It’s 2019 and Wehl is now officially live – A new year and a new social platform for wellness to enjoy!
It feels incredible to have a beautiful social platform built for wellness that’s live for the world to see (and hopefully, begin to embrace and ENJOY)! To think Wehl was created out of nothing and built from complete scratch blows my mind! It’s hard to picture it but there are hundreds, thousands, no idea how many really but let’s just say A LOT of custom lines of code that make up Wehl. They weren’t created out of thin air or adapted in an afternoon from a code bank somewhere. Nope, Wehl was created by researching, gathering feedback, planning, mocking-up designs, coding, testing, improving and then coding, testing, and improving some more. Obviously, without the brilliant mind of our designer and programmer, Mark, it would never have fully become a reality. We all pitched in to work in our areas of expertise (picking up new skills on the fly of course) and it’s been a team effort the entire way!
As often happens with tech start-ups, we built Wehl and tested it in a first round of beta testing with family and friends. We then had two more rounds of improvements and beta testing (including an alpha site), before going live on January 21, 2019. The short version – it’s been quite the challenging journey to get to a live platform yet we’ve learned a lot and celebrated some great milestones! The long(er) version – well, let me tell you about that below…
Skydiving + Marathon Running + Hurricanes
Wehl has been a “labour of love” as they say but it has also been serious, tough labour! We’re talking brain labour like I’ve never experienced before – creativity, learning new skills, problem solving, strategic thinking, trial and error, you name it our brain cells have gotten a workout! In no way has this journey been easy and being completely real (‘cause that’s what we want to be on Wehl), there were days when we had no idea if Wehl would ever get to a live status.
On this journey, we’ve climbed mountains and overcome obstacles. Busy schedules, creative fatigue, illness and family commitments have meant project delays but we’ve been committed to modelling wehlness and balance in our work, choosing to move at more of a marathon pace than a sprint. Resource limitations have also been a real obstacle but what they say has been true: “start-ups have to be scrappy and it forces you to be creative and build a better product”. And let’s not forget discouragement, failures and setbacks – every journey has some. We could have done without them but we know they’ve made us better and Wehl better.
Entrepreneurship – working to create and grow something new in this world – has felt at times like skydiving mixed with a marathon, perhaps an idea for the ultimate new sport?! You’re taking a HUGE leap not knowing exactly how (or if!) the chute will open, where exactly you’ll end up or when you’ll get there. And, you’re doing it with all the physical and mental strength and endurance testing of a marathon. You feel ecstatic, you feel exhausted.
It’s difficult to fully describe all the details that go into everything, the challenges, the amount of time and effort we’ve dedicated and the times when it felt like one step forward, one step back. BUT, the important part is that we continued to push forward, even when it felt at times like this “skydiving mixed with marathon running thing” was going straight through a hurricane!
With teamwork and sheer determination we refused to give up! We relied on faith, on each other, on passion and our purpose to keep at it, be patient and keep the positivity that the rain would stop and the skies would clear. Online time that helps us improve ourselves, encourage others and spread good, is time well spent – social wehlness at its best! That’s why we’re on this mission to use the power of social support to Inspire Wehlness and Spread Good!
So, as it turns out, it’s harder than expected to build a socially-conscious online platform and make each button work right, each post and tip appear correctly, each email send to the right member at the right time, each… you get the picture. As those that work in entrepreneurship and the start-up business world know, I’m now learning that it’s never going to be easy and will likely always feel a little like skydiving mixed with marathon running! But when the hurricane blows over and you’re onto a fresh new chapter with lots of potential, you take some time to celebrate, reflect and look with great hope towards the future!
Testing 1, 2, 3!
We want to continue to document our journey building Wehl so that we can take time to thank our community and show how much we’re grateful for everyone who has played a role in helping us get this far. We also want to reflect on the process ourselves to first be grateful for the progress, and second, see where we can learn and improve for the future.
