March 4, 2019
Ulej
The largest crowdfunding platform in Belarus
intro

Ulej is the first crowdfunding platform in Belarus. Authors of creative and social projects raise funds on the platform.

In four years, the platform has attracted 831 projects that raised more than $ 850,000. The project success rate is ~ 37%, which can be compared with the indicators of the best crowdfunding platforms such as kickstarter, indiegogo, and planeta.ru.

Background

The client came to us on the recommendation and initially only wanted to make a website redesign. He was not going to change anything inside. But the old site was built with a "banking stack" (java, oracle) and employed as many as 4 servers. It was created by a banking software company. It was chosen with the expectation that it would definitely create a “complex” integration with the bank, which is necessary for crowdfunding, as well as the site.

This way of thinking is not really correct, because initially, the site is important for the users, while the bank affairs are the inner workings that do not bother them.

Spoiler alert: the integration with the bank turned out to be not such a troublesome business in the end. We did it in a couple of days.

But while we were drawing layouts (there were almost 100 of them), the client decided to launch a new stylish website with the introduction of new functions (personal account, chats, auto-generation of documents) plus to create its mobile version. And to make both of them faster and simpler for the development of the project in the future, in order to get into the TOP crowdfunding platforms.

Assigned task and its solution

There were several tasks. At the start, we had a clumsy, heavyweight site, built in Java, which was difficult to update. Oracle was employed as the database, also its speed and simplicity left much to be desired. The site did not make life easier for either the authors of the projects — backers — or for potential investors. The design was originally from 2015. There was no communication between the process participants on the site.

Therefore, when the client came to us and requested to improve at least the design, we offered to completely rewrite the site. This allowed both to save on hosting and to simplify the interaction with the platform for project authors and potential investors.

From the moment the decision to rewrite the site was made, we dived into the fascinating world of crowdfunding. Just taking the old version and putting it on a new footing is not our option. We have completely rethought the architecture of the project. We've checked all the user flow from the moment he/she enters the site until the fundraising is completed. What will the user do? How? Is it convenient to him/her? Will he/she give up the task halfway through? And how can we help the user to create an attractive project in order to receive all the investments successfully? It was necessary to analyze the old site, study the experience of other platforms in order to find our own cool and optimal solution.

As a result, the client received a new website. It was not just aesthetically attractive, but also self-explanatory, user-friendly, and that kind of thing.

What we have done:

We have speeded up the site due to its optimization, new algorithms, and functions. The new site is built with laravel, vuejs, nuxt.

We have updated the navigation and changed the structure of the site so that it takes its user only 3 clicks to purchase an item.

We have implemented a new project cataloguing logic and added search with hints.

We have added several features that simplify communication between the authors and the community, such as chat between the authors and the members.

We have made it possible to launch projects remotely.

We have used an adaptive web design to make the platform — both its mobile version and the desktop one — convenient to use.

We have improved personal accounts so that you can track the status of all interesting projects, item shipping time, reply to messages and view notifications in one click.

We have added an educational section and an opportunity for the backers (project authors) to keep their blogs so that the site users are more involved in projects and follow their development.

Achieved goals and KPIs based on the results of the launch

Our project has become:

faster — we have built it as a SPA, and the API has been built with GraphQL, now it flies like Musk's rocket.

more elegant — we have worked out the design kinks, in total it took us 500 hours.

more user-friendly — buying items and creating projects has become much easier, which means fewer people will “fall off” during the process.

more economical — the hosting cost is no more than $150/month (against $1200 in the past).

Moreover, we have not only transferred the data on projects and transactions to the last penny for 5 previous years of work but created completely new algorithms for working with the bank.

The documents that a backer previously signed with a bank and the platform offline can be almost completely processed online now. The moderator checks and helps to fill in the data so that the project becomes successful and interesting. Then the bank opens a transit account where all funds will be transferred. If the project collects the required amount within the specified period, then the money (minus the site commission fee) will be transferred to the author.

Otherwise, the bank must return all the money to the investors. Therefore, during the fundraising, the bank receives all the information about payments. If the card from which the transfer was made during the campaign has become invalid, the person is offered to receive the money at the cash desk or leave it at the bank for subsequent transfer to a charitable foundation.

Thinking over the logic of all the processes, writing the code, and integrating with the bank took our frontend and backend developers 1000 hours of work.

But now the Ulej platform is known throughout Belarus and can easily compete with international crowdfunding platforms.

Project features

The site is built as a SPA, the API is built with GraphQL. This magic combination means for the user that the site is very fast.

Initially, the images do not completely load, but when you scroll down, they will be shown in full quality.

In the project, you can communicate with the author, there is a line reflecting the amount of funds raised, there is a news section where you can tell your subscribers about the project progress, there is a social share button. You can donate money anonymously or publicly. Different payment methods and different items are available.

Tech stack

Front-end: Vue and Nuxt – our extra front-end stack, used to build interfaces and provide Server Side Rendering.

Back-end: PHP, Laravel – our main back-end stack, the most popular PHP framework at the moment.

Databases: PostgreSQL, Redis are used for reliable storage of basic data.

Who did it?

Maxim Bontsevich
Project manager
Ilya Filipenko
Design
Vladilen Chernyavski
Back-end
Victor Tairov
Back-end
Denis Maksimov
Front-end

We have become very attached to the client during the work on the Ulej platform and later made another interesting fintech project with him. We have succeeded in this direction and learned how to reach an agreement with banks as easy as one-two-three.

Do you want to conquer the IT world and the world of finance too? Write to us and we will definitely help you!