urspace

A dynamic and robust portfolio site builder for makers and creators.

Role: Co-founder, Designer
Platform: Web

Context

Coming into college, I had no idea what I wanted to do.. I stumbled into product design my freshman year through a student organization called Lavalab, and fell in love – I did everything I could to find a summer internship that summer, and it was a s t r u g g l e. I had essentially no experience, and my one half baked project from my semester with Lavalab. I knew scoring a decent internship would be unlikely, but I wanted to set myself apart from (maybe more qualified) candidates by having an awesome portfolio site.

Unfortunately, creating an awesome portfolio site was incredibly difficult. I tried every website builder out there – Squarespace (too expensive), Wordpress (so complicated), Wix (just ugly).. I settled on Wordpress but it gave me headaches and took weeks to get my site to a decent place.
After two cycles of recruiting for internships, I knew the pain points of creating a personal website too well. When I met Donald and Emily, they had the idea for urspace, an automated portfolio website builder that would instantly pull content from your existing professional profiles. I loved the idea because I felt the need so deeply, and the three of us instantly felt a bond. I jumped on board to work on a beta launch for the idea. As of May 2020, we're now open to the public and at over 1,000 users (most of which are internet strangers, what!!) and have been actually helping people get jobs through using our platform.

Problem

Emerging adults pursuing careers in tech aren’t satisfied with existing platforms to build their professional presence online.

Existing platforms like Linkedin are mostly used for surface level networking, while portfolio builders like Squarespace and Wordpress are extremely involved and not specific to the needs of young professionals in tech.
After conducting interviews with our target demographic (young adults age 18-25 in the field of technology), we realized that they're looking for a simple solution to build their online professional presence. They want something they can be proud of – something streamlined, affordable, and ultimately can help them land a job.

Snippets from conversations on Facebook groups related to tech

Building a personal website is difficult and time consuming. Documenting projects is time spent that would be better put towards doing the actual projects. Furthermore, designers may not know how to code, and developers may not have the design skills to present themselves and their work in an appealing manner.
Urspace is one solution for all these problems. We understand the importance of a personal website in your professional persona, and the pains of making and updating one. An effective personal website should be your platform to share yourself with the world, and it’s a channel that everyone should have access to.
At urspace, we believe that everyone deserves to have their own beautiful, genuine space on the internet to support their personal growth.

Solution

Our solution, urspace, is a dynamic and robust portfolio builder that supports you along your entire career journey. Some of the features we offer include: importing your LinkedIn and Github profiles, simple project case study writing (like this page!), a built-in blog, analytics, and an automatic resume generator based on your website.
Essentially, we've created a home base for all your professional activity.

How it works

Users can sign up for urspace through our simple onboarding flow and have a bare bones website with a custom .urspace.io domain ready to go in less than a minute (literally).
The urspace user experience is simple and streamlined, which makes creating and editing projects, experiences, and blog posts, along with the website's design editable in minutes.

Building the beta

We launched our beta test for urspace in August 2019 with people who are deep in tech communities around LA and the Bay Area. It was an accumulation of late night meetings after class, work, and club gatherings, and hundreds of unread texts when ideas go off.

For our beta test, we wanted a simple website that covered the basics of what any job seeker in tech would have. In addition, we wanted to keep it clean and easily editable. To start, I created this simple template based on lots of research on product designers' sites and user interviews. 

Urspace sites are built with this template which stays the same, and there are three themes – Minimal, Natural, and Dark, where users can choose a style for their site.

As for the dashboard, we wanted something easy to look at and easy to use. Because the user websites follow a card format, I wanted that to stay consistent in the dashboard.

The first iteration of the dashboard was scrappy. A general guideline I used was to reuse elements from the user site and maintain hierarchy of information to make the editing experience easier. Donald built the dashboard from scratch, but we used Editor JS for our project and experience editing functionality.