From the beginning of our first phase of beta testing with friends and family, we’ve been continuing to build, test and improve Wehl with the help and feedback from our initial community. You can read all about our first stage of beta testing here.
Round 2 begins!
In August of 2017, we began our second phase of beta testing. During this phase, we welcomed friends, family and colleagues of our initial beta community and those who signed up for early access at wehl.com.
We worked to make more improvements based off our first phase of beta testing and continued to gather more feedback, plan and implement supporting resources, and build new features including profile upgrades for professionals and organizations to join us.
Our Goals of Beta 2 included:
- Further refine all functionalities and eliminate any remaining “bugs”
- Welcome new members, further establish a cooperative culture and increase engagement, test and further develop our “community management process”
- Gather community feedback on all aspects of platform uptake and usage (e.g. user experience, usability, comprehension of Wehl’s purpose & unique value, etc.) and further ask how Wehl can be helpful to them to improve wehlness (e.g. current behaviours, needs, interests, ideas for future additions)
Aggregate and analyze feedback to inform planning, finalize mock-ups and begin development of professional member and organization member accounts
- Collect feedback to inform planning, finalize mock-ups and program “My Wehlness” feature
- Consolidation of ideas to help inform main page update
Beta 2 Feedback Summary
During Phase 2 of Beta Testing, we continued to gather as much feedback as possible, either via telephone, email or in-person. Below is a snapshot of what we heard.
Overall, feedback continued to be positive and have similar themes to what we heard in Beta 1 Testing. Members indicated that they:
- Like that the platform is positive and geared towards helping people and working together as a community
- Appreciate having accessibility to a variety of good, trustworthy health and wellness related information
- Enjoy the support and encouragement from others on the platform
- Enjoy seeing what others are doing to get new ideas
- Find the design calming and appreciate the “real-life feel”
- Appreciated getting friendly welcome emails (including one from a “real person”!)
- Like the emails they receive that let them know someone high-fived them or commented on their post
– “I found the site purposeful, useful and user friendly – – it was easy to navigate and engage with others”
– “I enjoy reading posts and especially the tips”
– “I am left feeling good after having visited the site”
– “Overall, I really like the site, and think it’s a great idea”
– “I love going to Wehl for breaks”
People also have provided great feedback about our newsletter, including that they like seeing “real people and their experiences” featured, enjoy the recipes, find it an appropriate length, like the nature photo, like the ability to click a link to get back to Wehl and more.
The Suggestions & Areas for Improvement
The Needs Improvement feedback is what really helps us work towards our mission of helping to improve wehlness. It’s not always easy to give or hear feedback, sometimes difficult to make sense of and not always possible to use all the suggestions, but we’re grateful to those that take the time to give it. We continue to do our best to improve despite our “bootstrapping start-up” reality.
Here are a few of the themes we heard in Beta 2, along with our solutions where possible:
- Members were unclear that Wehl is mobile-friendly and can easily be used just like an app
- Our Solution: We created a blog article with details about how this is done and have continued to communicate that Wehl is mobile-friendly via our welcome emails and newsletters. We also planned to profile this on our homepage re-design which we completed in Beta 3.
- People wanted more information on the homepage about Wehl and its value to them
- Our solution: We took all the feedback we got including the main questions people would ask us about Wehl and consolidated this to develop new mock-ups for our homepage re-design.
- Members wanted to be able to sort info for quicker retrieval, especially related to each of the 6 components of wehlness and tips
- Our Solution: We began plans to add a “feed filter” allowing members to sort their “All” and “Following” feeds by each of 6 components of wehlness as well as by “Tips”. We also worked to better communicate that each wehlness tag on a post is clickable to see all the other posts with that tag.
- On desktop, photos appeared larger than preferred
- Our Solution: Because Wehl is a mobile-friendly application, we have the challenge (and opportunity!) of making Wehl look good and work well on a variety of browsers and devices – from the smallest of phone screens to the largest of desktop screens. We were able to work to find a happy medium – decreasing the size of the photo on desktop while still keeping the photo at an easily viewable size on mobile.
