In July 2023, the Linkup Studio team was honored with a Red Dot design award in 3 nominations for creating the YachtWay platform. In the article, we delve into the meticulous development of this yacht marketplace, detailing how it's revolutionizing the yacht-selling industry.
Crafted from scratch in 8 months, the platform was launched and quickly attracted over 100 clients of all types. Moreover, daily website traffic exceeds 1500 visitors. Given the industry niche and associated costs, these figures are truly impressive.
The founder actively showcases the platform to US vessel manufacturers and dealers for potential collaboration at multiple board shows. He was even offered $1 million from competitors for just a design concept. However, the client confidently declined it and went into development in partnership with Linkup Studio.
The founder of YachtWay, Heigo, had over a decade of experience in the US yacht-selling industry, having worked in various roles, such as the CEO of a dealership specializing in performance yachts and a broker.
He was intimately familiar with the challenges faced by all involved in the yacht-selling process, from shipyards and dealers to customers. For instance, shipyards were often burdened with fees exceeding $10,000 on existing platforms just to showcase and sell their models. These platforms, however, were outdated and cumbersome to use. And there were no alternatives.
For yacht dealers and brokers, listing a single vessel on these old platforms could take up to 4 hours. So, if a broker had 20 yachts on offer, they would spend 2 full work weeks uploading their listings to these marketplaces. Customers looking to purchase a yacht also had limited options. The primary competing platform has been unchanged since 1997 and was plagued with intrusive ads and an outdated user interface. It was clearly ill-suited for potential buyers considering vessels with six-figure price tags.
Identifying all the challenges and needs, Heigo conceptualized a platform to transform yacht selling for all involved parties. To turn his vision into reality, he approached Linkup Studio.
At Linkup Studio, we know that the secret to a successful product lies in a thorough understanding of all the ins and outs, as well as having a solid vision of the future product. That's why we kick things off with a detailed discovery stage. This encompasses three core areas: Business Analysis, Design, and Technical Architecture. The YachtWay project's discovery spanned 2 months, reaffirming the advantages of our approach once again.
Business analysis dives into the essence of the future product, considering the client's vision, market demands, and competitors. Our main goals are pinpointing key challenges, identifying opportunities, and laying a strategic roadmap. This ensures we maximize available resources to achieve the desired outcomes.
For YachtWay, our business analyst started by examining the foundational information provided by the client, such as diagrams, documents, and site maps. We used this to shape a comprehensive vision for the platform. In close cooperation with the client, we gained a detailed understanding of every step in the yacht-buying and selling process. We identified any stumbling blocks and issues all parties encountered, from the yacht's manufacture to the final handover of keys. Additionally, we analyzed competitors and found that many relied on WordPress, making their platforms less flexible and lacking usability.
Together, we identified and documented specific user roles and their respective capabilities with subscription descriptions. This was followed by crafting a functional specification, converting brainstormed ideas into a structured document, and creating a clear task for the design team.
The primary challenge was ensuring the platform's rich feature set remained cohesive. With numerous interconnected components, it was essential to strategize the optimal way to unify them seamlessly within the platform.
After receiving insights from our business analysts, our design team was ready to shape the client's vision. Our dive into user research yielded a fascinating insight: a significant number of men who purchase yachts often consult with their wives or girlfriends before finalizing the decision. This realization greatly influenced our design direction.
Guided by this insight, we created foundational layouts for every page and screen, meticulously mapping out structure, content positioning, and all integral functionalities. During our prototyping phase, we refined our designs through 3 iterations, each time tweaking and perfecting details to ensure an engaging and intuitive user experience.
Our overarching design objective was to craft a platform that was functional and aesthetically pleasing, especially to a female audience. We envisioned our platform as the yacht world's equivalent of Apple – sleek, elegant, and universally appealing. Such a design stands out and fosters a more inclusive decision-making process for potential yacht buyers.
Building on the foundational work of the business analysis, the technical architect delves deeper into the functional requirements, examining them from a more technical perspective. YachtWay had different modules, and our architect figured out how to make them work together seamlessly, ensuring the system is secure, quick, and free from errors. For parts like search filters, the technical architect ensures a detailed breakdown, providing developers with comprehensive information to avoid any uncertainties.
In addition to functional details, the technical architect also addresses non-functional requirements. In the context of this project, the three primary non-functional requirements were:
The technical architect actively engages with the client to prioritize these requirements, highlighting any potential challenges or constraints that might arise during implementation. If specific requirements clash with established strategies, the architect will communicate the impossibility of their inclusion.
Informed by these analyses and ongoing discussions with the client, the technical architect then makes final decisions about the platform's architecture and infrastructure, laying the groundwork for the eventual solution.
In this section, we'll delve into detailed solution descriptions, shedding light on the rationale behind our certain decisions. You'll see how our approaches lined up perfectly with the platform's original vision.
The goal: As mentioned earlier, YachtWay aimed to bring together all the key players in the yachting industry, including shipyards, dealers, brokers, and customers.
The solution: We crafted a platform equipped with essential features tailored to each user's specific needs, ensuring it was both user-friendly and effective in addressing their requirements on the platform.
The goal: To establish YachtWay's primary revenue stream, our team set out to design effective subscription plans tailored to the diverse needs of its users.
The solution: We introduced 3 subscription tiers for shipyards and dealer users: silver, gold, and platinum. Each tier varies by the number of brands and models that shipyards can upload, the number of brokers who can sell vessels, how many yacht photos are allowed per plan, and more.
