Building tools to aid local businesses in the Pandemic 🙌

The Fables homepage — an evolution that happened in a night.
The Fables homepage — an evolution that happened in a night. (Card Image on left taken from Google Images)

The Problem

While it was a time when COVID trackers and COVID tracker on steroids (metaphorically) were popping up every hour, we decided that building something on top of just a COVID case tracker would not be super useful. Meanwhile, we had realized that local businesses were suffering, most were struggling to stay afloat and make ends meet, especially since India was in lockdown, people did not go out unless they absolutely needed to, hyperlocal delivery services took time to spawn.

The Solution

We decided to build something to help these businesses. The initial idea was to build a platform that could have them set up a digital storefront to sell Gift Cards that could then be redeemed, or set up fundraisers.
Now, these two put together were not exactly a novel idea. It was mostly inspired by saveourfaves by Mike Kriger, and subsequently, the Gift Card feature was also rolled out in Google Search as a part of their offering for small businesses.

Saveourfaves and Google Business Listings
Saveourfaves and Google Business Listings
  • 4/12 would also consider setting up a donation-based fundraiser because their business had suffered in the 3.5 months of lockdown.
  • 9/12 believe that they would receive the most support from their regulars and people who stay in the same locality and have a certain favorable impression of them.
  • 2/12 believe that they can draw buyers for their Gift Cards irrespective of their location within the city.
  • 2/7 thought that the amount they would contribute would differ in case of getting a Gift Card vs. giving a donation.
  • 5/7 would prefer supporting businesses in their locality, followed by some stores/establishments they have grown close to. For instance, the tea Shop outside their workplace/college, or a restaurant/bookstore they frequented in the pre-pandemic world because they hold significant meaning in their lives.

The Hack

Building the platform was pretty straightforward. We used Django for the Backend and Vue for the frontend. Alfarhan had extensively worked with Django and hence that drove the decision. We had both been keen on working with Vue and hence picked that up for the frontend. Since we were on a time budget, we did not spend much time wireframing and dove straight into the design.

Onboarding Screens for Fables
Onboarding Screens for Fables
The SIgn-In flow (with snippets of Onboarding info in the Verify Code screen)

The Recommendation System

The Holy Grail of Fables, this is a gist of how the Recommendation System worked -

Recommendation Algorithm Diagram
Recommendation Algorithm Diagram
The diagram to represent the I/O of the Recommendation Algorithm
  • The location of the business.
  • Whether the business is in a Red or Containment Zone (they would need greater help since they would have no visitors)
  • How much a Business has raised (If a business is being consistently overlooked, we tried to promote them more for donations so that they reach close to their target).
  • Whether the users’ had ever checked themselves in at that location (we had to ultimately scrap this as pulling location data from Facebook or Google was proving to be a bottleneck). 🐌
Screen flow Diagram for Fables
The Screen Flowchart for Fables
Payment screen Dark Mode
We briefly toyed with the idea of implementing Dark mode.

Key Takeaways

Even though we did not win the Hackathon, we showed the platform around to a few people we know and received some really encouraging feedback (The judging criteria and the process was done by the Org Team, so we do not have visibility on that front).

  • The tripping points where the Platform still lacks, and how we can improve on them. Maybe a few years later, we would pick this up again and start hacking on top of the existing codebase.
  • In use cases like these, it helps to decrease the element of choice and allow default mechanics to do most of the heavy lifting.
    6/8 users, we did a real test with loved the part where they don’t have to choose between a Gift Card or Fundraiser. Having just a contribution as the default user action led to less time spent in indecision.
  • Business owners could easily set up a mix of both Donation and Gift card fundraiser by incentivizing higher contributions (most business owners tended to allot Gift Cards for higher contributions).
    The elimination of the mechanic to set up multiple fundraisers (separately as Gift Cards and Donations) led to owners focusing more time on spreading the word rather than setting things up.
  • CORS is going to haunt you real bad.

CS @ Heritage Institute of Technology. Product Designer, Winuall // Auth0 Ambassador. Learning ML. Loves music and photography. Star Wars Nerd.