- Members requested seeing more tips and info from professionals and also expressed interest in being able to easily click to see info from companies about products that were referenced
- Our Solution: In the beginning, Wehl was not a place for members to advertise, sell or promote their own products or services (or any business in which members have an existing relationship). This was clearly stated in our Community Manifesto. We wanted Wehl to be a safe, wellness-inducing place and heard from our feedback gathering that people were tired of being sold to and that all the advertising on other platforms was a cause of distress. At the same time, we heard that when done in the right way, people found it helpful to hear from professionals and businesses about wellness and how their products and services could help them. They also wanted to easily be able to travel from the “My Wehl” feed to a profile where they could learn more and click a link to visit the website if they wish to. There are always two sides to the coin and thus, we spent a long time looking at the idea of advertising/promoting on Wehl. We consulted with various stakeholders to determine the best course of action to ensure we stay true to our mission of improving wellness. Overall, we recognized that wellness-related products and services certainly can and do play a big part in improving our wellness. We put out a request for feedback on the concept and worked with the community and professionals to develop an educational-marketing approach to promoting products/services on Wehl. We worked to plan out the PRO member, PRO organization and free organization accounts in a way that would prioritize improving the wellness of community members while offering value and providing benefits to help wellness professionals and businesses.
- Some members wanted to see a select group of people’s content and were unclear they could do so by choosing to “follow” them
- Our Solution: It wasn’t there from the very beginning but in beta testing 1, we added in the ability for members to “follow” other members. We worked to draw more attention to the “all” and “following” feed via design and also worked to communicate the concept of adding those you wish to see more of to your “following” list.
- Some people wanted a longer character limit while a majority appreciated the character limit
- Our Solution: Having a character limit was a purposeful feature we had on Wehl from the beginning. We want to encourage making our wellness tips and posts quicker and easier to read to not only help us learn but also to facilitate shorter periods of time spent online. Wehl was built for real-life, busy lifestyles, and for different levels of wellness expertise, so character limits help us make the information more accessible and easily digestible. That being said, it can be difficult to fit in everything we want to say (especially for the more educational posts and tips) and include a link which also takes up characters. We gathered feedback on this during Beta 2 and in Beta 3 we implemented a larger character limit of 321 characters for posts/tips. We settled on increasing the comment character limit to 432 so that we can offer more detail and encourage more sharing in the comments for further learning and support.
- People didn’t understand what the “h” in Wehl meant and preferred to know this upfront
- Our Solution: In addition to our FAQ question related to this, we began to share the significance of Wehl spelled differently in the very first email members automatically receive after signing up. We also made plans to include it on the new homepage re-design.
We took all of the feedback we gathered to date and used it to inform our work during our second phase of testing which, in addition to addressing the above, included:
- Our first Spread Good Project – Spreading Good is an important part of Wehl. One way we want to Spread Good is by giving back to help the wehlness of those in need. We worked to develop this aspect of our community, planning what our goals would be, what our criteria would be to determine who we would work with, researching charities and reaching out. We decided to support local and international organizations and projects that bring wellness to people in need and the planet, doing our best to choose charities that are noted for spending their money wisely, and using Charity Intelligence Canada to help inform our decisions when possible. Kenneth did a great job taking the lead on orchestrating our first Spread Good Project which you can read more about here.
- Joining 1 % for the Planet – In March of 2018 we became a member of 1 % for the Planet and committed to donating a minimum of 1 % of our sales to support environmental initiatives. Environmental (Enviro) wehlness is one of the six components of wehlness. As we recognize at Wehl, our health and the health of our planet are intertwined and thus we aim to be good stewards of this Earth. We are excited to join a network of businesses, individuals, donors and non-profits to work towards the common goal of protecting the future of our planet, specifically focusing on the areas of climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife. As 1 % for the Planet says and we also believe – “we can do more together than we can alone” – and this is the reason we wanted to be a part of it. For more info on 1 % for the Planet and the impact, click here.
