Students wish to have easy, affordable access to home items.
Students may need household items from time to time. Some may wish to clean their dirty carpet floors with a robust Dyson vacuum, while some may wish to use kitchen tools like meat slicer for just a day or two. However, purchasing those items is not always a feasible solution. On the other hand, there are also individuals who might own those items but use them infrequently.
I designed Goods Net, a mobile-based goods-sharing platform, to offer a collaborative model for these two user groups. Goods Net incentivize users to list and rent out their spare home items to make extra income. Users who need home items can benefit from Goods Net for it allows them to gain access to the items at a low cost.
Living in an off-campus apartment building, where tenants are mostly non-local students studying at the University of Michigan, I have observed many occasions where student residents needed certain household items but had no ways to get it.
To validate the problem and understand the context, I interviewed both local and non-local students at U-M, who walked me through their frustrations. Through talking to them, I identified three primary reasons why buying or owning those items is NOT possible or feasible for them.
To explore design opportunities, I brainstormed ideas, and then evolved each into a detailed scenario. Storyboarding allowed me to evaluate how each idea could solve the design problem, and more important, to empathize by capturing users' interactions and reactions to pain points and success in the solution context.
I researched existing solutions (Peerby and Facebook Groups) to find out their strengths and weaknesses. I also looked into competitors that target subset of my target population (Spinlister) or provide similar services in a broad sense (Airbnb).
In the discovery phase, I fully explored the solution space and identified design opportunities that fall into two buckets: (1) a platform for users to request for help and (2) a platform for users to list their spare items.
From here, I raised the directional design question and move on to the next phase to find the answer.
I developed two distinct personas to synthesize the previous research and to highlight my target users' goals, needs, and pain points.
I took a step back to revisit my previous question and re-phrased it to make the question more specific.
I synthesize and analyze what I had learned so far. The previous research findings and the vivid user profiles helped me decide on which design perspective to take. Looking at both the first (P1) and second persona (P2) perspectives, if I chose to design a request board as my solution, the cons would outweigh the pros and end up causing more pain points for both personas as shown below.
Using convergent thinking, I was able to narrow down the solution ideas and ultimately found one that would work best for both target personas.
Moving forward with the design decision, I walked in users' shoes and envision their journeys. The holistic user story artifact, which captures the functional steps towards their goals, helped me identify the key functionality that users value and prioritize the right work.
I then dived into the design phase, where I utilized the iterative design approach to craft the product. I relentless sought feedback, ideated ideas, built and tested UX artifacts with different levels of fidelity, assessed and re-assessed user needs, analyzed usability issues, iterated on design, and refined the UI and visual.
The sketchy nature of low fidelity allowed me to be "scrappy" and efficiently ideate early design aspects of the solution. I sketched wireframes as my "blueprints" to define the core user flow and information architecture.
I translated the wireframes into a paper prototype. “The modeling phase represents the first real test for design.” The process of prototyping pushed me to detail and evaluate the screens — ensuring all the required functional elements were well-thought-out and incorporated.
Bringing my prototype to three prospective users, I tasked them to complete main user activities. Through lo-fi prototyping and testing the core flow and functionality, I was able to quickly assessed my design in the early design phase.
Overall, the design worked well for the participants. None of them had problems finishing the tasks, except expressing interests in certain functions and information. The observation and feedback helped me uncover more specific user needs.
I iterated on my design, incorporating the design decisions I made to address the user needs. From here, I started jamming on the wireframes in Sketch. Translating lo-fi artifacts into digital wireframes prompted me to be more realistic about the content structure and UI decisions.
During the hi-fi iteration phase, I built two hi-fi prototypes and one finalized design in InVision. These prototypes all simulated the core components of Goods Net but came in different level of granularity. Conducting two testing sessions with six participants, followed by one product demo presentation, I continued validating my design decisions and refining the work to craft seamless user experience.
The early design and iteration process — user story mapping and initial lo-fi prototyping — set a solid foundation for my design, helping me ensure the experience was intuitive and equipped with features to support users through every step of their journey. As a result, during the hi-fi iteration phase, a majority of feedback was around relatively minor issues like UI and icon decisions.
To give the product a consistent visual aesthetic, I designed the logo in Adobe Illustrator, as well as defined the color palette and typographic hierarchy.
Currently, the existing apps and online communities on various social media platforms cannot adequately address the problem. There is still a lack of a convenient, timely, and affordable way for student population to access home items and for other individuals to share.
Goods Net can help create an active, collaborative community to connect people with different needs. By filling the gap in the market and catering to the specific user needs, this peer-to-peer sharing system is sustainable and profitable.
Given the time constraints, I chose to prioritize the features and functionalities for users who want to look for items they need and to be able to rent it. The aspect that was not included in the current design is the user flow for persona 2 — those who use this app to rent out their spare home items.
If the project scope expands further, I would also want to develop a design system to be able to adapt to different configurations and design iterations.
The short and sweet onboarding process only prompts first-time users for their location information. With the effective initial user flow, users can start exploring the app immediately. Also, instead of overwhelming users with a long onboarding tutorial, the app uses empty states to strategically navigate users.
One of the insights I gathered through user research is that users desire a comprehensive way to find items of interest.
To support users' exploration and search activities, the app offers a well-rounded set of navigation and search features. The app also uses' location information to identify their closet neighborhoods and curate content for users to discover items in their local communities. Additionally, with the "Saved" feature, users can bookmark items and revisit them later.
Each item's page contains necessary details to ensure that users have sufficient information to trust the item and service. Though the page has a good amount of information, the strategic display of information along with the clear visual hierarchy make the page easy to skim.
The transaction flow is simple and easy. Making a rental is just few steps away.
Finishing the payment does not mean the user journey ends: Users need to pick up or receive the item and return it as the rental is over. The app has multiple ways to assist users with the rest of process.
Upon successful payment, the user would be instructed on what to do next. The app will help generate and send a message with rental details. Such feature gives both sides an alternative way to check the information, as well as sets up a communication channel between them.
Being mindful of the ecosystem of this P2P app, the "Rating & Reviews" feature is incorporated to hold each user accountable.