All the best business ideas start off in a notebook right? Aiwip began life as a diagram in a small notebook as the friends were chatting over a coffee.
We [Aiwip] all loved the idea of saving students money whilst providing a better service. Being students and recent graduates it was the personal experience that allowed us to relate to the problem so well. Then it was a question of starting a company, finding the right people to implement the idea and finally making it happen.
Being a University student can be one of the most exhilarating moments of anyone’s life. Meeting new people, studying something you’re (hopefully) passionate about and beginning to really carve out your own life away from your parents. It is however, one of the most financially stressful times of your life. Fees, accommodation, plus general life as a student can be incredibly expensive, so Aiwip came up with an innovative idea to try to alleviate some of that stress.
The founders of Aiwip developed a concept of allowing students to print their documents for free (lecture notes etc) by enabling advertisers to pay for it. It seems like a total no brainer and we were all onboard immediately. Students need to print a lot of their lecture notes, readings etc and they ultimately end up throwing it away. Printing prices have escalated to up to 50p per page, which for a student struggling to manage their finances is a huge inconvenience.
This felt like a really fun challenge to tackle and we were onboard from the first meeting.
We’ve worked with Aiwip for just over two years now and have been through two large phases with them.
Phase 1 was to build the initial product and test it with the market to see if there was a need for Aiwip to exist. This phase lasted around six months and we built the first iteration of a student web dashboard (print/manage documents) and the advertiser dashboard (create/manage campaigns).
Aiwip were very clear that they didn’t want non-students to be able to print at the Aiwip printers so we used student University credentials for signup.
When a student uploaded a document to the Phase 1 platform it would generate a QR code that they could then email to themselves (to access on their smartphone) which they could then scan next to the printer to trigger the printout. This solution worked for Phase 1 but we knew moving forward that would be looking to introduce mobile apps which carry their own advantages (GPS, offline, Bluetooth etc).
Moving into Phase 2 we did a complete audit of the existing product to see what was working and what needed improving. We found that users were a little confused by the QR code emailing process so we went back to the drawing board and came up with a new solution using native apps and iBeacons to trigger the printout when the app recognises the student is next to an Aiwip printer.
This meant a huge change to the system, as well as developing two new apps (iOS and Android).
Aiwip also wanted to introduce new methods of advertising beyond the banner on the printed page. There would now be digital banners that would be browsable in the apps whilst the student waits for their printout.
Our [Aiwp’s] main worry was that none of the founders had a technical/IT background, which meant that it was hard for us to understand exactly what was needed to successfully create a complex system such as Aiwip. Leto were very helpful in explaining everything at every step of the way and giving us constant updates to make sure we are always in the loop at what stage the coding was.
The timeline was a major factor with Phase 2 as Aiwip wanted the new work ready for when students started their next academic year (early October) and we kicked off the project around 4 months before that. This meant that there could potentially be a lot of wasted time as the developers sat around waiting for designs. To prevent this we did as many wireframes as possible for the different platforms which meant the dev team could get started and then we invested time in applying the visuals once the design direction was approved.
The platforms that needed to be designed and built were:
– Student homepage
– Advertiser homepage
– Student dashboard
– Advertiser dashboard
– Student iOS app
– Student Android app
We all pulled together as a team grabbing regular meetings to make sure everything was flowing smoothly and that we were on target to meet the deadline.
The project was completed quickly and to the highest standards. Leto’s approach was great and they went that extra mile even when they did not have to.
Like with any large scale project there were limitations and tradeoffs that needed to be made. It was important for us to be transparent and in constant communication with the client so that they were kept up to date and involved throughout the project. With the deadline being so fixed it was our responsibility to explain to the client that unfortunately not all of the features they wanted would be able to make it into launch but that we had a plan for how to iteratively roll these features into the product post-launch.
With such a tight deadline it made user testing quite difficult but we organised a few guerilla tests where we went to one of the University libraries and shared a Marvel prototype with several students to gauge whether we were on the right direction. This testing lead us to rethink the flow a student would go through when printing their document. We looked at existing file storage solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive, but their focus is on just that, storage. Aiwip is about file printing (of which there isn’t really anything existing on either iOS or Android). Our original idea was that a student would upload a document, tap on it, go through printing settings and print the document (so we didn’t show a preview as the student would likely know what files they had stored and it felt like an extra step), but during testing it became obvious that this was an expected behaviour.
The best impact we could hope for was obviously students finding the product intuitive and useful.
Apart from joy, initially students are mostly surprised or curious as to why the service is free and often ask what the business model behind the system is. Once a student uses Aiwip it becomes the default way they print, feedback has been extremely positive and mostly people ask for more locations to print. Of course we get the occasional paper jam which makes a user grumpy but those are resolved in an instant.
Post-launch there are 13 Universities currently using the Aiwip system, up to 100,000 students have access and Aiwip have advertised for both local businesses and multinational brands such as Dominos, O2 and Uber.
Aiwip has directly saved students over £30,000 from printing fees alone.