- A Wehl Newsletter – As suggested by members, Allison led our work on establishing a monthly community newsletter format. Our goal with our newsletter is to provide additional information and motivation for our members on their wellness journeys and as requested in feedback, provide a reminder of wehlness and Wehl. We aim to keep our community informed on Wehl’s progress and news, highlight and recognize our members and help us all to get to know each other a little better. We want to educate and inspire our members by highlighting recent posts and tips on the Wehl platform and encourage them to pass along the info they’re learning to help others. Each month highlights a different component of wehlness and we do our best to feature a variety of helpful info to meet different interests. We gathered feedback from our community through a test newsletter in the fall and the first official “The Wehl Times” newsletter went out in January 2018!
- A “What to Post” Blog Article – We had feedback that some people found it difficult to come up with ideas of what to post. We encourage everyone not to over-think it and simply post about their wellness moments, share their goals and experiments and any tips they’ve learned. We’re going for an imperfect, real-life approach to wehlness. We want posting to encourage us to be mindful of the little moments in our days and weeks that bring us wehlness. And if we don’t have anything to post, we want that to be a reminder and motivator to stop and do something for our wehlness in our busy lives! We put together a number of suggestions in this article. We also began to make future plans to help solve this problem. Stay tuned!
- “About Wehl” Content Updates – In response to feedback gathered, we updated and re-organized our About Wehl content including Our Purpose, Our Journey, Our Team and our FAQ in order to simplify and better tell our story in a concise yet authentic and transparent way.
- Pending B Corporation Status – Joining the movement of “using business as a force for good” was something we wanted to do from the beginning! The B Corp movement makes complete sense to us and it especially does when you’re a platform focused on Wehlness – they go together like hummus and carrots (a healthier analogy to the typical ice cream and apple pie one). Starting the application process in our very early days took extra time and resources, but it was important to us to set up Wehl Inc. properly right from the beginning – prioritizing socially responsible business standards and procedures. We worked hard and were excited to achieve a Pending B Corporation Status for one year in December of 2017. The perfect way to wind up the year!
- Wehl Blog Interviews with Wellness Professionals and Businesses – During Beta 2, Amanda came on board to help us further build relationships with various wellness professionals and businesses. It’s important to us to build authentic relationships in the industry and we absolutely want to foster a culture of supporting each other in our various pursuits to improve health and wellness. We know how hard it is to build a business with wellness-related values and we built Wehl because we believe we should support each other more. We love learning more about other entrepreneurs’ stories and sharing them with our community to help them learn more about wellness. And of course, we’re grateful for the support Wehl has received from them. Check out our interviews here.
- Enhancing Community Culture and Experience – We continued to work on various strategies to improve the member experience. One really fun example: we developed “the Wehl tea” in partnership with The Honest Leaf Tea company as a gift to give away to members and potential new members. Check out more about The Honest Leaf Tea here.
- A Wehl for Business Manifesto – To complement our Community Manifesto and ensure everyone is on the same page when using Wehl as a professional or organization, we developed the Wehl for Business Manifesto. We consulted with various stakeholders and essentially the nutshell is that, on Wehl, we agree to do social networking and marketing differently. We focus on “Inspiring Wehlness first” in order to help others and leave the product/service promotion to come secondary. We believe giving is the best promotion strategy and that showing we care is the future of business. For more, please read the manifesto here.
- Planning for New Features and Upgrades:
- Small Design Enhancements and New Features – Too many to list, some for function and some more for aesthetics, we made numerous changes to enhance the Wehl experience. One example, was adding an “autologin” feature so that after a member verifies their email, they’re now automatically logged in.
