides in one convenient location.


Not So Great Features:

Featured Listings
The first few pages of listings for vendors are filled with ‘featured’ listings with paid content. This means that users will have to dig through listings to find what truly matches their needs, not vendors that are paying to have a higher listing on the site.

Guest List Manager
Brides prefer the Guest List Manager on Wedding Wire over the Knot due to the simplicity of use.

Wedding Website
Similar to the Guest List Manager, brides prefer the Wedding Website maker on Wedding Wire over the Knot. The Knot boasts a flashy design with high definition photography but is too complicated for the average bride to use and understand.

 


Mywedding.com brings up the rear as the third most popular wedding planning site which launched in 2003. Unlike Wedding Wire and the Knot, mywedding.com aims at hooking the average Bride, not a luxury Bride with a high end wedding cost. Mywedding.com is simplistic in design and essentially guides the Bride through every step of the wedding planning process. Mywedding.com misses the mark on design with low resolution photography, unreadable typography and mismatched graphic design throughout. They also have an even simpler contact form than Wedding Wire and puts more emphasis on having the Bride call a vendor or venue directly rather than keeping the customer on the website.

mywedding.com Best Features:

Simplicity
The unique aspect of mywedding.com versus Wedding Wire or the Knot is that it is simplistic in design, easy to understand and offers what the Bride needs, not what the wedding industry thinks they need.

Not So Great Features:

Design
From the photography, graphic quality all the way to typography mywedding.com does not seem to have a consistent brand throughout their website. They have too many moving parts, unreadable text and mismatched call to action buttons which could cause confusion for the users.

Contact Form
Similar to Wedding Wire, the contact form on mywedding.com is too simplistic leading to a longer wait time to receive and send important wedding details from bride to potential vendors.

Impressive Features from All Three Wedding Websites
Wedding Wire, the Knot and mywedding.com all contain the following helpful features:

  • They contain detailed wedding checklists – You don’t have to worry about compiling your own to-do list or missing an important aspect. These lists are compiled to make sure you do not miss a thing. You put your date in you magically are on a schedule with date reminders.
  • They help you find local vendors – People who have used these vendors rate them accordingly allowing you to see where they stand. This can save you from getting a less than exceptional vendor.
  • They offer free personalized wedding websites – You can invite friends and family to view your website. Personal URL’s are available for a small additional fees.
  • These sites are a great place to find inspiration – If you are lost about where to start you can look at different ideas and pictures and save them.
  • These sites are mobile friendly – All three sites after their own variation of mobile friendly apps. These apps are a great way to share your wedding site as well as plan on the go.
  • All the information you need is right at your fingertips – You can retire your notebook and give your search engine a break. All the information you need can be found on one site.

Target Markets

In order to determine her target audience, Staalner created personas and storyboard of two young couples headed to the alter. Both couples hoped to plan their wedding using online tools but were forced to hire a wedding planner to help with the details because their circumstances proved too difficult to handle on their own. Mary and Jeff, the first fictitious couple, live in Los Angeles but want to get married in Georgia where they both grew up and families live. They are in L.A. while Jeff pursues his dreams of becoming an Actor. Planning a long distance wedding isn’t easy, much less a wedding that has a lower budget because Jeff isn’t quite famous yet. In the end the couple hires a Wedding Planner and has a wonderful wedding.

Jessica and Jim are the second couple that Staalner created. Jessica and Jim just found out they’re expecting a baby and they decide they want to get married before the baby comes. With a non-flexible timeline and trying to plan a wedding in less time than the recommended one year, Jessica and Jim have to enlist the help of a Wedding Planner to have the wedding of their dreams without skimping on the important details. By creating personas of couples who are in a situation that is not the norm, she realized that there are many factors that go into planning a website and a cookie cutter approach placing all couples into a box was not what the wedding industry really needed to succeed.

Project Goals

While the project goals for Bliss may seem daunting to some, Staalner is up for the challenge. She is giving the power of wedding planning back to the Bride and Groom, gathering data from vendors, venues and couples while completing their online profiles, keeping an updated calendar of availability and offering no sponsored or featured content in listing hierarchy.

Profitability Structure

Ensuring economic viability after declaring that Bliss will not feature sponsored or featured content on the site seems crazy but Staalner has a plan to remain profitable and while still offering the best customer service it can for Brides and Grooms while using the site. Advertising space interspersed throughout the site is something that Internet users are already accustomed to so Bliss plans to ensure profitability through paid advertising space on user and business profiles on the site. All vendors, venues and couples will have the option to have a free profile with ads or to upgrade to the paid profiles which will give them control over their profiles ad space. Paid profiles for couples will offer premium features as well as discounts and coupons for vendors and venues who choose to participate.

SWOT Analysis

Staalner recently created a SWOT Analysis highlighting the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for Bliss and concluded that time, capital and lack of reputation are all that stand in the way of Bliss having a successful launch in Spring 2019.

 

Product Development Timeline

For a Spring 2019 launch, Staalner created a timeline for product development as seen below. From concept idea generation to launch, Staalner has at least two prototype phases as well as user testing and live market tests coming in the future. “Having a successful and economically viable product means you have to give the consumer what they want, and you can’t do that without first talking and interacting with them” says Staalner.

 

Survey

Below you can find screenshots of the data from some of the more important questions from the survey. As you can see from the data there is a large difference in demographics, desires and wedding planning styles from the survey respondents.

View a spreadsheet with all data here.

Prototype

Before creating the first prototype for Bliss in Fall 2017, Staalner first created a survey to determine if the ideas she deemed unique and necessary proved themselves to real consumers. After receiving feedback from the survey Staalner set out to create a short prototype for the type of experience and design a future customer can expect from Bliss while planning their wedding. Upon completion of the prototype Staalner selected three candidates from the survey who had great feedback and were interested in the project and had them test out the prototype. All three candidates enjoyed the design and the questions being asked during the profile creation. They easily navigated through the prototype and said the user experience was easy to follow and understood.    

Testing and Improvements

The three candidates who went through the prototype suggested improvements be made to the prototype where you have to sign up or log in before the prototype launches into the questions so they are sure their answers are being saved. They also expressed interest in seeing the vendor profiles and would like to see more questions to make a complete user profile for the site. Improvements Staalner noticed while watching the candidates interact would be to prototype the ad space for vendors, make the call to action buttons stand out more and to make improvements to the Bride and Groom portfolio page.

Conclusion

While we all have to wait until Spring 2019 for Bliss to launch and take the wedding industry by storm, it’s safe to say that Staalner seems to be leading us into the golden age of wedding planning. Similar industries such as retail and automotive could take not of features and profiles used by Bliss to make a better user experience throughout the World Wide Web for customers.

Download the PDF version of the Final Boss Project here.