WEB PLATFORM • UK • STARTUP

AI Powered Consulting Platform

Empowering small businesses to thrive by transforming how business advice is sought and implemented

We built an AI powered web platform that establishes a secure and efficient connection between small businesses and professionals, enabling a seamless collaboration experience.

8 Team members
2023 – Present Collaboration

10 Team members
2022-Present Collaboration

The Company and Product

Counsl is a UK based company that has dedicated the past years to research how to have an efficient and sound model of interaction when acquiring professional services.

The solution took the form of Counsl web application – a platform that empowers businesses to thrive by transforming the way advice is sought and implemented.

This is achieved by offering a web platform for businesses to find and connect with highly qualified professionals, easily access their relevant expertise, and efficiently procure their services.

This platform is envisioned as a dependable companion and advisor to businesses at every phase of their development. It offers transparently priced access to a pool of experts and professionals at every juncture of the business journey. It promotes meaningful discussions over rigid contracts, ensuring that advice is both valuable and timely.

“We set out to develop Counsl with the support of Salt and Pepper because Search, in particular in PS is broken and because people want to find someone, that is not just in their industry or a company their size or in their geography but someone who is dealing with their nuanced situation. Salt and Pepper helped us develop quickly while ensuring a complete offering”

James Loft
James Loft CEO Counsl

Scope and highlights

The project’s focus was developing the platform’s MVP, enabling small businesses to effortlessly access essential services. Utilizing Counsl’s AI-driven solution, users seamlessly search, connect, and book with service providers. Additionally, the platform facilitates seamless video calls, enhancing the overall Counsl experience.

4 Months

Time to Market

40+

Service Providers Onboarded

Smooth Onboarding:A user-friendly onboarding process to get users started with ease, creating an account or receiving an invite from their team members.

Streamlined Company Data Integration: Integration with UK Companies House data for efficient information retrieval and population.

Robust KYC/KYB Compliance: Seamless integration with Yoti for Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Business (KYB) verification, ensuring security and trust.

Convenient Subscription Payments: Easy subscription payment processing through Stripe, offering a hassle-free way to access premium services.

Effortless Appointment Booking: Users can schedule video calls with service providers for improved service access. Users can also cancel appointments or set availability periods as needed, providing flexibility for both parties.

AI Powered Search Engine: The search service needed to be fast and precise, providing instant results based on user history for maximum relevance and efficiency.

Intuitive Dashboard:A minimalistic yet effective dashboard structure to provide essential insights and control.

Transparent Credit Balance & Credit management: Users can check their credit balance for transparency and easily transfer credits among themselves based on appointments for added transaction flexibility.

Credits Integration: Integration with Formance for seamless credits managements and transfers between users.

Technologies

AWS

SST

NODE JS

Postgre SQL

Next JS

Typescript

Formance

Stripe

Pinecone

Open AI

Send Grid

Send Bird

The Challenge

Building an MVP in a short period of time is in itself a challenge, building an MVP that requires integration with multiple third-party services in a short period of time, adds even more complexity.

Key challenges of the project:

  • Integrating multiple third-party services like Pinecone for search, Formance for ledger, Stripe for payments, and Yoti for identity verification can be challenging. To mitigate risks, the team chose reliable services that align with project needs, created detailed integration plans, identified dependencies, and maintained communication with vendors for support and issue resolution.
  • Aligning client expectations with third-party service capabilities, particularly regarding the search feature using Pinecone, was a key product challenge. This was resolved through regular and effective communication between the client and development teams, coupled with iterative feedback loops for feature improvement.

The Process

TThe development of the web platform involved a comprehensive process spanning UI/UX design and development stages. The UI/UX phase began with extensive research, integrating user feedback to shape user-centric design. A collaborative effort established a robust design system and interactive prototypes for validation. Cross-platform design ensured a seamless user experience on iOS and Android.

In the development phase, a meticulous technology selection process preceded the system architecture and cloud infrastructure setup, incorporating lambda microservices and IaC framework. Development occurred iteratively with SCRUM, overcoming initial team challenges by splitting work among frontend members. TailwindUI components streamlined design, while QA testing was enhanced through refined deployment practices, emphasizing pre-planned estimates for efficient progress.

UI/UX Design Process

For the Counsl project the design phase of the project was succeeded by the development part using an agile approach with 7 sprints focused on creating the MVP.

Research

Extensive research was conducted to address UI/UX challenges, incorporating user feedback to define features. A user-centric design approach ensured optimal solutions, guided by valuable insights gathered throughout the process.

Design System

Collaboratively established a robust design system initiated by the client’s Product Designer and extended by Salt&Pepper’s UI/UX Designer. This comprehensive system optimized subsequent changes, providing greater clarity and time-saving benefits for the development team with consistent components throughout the app.

Prototyping

Developed interactive prototypes used for user testing and validating assumptions. These prototypes empowered the client to gather valuable insights and facilitated efficient decision-making by stakeholders on feature optimization.

Cross-Platform Design

Implemented a cross-platform design approach that considered platform-specific UX requirements. The app seamlessly adapts to iOS and Android, delivering an optimized user experience while leveraging platform strengths for enhanced usability and engagement.

Development Process

The features for the Counsl platform were developed based on the backlog prepared by an internal PO and the client stakeholders, the priority of the work being decided together. The major focus during the development was to come up with a robust search for services engine, one of the core features of the application and the seamless integration of third party tools.

Discovery phase and the choice of technologies

Before the execution phase, each technical team member researched different technologies (Formance, Yoti, Pinecone, etc.) that fits best for the given requirements. They were documented in DACI tables so a better view on them could decide the best option.

System Architecture & Cloud Infrastructure Setup

Using a lambda micro services architecture, SST as a IaC framework was used for it’s NextJS out of the box deployment solution, productivity boost, DX on defining the AWS infrastructure, remote web based dashboards to manage the app and database querying.

Development

During the execution phase, features were developed iteratively following SCRUM, with two-week sprints. Initially, the team, who were strangers, worked slowly and implemented pages partially to prevent missing sprint goals, acknowledging the technical debt. As time passed, the team became more cohesive and resolved outstanding tasks.

Design

The application was designed using components from TailwindUI library so the development process was boosted significantly.

QA & Stress Testing

Initially, app deployments for QA testing occurred at the end of sprints due to the tech team’s constraints. Features were marked “in testing.” Mid-project, the workload was split among frontend team members, and individual pages were promptly delivered to the testing environment, following pre-planned estimates.

Agile Way of Working

Employing a SCRUM Agile methodology, we collaborated closely with the Counsl team, delivering work iteratively in two-week sprints. Regular reviews and demos ensured effective stakeholder management and alignment throughout the project.

The Outcome

The project team has delivered a robust app that is now live, with 40+ business registered on the platform in the first 2 weeks after launch.

While fast paced and demanding, the project was successful due to a couple of factors:

  • The team aligned at all times with the client Product Owner, working in iterations that allowed flexibility and shorter feedback loops.
  • At the same time, we’ve collaborated closely to third party app providers (Formance, Yoti), ensuring faster resolutions to issues encountered during the development process.
  • Lastly, a robust decision process (DACI boards) supported the team to take the best technical decisions in order to create a stable, reliable application.

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