- A “My Wehlness” Section – We developed this new section as a way for members to reflect more on their personal vision for wehlness and what each of the six components of wehlness (body, mind, spiritual, work, enviro, social) mean to them. Next to social support, one of the most important things for improving and maintaining wellness, is to have a personal wellness vision. Similar to how a company needs a vision to direct and motivate, we, too, need a vision from which our goals and habits can align. We wanted this section to be a place where you could go to reflect, recharge and reset whenever you need it, like a wehlness compass that helps get/keep you on track. We also wanted it to be a way that others could get to know each other a little more so they could better support each other, on and off of Wehl.
- Professional and Organization Accounts – We worked to plan out the PRO member, PRO organization and free organization accounts in a way that would prioritize improving the wellness of community members and maximize the benefits for professionals and businesses. Among the features, we developed an “Our Wehlness Impact” section for organizations to share the work they do to support the wehlness of their customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders as well as the planet. Not only did we want a place that gives them an opportunity to showcase their values and hard work but we also heard that members find this info helpful when they’re making choices of who to see for help or what to buy. In addition, we developed a “Relationships” section for both PRO members and PRO organizations as a way to emphasize and facilitate working together to improve wellness and spread good. We heard from wellness professionals in particular that they wanted to have the ability to show and develop more “Professional Referrals” especially across disciplines.
- Wehlness Choices – We developed the concept of “Wehlness Choices” as a way to bring attention to and encourage each other to be mindful of the choices we make regularly. On Wehl, we want to support each other to make healthier choices because well, it’s not easy and there’s unhealthy temptation everywhere these days. By making a professional or organization a “Choice” we declare we choose them to help support our wehlness and can easily at the same time show gratitude and support their business. We heard from members that they really appreciate hearing about good quality products and services and we wanted to take the idea of reviews, trying something out, a step further to say “this is what I choose to use regularly because it’s a healthy, effective option for me”. We want to bring attention to the fact that we all have a choice to choose products/services that have a positive impact – on our personal health, on the health of our families, a social impact on other fellow human beings and an environmental impact, too. Together we want to empower each other to make “Wehlness Choices” that align with our values. We got great feedback early on about this but it was a new concept for some that needed some initial explaining. We’re excited about this unique-to-Wehl feature and hope to continue to foster the selection of “Wehlness Choices” as we grow.
Let’s Finish up this Beta Testing – Round 3
Once we had all of the big features and upgrade additions built and tested on our alpha platform, it was time to “push” them to the beta platform and begin phase 3 of Beta Testing in August 2018!
We informed our community of the new additions and continued to test with our existing early community members and add more from our “early access list”. Gradually, in tandem with making small fixes, we reached out to more and more of our blog interviewees. We invited them to join and become founding members that would not only help us fully test the platform but also help us shape our new social platform for wellness.
In addition to our ongoing goals, in Beta 3 Testing we were specifically looking to:
- Gather feedback, fix bugs, finalize the free Organization account, the PRO organization upgraded account and the PRO member upgraded account including testing the onboarding and payment processes
- Gather feedback, fix bugs, finalize “My Wehlness”, “Our Wehlness Impact”, “My Choices”, and “Relationships” section
- Implement and test other small feature additions including feed filters
- Further test and refine our “community management process”
- Gather feedback on and refine the new homepage design
- Gather feedback on and refine the new About pages we finished in Beta 2
- Like that we don’t show followers and follower counts
- Like the concept of “Choices”
- Enjoy filling out the “My Wehlness” section as a way to better understand wehlness
- Looking forward to the added value wellness professionals and organizations will provide through the new profiles
- “I absolutely love the mainpage! It looks so beautiful. I love how you’ve worded everything, and the pictures and just the flow of the page is so good. It is so personal and welcoming. I am just blown away!”
- “I understand the value of support and community and very happy to be part of Wehl’s mission.”
- “The platform has helped to keep me accountable for my daily choices and when I feel particularly proud about something healthy that I did, I can post about it and it motivates me to keep going.”