Malacca

New Delhi

Ladakh

Nubra Valley

After our beta test launched, we spent the next few months keeping close tabs on our beta users via a Slack community, and conducted 30 minute usability/sentiment user interviews. These interviews helped us determine what needed to be fixed and what features we wanted to build for our public launch on Product Hunt in March.

Building for launch

Our larger goal for urspace is to build not just any normal portfolio site builder, but a digital hub for all your online professional assets. We felt to validate this idea, we needed to launch with key features to distinguish us from other website builders.
One of the concerns we heard through research and interviews is that many people who need portfolio sites don't have a need to return to the platform once they're employed. Thus, we built a few key features we hoped would show our users the value our platform can bring whether they're actively recruiting or not.

First, we built a blog feature native to urspace. It's a really simple feature that allows users to write blog posts that can help their peers or potential recruiters see more about their perspective and how they think. To promote this feature, we launched a #14dayblogchallenge, which encouraged users to write blog posts based on prompts we sent out everyday. 
Next, we built a "Home" tab where users can easily see their site and receive updates/notifications from urspace. We see this as a space that will evolve to be a space where analytics and traffic information can life.
Then, we built an automated resume generator. This is a unique feature that pulls all the content – your experiences and about you information – from your urspace page, and turns it into a recruiter-ready resume. This way, users can always have an up to date resume at their fingertips.

Overall, we made sure to fix the bugs and improve the overall functionality of the site. We also redesigned parts of the dashboard to be more user friendly and map more clearly to the users' urspace sites.
We finally launched on Product Hunt in February 2020, which was a large source of traffic that has helped build our now user base organically through word of mouth.

With the support of our beta users, we ended the day as #3 product of the day on Product Hunt!

Responding to COVID-19

After launching on Product Hunt, our next goal was to start building features that would cater to recruiters. A urspace recruiting platform that would help recruiters find talent on urspace, and analyze urspace profiles to find best fit candidates. When COVID-19 hit, many of the friends in our community lost their jobs. We wanted to act as fast as possible to pivot our roadmap and build something that could help our community immediately.
Enter, urspace jobs.

Urspace jobs is a job board we built within a few days – we sourced open job listings from companies that have confirmed they're still hiring amidst COVID-19. Over the course of 2 weeks, we sourced over 1,300 open jobs on our site. In addition, we launched a recruiter chat initiative to connect job seekers directly to recruiters at companies they may be a good fit for.

In addition, we built a Recruiting tab in our urspace dashboard for our users to find all our recruiting resources in one place. This is comprised of a link to our job board, recruiter chat notifications, and the automated resume generator. 

We see a world where this evolves to become a recruiting hub for users to document all their recruiting updates, connect to job listings and recruiters, etc.

Today (As of May 2020)

Urspace has over 1,200 users in 136 countries around the world!! We're seeing a consistent upward trend of traffic to our http://urspace.io site, as well as our users sites.
The most rewarding part of this experience has been seeing some of our first users from back in 2019 now scoring awesome internships using their urspace site to recruit. 

Growth chart for visits to http://urspace.io

Going forward, urspace has some exciting things planned for the next few months! We plan to continue building resources for our community fighting against COVID-19, as well as building out better features on our platform. In the works is a premium tier for our platform, which will incorporate highly requested features we've heard from our users.

Lessons Learned

Over the course of the last year and a half of working on urspace, I've learned so much more than I expected and also built relationships with my two co-founders that I'm proud of. I've never been one to understand the technical side of things, so I feel really lucky to have been able to design a 0-1 product completely from scratch, and work with a team of people who helped keep my designs in check to make sure they were functional and practical for our development plans.
Prior to working on urspace, I had the opportunity of doing summer internships at companies that provided amazing resources – designing and building something from the ground up was much more challenging, and forced me to think about so many more use cases. The fact that we have a fully working product that people outside my friends who I begged to use are actually using astounds me, and I feel so thankful to have worked on it with a team of people I can count on to be my friends for life.