Beyond these core offerings, we also integrated optional upgrades to the main subscription plans, allowing shipyards and dealers to customize their packages further. Our development team ensured a robust backend, guaranteeing clients receive the exact services they purchased - no more, no less. On the frontend, our designers highlighted features unavailable in specific plans, enticing users to consider additional functionality and drive upsells for YachtWay. Additionally, we created a sophisticated structure of interrelated options, making it user-centric and intuitive for clients.
The goal: In contrast to competitors, YachtWay aimed to simplify and expedite the process of listing vessels for shipyards, brokers, and dealers. Where other platforms might require extensive hours for uploads, YachtWay sought to offer a more efficient and user-friendly approach.
The solution: Prioritizing user-friendly design, our approach to yacht uploading was condensed into just five steps: inputting general information, detailing the engine type, tanks, and other specifics of the vessel. Once that's done, dealers can use the model description, adding further details to create specific listings. For example, think of a model as a generic "iPhone 14", while a listing might specify "iPhone 14, 128Gb in Midnight."
Our challenge lay in seamlessly linking shipyards and dealers during the model and listing creation process. We ensured accurate data transfer between these entities and provided mechanisms for data verification when needed.
The goal: Purchasing a vessel is an intricate decision-making process. Prospective buyers often have specific criteria in mind, and pinpointing the ideal yacht based on multiple characteristics is challenging on various platforms. Thus, YachtWay's filter feature was paramount, designed to be both comprehensive and visually engaging. Even for those unfamiliar with yachting, the interface had to offer clarity. Additionally, with an array of filter options, maintaining swift site performance was crucial.
The solution: At Linkup Studio, we crafted a short and expanded search-filter functionality that not only met but exceeded initial expectations. Setting YachtWay apart from its competitors, our platform boasts a distinct visual style, allowing users to easily input detailed vessel preferences. To simplify the selection process, many yacht attributes are paired with custom images. Moreover, we delivered the optimal site speed, even during peak platform usage, ensuring users experience no lags or slowdowns during their search.
The goal: In business, especially in the yacht industry, making decisions based on quantifiable outcomes is essential. Thus, for YachtWay, it was imperative to integrate an analytics feature for its subscribed users – shipyards, dealers, and brokers. As these entities sell vessels, real-time data from their platform becomes a cornerstone in refining sales strategies and dovetailing them with broader business objectives, especially for yacht manufacturers.
The solution: At Linkup Studio, we integrated an extensive analytics system, leveraging both the Google Analytics API and data directly from the YachtWay platform. With this setup, our users can now monitor a variety of metrics:
Furthermore, shipyards and dealers can delve into comprehensive statistics, gaining insights into the overall search patterns, visit rates, and top-visited yacht listings. They can also determine demand trends by demographic data like age and gender. There's an added advantage for shipyards: they can assess their partnership dealers and pinpoint top-performing brokers, guiding their decisions on which companies to align with more closely.
In essence, this robust analytics integration empowers YachtWay users to craft strategies rooted in factual data, optimizing their marketing efforts and driving business growth.
The goal: Most yacht-selling platforms simply prompt users and buyers to leave their contact information, nudging them to pursue a deal offline. This approach, while straightforward, often falls short in terms of providing a seamless client experience, especially when potential buyers have quick, on-the-spot queries. Recognizing this gap, YachtWay sought to elevate the user experience by facilitating direct in-platform interactions.
The solution: Linkup Studio rolled out an integrated chat feature. This not only empowers customers to directly engage with dealer companies and shipyards but also to connect with the specific broker they wish to converse with.
Beyond standard chat functionalities and the option to attach documents to messages, we introduced a game-changing feature: the automatically pinned a specific yacht being discussed in the conversation. This might appear trivial at a glance, but it significantly streamlines the discussion. Customers no longer need to backtrack and search for the yacht listing they're inquiring about, and on the flip side, sellers immediately recognize which vessel is the topic of discussion. This intuitive feature effectively enhances the communication experience for both parties.
The goal: The platform needed to be distinct in the market, offering superior convenience and usability. It needed to radiate luxury, catering not only to prospective yacht buyers but also, as previously noted, to their significant others. Every design detail was meticulously curated to redefine the aesthetics and feel of yacht purchasing and selling.
The solution: Linkup Studio designers underwent numerous comprehensive design iterations before finalizing a design that resonated with the platform's founder and received positive feedback from test users spanning industry professionals.
The platform predominantly sports a clean white color scheme punctuated by elegant purple accents. These choices underline the platform's luxurious intent and emphasize the exclusive clientele it seeks to serve.
Pages are structured akin to expansive, airy landing pages, ensuring a fluid, "unhurried" user experience. This design philosophy ensures that browsing feels more like a leisurely stroll, evoking a sense of exclusivity among users. In terms of content, our team dedicated substantial effort to distilling complex technical information, presenting it in a visually engaging format and easy to process.
The features highlighted above represent the most significant components of the YachtWay platform. Built from the ground up, this endeavor demanded the skill and dedication of our 12-member team. The project was particularly challenging given the tight 6-month deadline from the inception of the development phase. To optimize our workflow, we adopted a strategy that interlaced design and development processes. Through rigorous prioritization, we ensured timely delivery, allowing the client to showcase the platform at a major boat show to industry leaders.
We are still committed to advancing YachtWay and developing additional features and functionalities. Our ambitious goal is to revolutionize the yacht-selling industry on a global scale further.
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