The Suggestions & Areas for Improvement:
- Suggested that a video explaining how to use the platform would be helpful
- Our solution: We agree that this would be a great addition! We began early planning for a video to help orient new members to Wehl. As we’re still making changes to the platform, finalizing a video will be put on hold until after we’re done the majority of our changes.
- Some indicated “Choices” was new and they were unsure what it meant
- Our solution: We add in “tool tips” that offer more explanation on new concepts. We also are continuing to work to communicate this through our various communication methods.
Again, we took all of the feedback we gathered to date and used it to inform our work during our third phase of testing. To get Wehl ready to “go live”, our work during this phase included:
- Finalizing the 3 additional Wehl member types – It was so exciting to be prepping to officially have professionals and organizations join us. This sets the stage to officially work together in the industry to enhance the wellness of others and make a collective impact!
- Finalizing additional Wehlness related features including “My Wehlness”, “Our Wehlness Impact”, “Wehlness Choices”, and “Relationships” section. These were some challenging days to get it to all work right but well worth it to have these unique, purposeful features!
- Implementing other small feature additions and design enhancements including a “feed filter” to allow members to sort their “All” and “Following” feeds by each of 6 components of wehlness as well as by Tips and “tool tips” to help explain what “Choices” and “Relationships” are.
- Finalizing the homepage design – we were in awe as Mark pulled everything together and unveiled our new, beautiful, and very “real-life wehlness” homepage including some very cool little details.
- Refining the welcome messages and emails for each member type including automating the first email to ensure timely customer service. We really want our members to feel welcome and have put considerable effort into ensuring we do our best to have the initial welcome experience be a good one.
- Starting our “Wehl in the City” initiative – The purpose of our Wehl in the City initiative is to spark the movement of real-life wehlness in our everyday, busy lives – whatever it means to each of us and wherever we live. We want to make wehlness easier and more sustainable for all of us and to do this we support each other by sharing tips and inspiration from our experiences. The Wehl in the City concept and tagline came very organically out of a team meeting and really, it was a tangent about how we could work to spread our message about Wehl and wehlness. We decided to get the help of local Hamilton artist Jenna Gregory from Jenna’s Doodles to develop a creative design that we could use on tank tops. We found Ethica, a company that aligned with our values, to print the design on a stylish, organic cotton/recycled polyester blend, that’s made ethically right here in Canada. We want to partner with various professionals, entrepreneurs and real people to support the Wehl movement. These blog articles depicting wellness in various cities and towns is a resource we continue to expand. Check out our Wehl in the City blog articles here.
- Planning for a Wehl Educator Pilot Program – In the mid fall of 2018, we began planning a pilot project to work with wellness professionals to help provide more educational content and tips on Wehl, gather more feedback about our new professional member account, help us start to get the word out about Wehl and of course, make some new friends that are also passionate about helping others improve their wellness. We’re excited to implement it as we go live and look forward to learning more about how we can improve Wehl and work collaboratively with others to impact lives. You can check out our Wehl Educators here.
A Healthy, New Online Home
And there you have it, the long version (trust me, it could have been even longer). As you can truly now see, we’ve been building our new online home, Wehl, from the ground up. Beta testing has been all about carefully designing a platform for wellness, ironing out as many ‘kinks’ as possible and getting the platform ready to be used and enjoyed. We cannot say it enough, we’re so grateful for the support, feedback, patience and understanding of our early Wehl community.
While we’re now no longer in Beta testing, we still need your help to continue to make Wehl feel like a home. As with any home, we’ll be continuing to do fix-it jobs, small “reno” projects and “interior design” work. And of course, just like any home, you can think you have everything fixed up but out of nowhere one day the toilet breaks, the caulking needs to be re-done and the furniture becomes outdated.
So, we continue to ask that you let us know when you come upon an issue or when you have an idea that would improve your experience on Wehl in the future. We will always continue to endeavor to build Wehl FOR and WITH YOU!
And if you’re reading this and Wehl isn’t your online home yet, please sign up and come right in, you are very welcome here!