Bringing co-founders' vision to life by iterating on an MVP

Arazoo was a SaaS platform for the architecture and interior design industry that I worked on from 2014 to 2018. The founders of Arazoo were non-technical — a lawyer and an architect who had run a successful NYC construction project management firm for several decades — and they started with a minimal MVP made by a contractor.

Arazoo founder Barry LePatner in a 2017 video

Once they had their demo-able MVP, I was hired to help bring their vision to life.

My first step was to accompany the co-founders on demo visits to architecture and design firms in NYC and listened in on sales calls, noting feedback and questions about the MVP product. I also visited the offices of our most active champion users and watched them use the product.

I learned that several aspects of our users' process were not supported in Arazoo, and they had developed clunky, sometimes elaborate workarounds to collaborate with their colleagues and clients. Based on that, I focused on increasing collaboration and reducing friction.

To fulfill the founders' vision, I also needed to set up the platform up for e-commerce.

Increasing Collaboration

The basic use case of Arazoo centered around the building materials and finishes research and specification process. In the MVP, users could use our web clipper tool to save building material details from manufacturer websites and create specification documents for handoff to contractors. I discovered that users were emailing their colleagues and contractors with notes and comments about building materials, then copying and pasting those emails into their building materials' descriptions for lack of a better place to store that information. They were also reluctant to use Arazoo for their full specification process, because there was no "final approval" feature.


One of the first collaboration features I added to Arazoo was the ability to carry on a conversation within Arazoo about a specific building material. This enabled users to capture the conversations they would have otherwise had out of system about technical information, vendor contact details or configuration options. Arazoo users on the same team could now comment back and forth on a building material and @-mention each other to send email alerts about time-sensitive comments.

Users could mention other users and tag products and materials in Arazoo comments
@-mention notification email example


To address users' need to collaborate with outside parties like clients and contractors, I added the ability to share a secure link to building materials in their libraries and projects. Users could set their own privacy levels for what information was shared with outside parties and allow share recipients to add comments.

Sharing feature

Product and material statuses

The architectural specification process often includes several rounds of proposals and revisions, culminating in final approval by both clients and project leadership. I created a flexible status system that enabled users to track this process, capture final approval or give specific users elevated permissions within a project.

Statuses let Arazoo users easily track a material's approval

Reducing friction

Crowd-sourcing building material information

One of the first things we implemented was a crowd-sourced global library accessible to all Arazoo users. Whenever a user used our web clipper tool to save a building material into Arazoo, they had the option to add it to the global Arazoo library. This made the building material discoverable for all Arazoo users, building up a library of browsable content that meant Arazoo could be not just a place to store information, but a place to discover new building materials.

Arazoo's global library contained crowd-sourced building material information


The MVP of Arazoo was designed as a desktop app, and did not perform well on small screens or touchscreen devices. I found that users frequently needed to access their building material data in the field, usually on their phone or tablet. Many of our early power users had workarounds for accessing their Arazoo data in the field -- some even printed out their Arazoo building material information and carried it with them for site visits, annotating it by hand, then updating as necessary when they got back to their desks.

By auditing our web app, I created a list to optimize for mobile and address each problem in priority order.


The desktop version of Arazoo had a breadcrumb-based navigation that wouldn't work on mobile, and used a tabbed navigational model within projects to access different parts of projects.

I redesigned the navigation as a menu overlay that let users access their favorite building materials, their team's libraries and projects, and quickly browse top-level categories in the global Arazoo library.

Mobile nav

Building material details

Arazoo's building material detail view was a partial screen overlay that moved in from the right and had scrollable content.

Desktop version of the Arazoo material detail view

For mobile, I redesigned this to be a full-screen experience:

Mobile version of the Arazoo material detail view

Building to an e-commerce experience

I was given a strong mandate from the founders to create experiences that could support a future transition to e-commerce in Arazoo. The founders' vision was that Arazoo should be a one-stop shop for finding, specifying, and purchasing building materials.

The crowd-sourcing feature was the first step in this process, quickly followed by the addition of ratings, verified building materials, and sponsored ads.

Our initial design for rating materials in Arazoo
Manufacturer-sponsored product listings and manufacturer-verified products were introduced to Arazoo in 2018
Manufacturers were able to place sponsored products on the homepage of Arazoo


Arazoo was acquired by a large building materials manufacturer in 2018. At the time Arazoo was acquired, the platform had thousands of users at top architecture and design firms in the US and Canada, as well as thousands of individual free-tier users.

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