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Matching franchisees to their future franchises

Finding the perfect franchise to invest in is difficult. There are approximately 4000 franchises in the US, with 250-300 new applicants every year. Whether one is trying to find a place to invest their retirement money or a place to pursue their entrepreneurial passions, there are a lot of franchises to get excited about but only a few that can be the right fit.

Franchise = McDonalds
Franchisee = Owner of a McDonalds Location


The sole designer working with the CEO and a developer

For this project I worked on a team with our CEO and a developer. I was the sole designer so I conducted all user research and competitive research. Additionally, I created all personas, user story maps, user flows, wireframes, and high-fidelity prototypes.

Due to budget and time constraints we were given a month to fully complete this project. Most projects at Online Image were constrained to these short timelines because of lack of funds while I was working there.

Concept Background

Finding the right franchise fit

Online Image is an agency devoted to helping franchises and their franchisees succeed online. Our CEO wanted to expand our services to help potential franchisees and franchises network online. He tasked a developer and I with creating a better solution that would help Online Image become more connected in this space.

The problem we wanted to solve for our customers was the issue of finding the right franchise for their needs. Currently, sifting through thousands of franchises and finding what each franchise has to offer is a full-time job. We wanted to create a less time consuming, more accurate solution that would help individuals identify and connect with the franchises that would best suit their needs.​Our approach to this problem started with a comparative market analysis of existing solutions. We discovered that there were already a few applications that helped users find franchises. These existing solutions were all directories that you could filter through to find your desired franchise. 

However, these directories were not personalized, user friendly and they often had limited investment details for each company. This made it difficult for potential franchisees to quickly compare and contrast all of the potential investments. With a limited amount of data and tools, it took time to gather and assimilate all of the different data. Even if they could find this data, it was never the same for each franchise so it was impossible to compare.

Additionally, their franchise database was not comprehensive; they had on average only a couple hundred franchises to choose from, a limited amount considering the thousands of franchises available. This exclusivity made it hard to know that one was finding the best fit franchise for their needs.​Based on this data, we decided creating a more personalized, comprehensive and easy to use directory would be critical to our user base. Using our background in Franchising, SEO and Internet Marketing at Online Image we felt that we could create a better solution.


Learning from the best sources

Our research process for this project consisted of user interviews and expert interviews. We targeted our research toward understanding what difficulties potential franchisees experience when looking for a new investment. 

First, we talked to Dan Collins, an expert in the field. His job is to help potential franchisees find their perfect franchise and grow their investment. He informed us that when finding a franchise to invest in, there are a variety of fees for each investment. Because of a lack of transparency from franchises, discovering these fees requires valuable time and comprehensive research. As a partner at Online Image, Dan suggested it would be valuable for our team to build a fully transparent tool that would allow potential franchisees to easily compare and contrast their potential investments.

We also talked to other franchise owners about their experience buying a franchise. In order to build empathy with our users, we asked them to take us through their journey of how they came to discover and identify the right franchise for them. We found that often it was because of their life background that they chose to invest in a particular franchise. For example, one user worked as a construction manager his whole life. In order to retire, he decided to take the money he had saved and invest it in a home inspection franchise. This allowed him to continue to work in an industry that he loved and was an expert in. In addition, he was able to enjoy more freedom and flexibility from being the owner of his own company. 

our hypothesis

Using the scientific method

At this point, we felt informed enough to know what direction we should take. We felt strongly that creating a personalized, comprehensive database for prospective franchisees would help them more easily and more efficiently discover their franchise

ideate and Sketch

Identify the best design solution

User Flows:​

For user flows, we focused on two primary users: the franchise and the potential franchisees. It was imperative that we designed an interface that would attract both types of users. We wanted our application to bring in high quality leads so that it would in turn entice more franchises to sign up for our platform. At the same time, we needed to create a front facing directory that provided high quality and highly personalized results to attract more potential franchisees. The power of the application was equal to the quality of the network it provided. 

To test out our hypothesis, I designed an initial survey that wasn’t much different from a dating website (think Users choose their income level, personal background, and desired lifestyle; in return they are matched with their ideal franchise. If they don’t like their results they are able to edit choices and find a better match.

Before wireframing, I created a style guide to direct designs and to facilitate easier handoff with developers. We decided to use Online Image’s blue to keep the product within our branding. Our goal was to build the Franchise Guide to be another service offering under Online Image’s umbrella. The yellow was introduced as a contrasting color. It is used for elements that we want to stand out like CTA’s and important messages.

High-fidelity designs

Designing for clarity and style

Finally, using the user flows and style guide, I created wireframes to outline the product and the marketing pages. 

Here are all of the wireframes as described above:

next steps

COVID-19 creates road bumps

After the wireframes were finished and refined we hit a rough patch. Our CEO who had been the product manager throughout this entire process was taken away by other priorities due to COVID-19. Because of this, the project was put on hold. I was able to polish up designs and bring them to a higher fidelity. From there, it became a matter of waiting until we had enough runway with developers to restart the project.

Here are some of the final designs I was able to create.

next steps

It's only the first step

Goal number one is to get this prototype built and deployed so we can start getting feedback from users. Using the feedback we gain from early users, I hope to optimize the matching engine to better suit a potential franchisees needs. The better matches we can get for our user base, the better leads we can create for franchises, thereby enticing more franchises to sign up. This will all lead to our ultimate goal for the product, building a more powerful network between potential franchisees and franchises.

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