David Kind

Dave Barton had a vision to deliver high-end, hand-crafted eyewear directly to customers. Playing the role of a technical cofounder, we've worked closely with him over the last two years to create a system that not only drives a sustainable business, but also enables talented stylists to provide customers with a great product and superior service.

The Brief

When Dave first approached us in August 2012 about his luxury eyewear retail concept, the Internet was on the brink of a new e-commerce paradigm. Concierge styling websites like Trunkclub and Stitch Fix were just starting to gain mainstream popularity. Meanwhile, the online eyewear market was growing rapidly, but was dominated by lower-quality product. Dave saw an opportunity to build an online business that helps people get fitted for eyewear.

Ecommerce has grown up, and it’s time that eyewear grows with it.

Dave Barton

Founder of David Kind

Dave Barton, Founder of David Kind

Dave Barton got the idea for David Kind from meaningful customer experiences he had observed through his career in eyewear. As an eyewear specialist at his previous company, KBL, Dave studied Facebook profile pictures from his clients to select the best frame for their face. He found that customers were more likely to buy the frames he selected for them than the frames they picked out on their own. He realized he could automate this concierge service with a digital storefront and back-of-house order fulfillment system. He just needed to find the right team to build it.

Dave’s very first iteration of his product lived on Facebook, where he picked eyeglass frames for customers based on their profile pictures.

Proving the Concept

When we sat down with Dave for the first time, we both thought that we would be discussing an e-commerce website. However, by the end of the meeting, we concluded that the right place to start was with custom software to support the unique service aspect of his business. In four weeks, we prototyped a styling and order fulfillment system. It wasn't pretty, but it didn't need to be — as a proof of concept, it helped him secure capital and begin to run trials with customers, using Facebook to acquire and style initial users.

When I showed the first prototype to people and saw how they responded — [that] was the most exciting part for me. People just got the David Kind concept and how the platform worked. To see early adopters’ faces on social media was amazing.

Dave Barton

Once we had created the foundation for the business, we turned our efforts to customer acquisition. Over the next several months, we experimented with value propositions, imagery, and colors to create a landing page that represented the brand and appealed to the right users.

David Kind landing page screenshot

Initial Successes and Speed Bumps

After David Kind’s MVP launch, Philosophie and Dave worked together to figure out what to do next. We needed to establish a continuous product development cycle so that we could expand the system as new customers came in and business opportunities arose.

Establishing a cadence was critical to keeping the site stable. Dave had plenty of ideas for what to build next, but how could we build it fast without breaking things?

The answer was to take a data-driven approach to prioritize features. Following the MVP, we established a process for every sprint review:

David Kind glasses photo
Demo the work we did from the previous sprint
Review Analytics chart
Review the analytics to determine pain points and opportunities
Pivotal Tracker backlog for David Kind
Collaborate with Dave to determine what to design next based on these points

With this process we could roll out features in iterative steps, making small bets to measure success and failure without taking on too much risk.

“We shifted the focus from building a robust shopping platform to building a funnel. We tried to remove as much friction as possible.”

— Nick Giancola

The Product Funnel

A Pleasurable Shopping Experience for Customers

On the consumer-facing side, we designed around customer pain points by observing analytics and gathering user feedback with Mixpanel and UserTesting. Early on, we noticed that users tended to drop off while requesting a stylist. To remedy this drop off, we tried a number of things.

In the original five-step onboarding process, we prompted users to create an account, fill out their account preferences, upload a photo of themselves and submit it to be reviewed by a stylist. We hypothesized that users weren’t interested in filling out their account details to start, they just wanted to get started right away. So we eliminated that portion altogether.

We used A/B testing to measure success. We released new versions of the onboarding process to 50% of customers at a time, while the other 50% saw the old version. This allowed us to observe user behavior and determine which version was more effective. In the end, we found that shortening the five-step process to three steps did improve the conversion rate, especially for mobile users.

For a long time, we focused just on getting new users. Once our funnel was giving us reliable numbers, we shifted our focus to the admin system.

Nick Giancola

A Lean and Scalable Admin

As demand grew, we needed to iterate on the design of the admin system. Dave needed to hire more stylists. However, the admin system was buckling under the weight of more stylists and many more customers. Stylists didn’t know which customers had already been served and they didn’t know which trays to fill.

Dave told us about this during a sprint review and we brainstormed together. We drew our own solutions separately and then shared ideas. This divergence and convergence let us understand the problem from different perspectives. Thanks to this “design studio”, we arrived at a simple but valuable solution. The level of effort to build this feature was trivial and it afforded Dave’s team the ability to scale with their growth.

The end result of a typical design studio: a mess of printouts and stickies that shed light on design solutions and next steps.

David Kind Design Studio

Embrace the Suck

In developing this feature, we coined a new phrase: “Embrace the suck”. If we didn’t have such close and frequent contact with Dave, and share the day-to-day pains of his business, we may not have discovered this problem as quickly.

Embracing the suck means you have to let things hurt before you start to figure out how to fix it. Lets you get to the root of the problem.

David Elliott

Software Engineer @Philosophie

We’ve changed and iterated fast enough to avoid any major disasters. We’ve grown pretty steadily. We’ve done two times the business this month than last month and we didn’t feel overwhelmed by it.

Dave Barton

Early Buzz

Too often, consumer startups underestimate the amount of money and effort that goes into marketing and customer acquisition. As a fashion and lifestyle brand, David Kind focused on pairing a superior product with an unparalleled customer experience. As a result, we received awesome reviews from customers and bloggers:

David Kind press from NOTCOT
Beyond the stunning cork packaging (swoon) and the high quality, luxury frames, what has been most exciting is learning about the advances in eyeglass lens technology!

Jean Aw


David Kind press from the Small Things blog
I was unsure how the concept would work, but after I picked my favorites I realized how fun it was to try them on in my home. I also loved that someone did the thinking for me, and picked out frames that they knew would work.

Kate Bryan

The Small Things Blog

Looking at the Future

We’ve nurtured a collaborative and productive relationship with David Kind. During our engagement, we’ve discovered a segment of the glasses-wearing population who do want the stylist experience in buying quality eyewear. We designed and built a robust and scalable admin system and consumer-facing website that will support Dave now and in the future. We iterated on consumer messaging to motivate people to buy the product. Our support for Dave, like our process, is ongoing and constantly developing under the mantra “Make it better”.

Partnering with the right people — branding, manufacturing, tech team — is important. If you are in a similar situation as David Kind, I would go for Philosophie. Look for that type of relationship.

Dave Barton

There is no one-size-fits-all process. We have a high level trust with Dave. The more process we tried to write, the less we felt it helped. Nature of the project itself, team chemistry, client background, these things all have to be taken to account in a project ecosystem.

David Elliott

Iterative improvement is the key to success. Not everything needs to be a big win or a big loss.

Joy Liu

The Team

  • Dave Barton, Product Owner
    Dave Barton
    Founder & Product Owner
  • Nick Giancola, Project Manager
    Project Manager
  • Joy Liu, UX Designer
    UX Designer
  • David Elliot, Software Engineer
    Software Engineer
  • Lane Halley, UX Designer
    UX Designer
  • Jordan Keating, UI Developer
    UI Developer