Case Study: Make It Count (PART 1)

Spend your spare foreign currency change on something that matters to you — Mobile App Rapid Paper Prototype


Design a rough interactive paper prototype that addresses a key common problem in your partners’ life.


Fiona MacDougall

Duration / Team

3 days / individual project


  • User Interview
  • Concept Mapping
  • Storyboard
  • Market Research
  • User Flows (As Is & To Be)
  • Participatory Design
  • Interface Sketching, Screen Flows, Paper Prototype
  • Clickable Prototype, Usability Testing


Fiona travels abroad often both for work and pleasure. Every time she is leaving the country she’s been to, Fiona has some money left. The commision rate is always really high, so she will either have to spend the money at the airport (for something she doesn’t necessarily need) or bring it home, put it in a drawer and never use it again. Fiona wishes she can use the money for something more valuable that matters to her.

Storyboard illustrating the problem

Proposed Solution

A mobila app that allows Fiona to turn her money into points, which she can then either donate to a cause she cares about, or collect and spend on in-app purchases.

Stage 1: User Interview and Concept Map

In order to identify a problem in Fiona’s life I talked to her about a variety of topics including food, finding a new flat, leaning a language and travel. I’ve learned that she travels abroad often both for work and pleasure. Fiona goes on a business trip 2–3 times a year, goes backpacking with friends for about 2–3 weeks once a year somewhere far away, and goes on a city break usually in Europe at least once a year. I started asking her more specific questions about her trips and travel habits in order to go deeper into the topic, until I figured out she might have an issue when it comes to money management.

Fiona sharing information about her travel experiences and the issues she usually encounters while travelling.

What happens is that Fiona always ends up at the airport, just before leaving the country she visited, with lots of coins and notes in a currency that will soon be useless for her. I asked her what she usually spends it for and she said either on the duty free, so she doesn’t need to bring it home, or she does bring it home and leaves in a drawer. I asked Fiona if the money ends up in the drawer whether she uses it ever again and her answer was ‘no’. She shared that it would be great if she can spend it on something she needs, or at least something that is meaningful to her.

The following concept map illustrates our conversation and what topics we’ve discusses. It shows how we gradually reached Fiona’s common problem.

Interview concept map

Stage 2: User Flows and Market Research

Turns out that Fiona has limited options of what to do with the money she has left after a trip abroad. In fact, none of those options (1.spend for something she doesn’t need; 2. bring home and keep in a drawer) are good for her.

As Is User Flow

Talking to Fiona about what she would ideally like to do with the change, I developed two possible routes that the app will offer. First of all, Fiona will be able to Donate to a cause that she likes, and secondly she will be able to Collect the change. How this will work exactly I was about to find out by doing my early sketches.

To Be User Flow

To create an app that helps sort Fiona’s physical change I also had to come up with how the coins will be processed. I began by thinking that an actual machine will be available at the airport where she can connect your phone to it and then insert the spare money. However, I thought that might be a bit too complicated, so I came up with an easier way to process the money. Fiona could go to a duty free shop where she is able to give her change to the cashier, who then prints a receipt for her with a unique number. She then enters the number into the app and “Voila!” the amount is displayed on the screen and she’s ready to use it the way she wishes to.

I conducted market research to find out that there are apps offering solutions for your ‘spare change’, however none of them deal with physical coins. More could be found here and here.

Stage 3: Interface Sketches, Screen Flows and Prototype

Here are some early interface sketches and screen flows I got started with.

Interface Sketches

I worked closely with Fiona who contributed to the design of the app. She expressed interest to see, in case she donated money to a cause, how much she donated and also which causes she donated to. I added that to the app along with some other features that were necessary — such as being able to see how many points the user has already collected and what they can use them for (following her way of thinking).

I also worked on refining the flows and once that was done I made a paper prototype, which I then used for creating the clickable prototype.

Stage 4: User Testing

User Testing

I tested the app with a few people, including Fiona, and used their feedback to make improvements. For example, one user had difficulties figuring out what some icons meant, another one wasn’t sure why the back button leads to a particular page and not another. I worked on those comments to illiminate any possible confusions that users might come across when interacting with the app.

Paper Prototype Screen Flows

Summary & Future Developments

The project was challenging and I enjoyed using my problem solving skills. I’ve learned that knowing your user and constantly interacting with her/him benefits the end product and therefore user satisfaction.

Have a look at Make It Count (PART 2) and how the app evolved once I started working on the visual design.

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