The Melanin Village

Improving operational efficiency and user satisfaction through a streamlined tech stack and website redesign


The Melanin Village (via Tech Fleet)


  • UX Designers

  • Product Strategists

  • Project Managers

  • UX Researchers

  • UX Writers

  • Developers


4 Months


Product Requirements Document, Product Backlog, Roadmap, Design Audit, Lo + Hi-Fi Wireframes, Platform Selection Criteria


The Melanin Village (TMV) is looking to overhaul their current system into a more user-friendly social network for Village Sisters and their families, ensuring seamless functionality across different devices. They want to boost connectivity and resource-sharing within the community while simplifying administrative tasks and strengthening integrations with other platforms in the TMV ecosystem.


Fueled by my own experience in a Black & Brown homeschooling community, I was SO excited to join TMV, an organization blazing a trail for inclusive education. This organization provides a culturally-affirming curriculum for Black and Brown homeschoolers, fostering connection and community through streamlined technology.

Through this Tech Fleet apprenticeship, I collaborated with a team of Product Strategists, Developers, UX Writers, Designers, Researchers, and Project Managers. Together, we proposed a new solution for TMV founder Brenaea Fairchild, providing her with improved tools to build a stronger community and expand access to the organization's invaluable resources.


Phase 0: Discovery and Understanding

Armed with a clear vision of what worked, what didn't, and what her business needed to flourish, Brenaea (our client) provided us with several resources to shift through. With this wealth of information, though initially daunting, I worked with my team to distill it into digestible chunks for everyone.

A key insight emerged from these documents: managing the disparate platforms and their communication was a major pain point. To crystallize this for the team, I designed a tech stack diagram visualizing their connections, interactions, and friction points. This visual alignment with Brenaea not only clarified the problem but also provided a tangible foundation for solution development.


Being realistic… how we streamlined the vision

The Melanin Village vision is twofold: a vibrant community for families to connect and a tailored curriculum for children to thrive. While initially hoping for a unified platform, discussions with our SWE mentors revealed this "unicorn vision" was only achievable via a ground-up approach, impractical with limited resources.

Instead, we pivoted to a streamlined tech stack, prioritizing integration and feature optimization. Our new focus: a robust community platform that seamlessly integrates with existing platforms.

Photo of in-person usability test of mobile app (left) and screenshot of research plan (right)

Nailing down requirements: is this feature an absolute MUST?

As we explored the problem, I began gathering and organizing requirements. Synthesizing client documents, team discussions, and insights from UX Research, I built a comprehensive product backlog.

By grouping features into epics and capturing user stories, I rooted solutions in user needs. With this document in hand, in Phase 1 we ran a prioritization workshop with the client, clearly separating essential "must-haves" from "nice-to-haves."


Phase 1: Overcoming new team dynamics and re-building alignment

Tech Fleet's dynamic phases demanded constant team adjustments. In Phase 1, miscommunication at hiring clouded client needs, forcing us to navigate conflicting information and motivations. Weeks were spent realigning the project: low-code platform, ground-up build, or white-label? "When do we code?" “When will the design team finish wireframes?” were questions that inspired us to take a pause and reset.

Leveraging my Phase 0 expertise, I bridged the gap between UX and strategy, creating a visual document that clarified our path. I took the initial steps to research potential community platforms and led my team to identify quick wins for a current state solution. But time constraints meant prioritizing the new solution, shifting our design focus.

Despite initial disagreements about the best approach, we found alignment through our research and strategy document. This led to the development of a platform research criteria document, allowing each team to evaluate options based on must-have features, design freedom, technical feasibility, and other business requirements. Ultimately, Hivebrite and Honeycommb emerged as the top contenders.

Presenting our findings, we were met with the client's enthusiastic approval. Hivebrite was chosen as the preferred platform. One of the major pluses for this solution is it’s a community platform with a light CRM. Meaning, Brenaea can get rid of Ontraport and manage all of her memberships and customer information in one platform. Which was a HUGE plus for her.


Reimagining the TMV website

Given the primarily strategy-oriented nature of this project, the remaining section showcases post-project work I developed based on potential next steps. A key area: as the client transitions to Hivebrite, an updated website becomes essential. User research revealed significant pain points through surveys and TMV social media analysis. Users struggle to grasp TMV's core offerings and navigate the website effectively.

Let's work together!

© Daryle Ward-Cherry 2023