• Shopify Collective: Visiontyping

  • From fragile idea to vision & beyond:

    The perpetual role of visiontyping in the product development process for Shopify Collective

  • Visual Design, Storytelling, Strategic Development

  • Project Background

  • In early 2022, a newly formed product team was faced with the challenge of developing a solution to help connect Shopify merchants to buyers everywhere. 

    Through extensive user research efforts and regular interactions with merchants, it was clear that many entrepreneurs were constantly looking for new ways to increase sales, introduce new products, access new customer segments, establish relationships with other trustworthy brands, and enhance their Average Order Value (AOV) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

  • Many merchants were also working with other businesses on Shopify and had created their own workarounds to facilitate these partnerships; a strong indicator of a valuable user need worth addressing. It was also evident that those managing multiple businesses on Shopify would obtain value from a streamlined way to sync inventory between stores.


    To address these opportunities, product leadership formed an idea of building a network, which could empower merchants on Shopify to discover, connect and work together through different commerce models like dropshipping and wholesale. They also aimed to partner and develop integrations with major B2B marketplaces like Faire, Abound, and Tundra

  • Developing & communicating a new product vision

  • I was approached by senior leadership to explore and conceptualize this nebulous idea to the wider product team and org, along with executive stakeholders for buy-in. 

    To do so, we decided to develop a visiontype for which was then being referred to as "Merchant to Merchant" or "M2M" network. 

    Visiontyping, also known as "concept prototyping," is a powerful tool to explore new concepts well before an actual project gets started. Prototyping reduces ambiguity, helps uncover issues, and fosters a culture of creativity and collaboration. This process also becomes an effective tool for communicating the product strategy to the entire team, providing fresh insights and showcasing both the potential and limitations of ideas.

    In collaboration with another staff designer and senior leadership, we researched, sketched, and explored various tentative options for the network UI, incorporating some of the early ideas. As the process evolved, we developed a narrative around a familiar merchant, Nonna Live, to demonstrate the product's potential and value in a cohesive journey. The combination of storytelling and a prototype was a powerful means to help contextualize a very tentative idea into something that could be grasped by, and generate excitement to the immediate product team and wider org:

  • This visiontype was well received at all levels. An important artifact in the early stages of iteration, it effectively communicated a complex new product concept to a large group and served well as a catalyst to inspire the months of product work to follow. 

  • Post limited access release

  • Around 12 months later, a limited access version of what became to be known as Shopify Collective was launched to a small cohort of merchants in the US and Canada in February 2023.

    To deepen understanding of the user experience and identify areas for improvement, the UX team conducted an observed installation study with a group of retailer and supplier merchants who were all unfamiliar with the product. The study produced actionable insights, captured raw first impressions, and helped validate areas of ambiguity before further development.

  • During an offsite, the results of the study along with synthesized quantitative data were showcased to the wider group, serving as inspiration for a subsequent ideation session. Using the insights gained, the team constructed a user journey map, visualizing the limited access experience for both retailers and suppliers.

    A user journey map visually represents a user's interactions with a product or service across different channels over time. It tells the story of how individuals try to achieve specific tasks or goals whilst using the product. 

  • As the journey maps clearly highlighted the pain points in the experience, I took the initiative to develop new journey maps for suppliers and retailers as a conceptual exercise, this time with a focus on enhancing quality and reducing friction.

    Working together with a second senior designer, our goal was to unveil the ‘a-ha’ moments to merchants earlier on in the journey. Striving to achieve a more significant impact in the next product iteration, we sketched and integrated three new ideas into the new journey maps which emerged from insights obtained following the limited access release.

    Positively received from design leadership and our peers, to help make the concepts more tangible, we put together a high fidelity prototype and accompanying narrative to showcase these new ideas in a cohesive journey:

  • The outcome of this work was highly appreciated by the project team and wider org, including product leads - who were deciding where to invest efforts leading up to the general access launch. Two of the three showcased ideas, 'Discovery First' and 'Public Price Lists' both sparked new initiatives within the Collective project teams. Additional efforts were also invested into making integrations into the platform smoother.

  • Conclusion

  • There’s a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. While high-fidelity visual designs, powerful storytelling and a complete interactive prototype can effectively communicate your concept and generate excitement, they alone won't lead to the actual development of a final product.

    Regardless, quality is a way of working. When well executed, visiontyping plays an impactful role in the product development process. Tentative, fragile ideas are at the foundation for all transformational products. It’s important to foster and shape ideas by building a working style that continually pairs thinking about the long-term design direction of your surface area along with the short-term, especially in organisations like Shopify that are strongly focused on ‘slicing thin’ and shipping fast.

  • Applied Methods

    User research


    User journey mapping

    Visual design



  • Partners


    Jakob Lotspeich

    Michelle Gerrard-Doyle

    Edgaras Predkelis

    Sophie Allcock


    Joe Rinaldi-Johnson

    Vita Valeikaitė