Daily UX Challenge #1 - design the perfect wallet for a friend

I embarked on a #DailyUX challenge to get one design prompt every workday for 20 days to work on my writing about design.

Xiaomin Jiang
Jan 27, 2018 · 8 min read

What got me started

As someone who’s been doing UX design for nine years, one thing I’ve always wanted to get better at is writing about design.

Thanks to my fear of not being good enough, this goal sat on my to-do list untouched for almost two years. Yesterday I finally did something about it — I embarked on a daily UX challenge (http://2is0.com/dailyux/).

I borrowed the idea of creative writing, instead of getting writing prompts, I would receive a design prompt every weekday morning for 20 days.

That being said, on top of working full time, making time for friends and family, social activities and chores, somehow I need to fit this into my daily routine.

How? I would like to

Challenge #1: Design the perfect wallet for a friend

Design prompt: Interview a friend, try to get interesting findings from it and design the perfect wallet for this friend!

For whom?

My boyfriend :)

Why him? He has a wallet with quite some wear and tear, and I’d like to find out what his next wallet might be like ;)

My boyfriend works in IT at a nonprofit that works with high school students. Rather than letting the staff wear t-shirts and jeans like most tech companies in the bay area, the organization uses a business casual dress code. This helps to be able to recognize the staff from students.

Observation: Men’s accessories are not that numerous, but they serve the same purpose as women’s — match the environment and/or the occasion. So the wallet needs to be appropriate for what he does and match what he wears.

He drives to work on a daily basis, and the commute is usually within half an hour. Occasionally, he takes public transportation when his car is in the shop or rush hour traffic looks too devastated.

Observation: I’ve seen him put his wallet in his back pocket most of the time. How does he feel to sit on it?

He travels domestically a few times per year, and internationally once a year on average.

Observation: I haven’t heard him complain about the wallet when traveling. That’s a good sign!

Learn about the current wallet

Me: What would you like to tell me about your wallet?

My boyfriend: First, I want to tell you the first wallet I remembered when I was a kid. It’s almost like a scene you’ve seen many times on TV — two older kids pushing each other around in the hallway, with one pushing the other into me, seemingly accidentally, knocking me down to the floor. They said “Sorry!” and walked away. When I got up a moment later, I realized my wallet was gone — they must have stolen my wallet when I fell! I chased after them, but they quickly got on the school bus far ahead of me and got away.

Luckily I didn’t have much in that wallet at that time, so things were fairly easy to replace. After that, for quite some time, I stuffed everything in my wallet, including the cards I didn’t use often. When I got a wallet, I tended to keep it for a while. I only changed my wallet when it wore out. The current one I’ve now had it for about 3 years now. It is the most expensive wallet I’ve ever had, about $80. I like that it is slim, so I’m forced to keep things minimal.

Observation: Sounds like a wallet with an anti-theft feature, or at least hard to steal, is very important to him.

Me: Why did you stuff everything in your wallet?

My boyfriend: It didn’t occur to me I should/could empty it out, lol.

Me: What are the things you now normally carry in your wallet?

My boyfriend: Mostly just the essentials, but still tends to hold stuff that doesn’t need to be there for long (e.g., receipts for work, etc.).

Me: Define “essentials” :)

My boyfriend: Drivers license, Cash, Credit cards used on a daily basis, and Clipper card.

Me: Would you need to carry anything else that you don’t already carry today?

My friend: Not really.

Me: Why did you buy this specific wallet?

My boyfriend: I used to have a bulky wallet, and I liked to tuck it into my back pocket. That left a clear wear mark on my pant-pocket. That’s bad, lol, not only did it look bad but basically signals thieves to “come and get me!”. So I decided to slim down my wallet.

Another thing is, the bulky one I had before was very uncomfortable for sitting on. I’ve learned that can cause bad posture or even spinal pain. To ease that I would put it in my front pocket, but still was not comfortable.

I looked around on the internet for some time and found this slim design that appealed to me (The Hide & Seek wallet by Bellroy). I also love their hidden pouch — it’s a perfect spot for storing extra money for emergency purposes (e.g., if I ever get robbed, I could give them all the cash visible yet still keep some secret extra for myself).

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Snapshots of my boyfriend’s current wallet
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The hidden pouch for putting away extra cash (https://bellroy.com/products/hide-and-seek-wallet/leather_rfid_lo/black#image-4)

Me: Do you happen to remember the wallet(s) before this one?

My boyfriend: It’s a simple black leather one with plastic card inserts. I’ve had many of those! (never changed the style!)

Me: Is there anything you don’t like about your current wallet? Anything you wish to be different? Why?

My boyfriend: There was a metal logo badge that soon fell off over a period of time. It used to catch in my pocket, and I could feel it, lol.

Another thing is the wallet is made of all leather, over time it softens and stretches out, including the card slots inside. The cards tend to slip out more easily. It’d be nice if something (e.g., ZIP closure, or snap buttons) could prevent the cards from sliding out, or maybe use some new material that doesn’t stretch as much for the card slots.

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The wallet logo was missing. It’s likely because it got caught in the pockets very often.

Define the scope — Enhancement Only

Overall, my boyfriend is very satisfied with his current wallet (material, dimensions, durability, comfort, and pocket friendliness), so he doesn’t need me to re-invent the wheel and design a whole new wallet for him.

All he needs are just a few feature enhancements on top of the current one; then he would have the perfect wallet in his definition :)

Design proposal

Enhancement #1: RFID protection

My boyfriend is an enthusiastic fan of Kickstarter products. He owns several anti-theft backpacks. One must-have feature is RFID protection. Not surprisingly, his favorite wallet already has that covered :)

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The brand from where my boyfriend originally bought his wallet has an upgraded/premium version with RFID protection (https://bellroy.com/products/hide-and-seek-wallet/leather_rfid_lo/black#image-5)

Feedback: “Yes, I would totally pay a few more bucks for that!”

Enhancement #2: Trackable

My boyfriend can recall a handful of times misplacing or dropping his wallet unknowingly. So, adding a built-in and non-removable tracker chip like Tile Slim in a hidden pouch inside the wallet would be very helpful to him.

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Tile Slim is claimed the thinnest bluetooth tracker. Rather than making it portable, sewing a similar tracker chip in the wallet is a better solution for my boyfriend. (https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/store/tiles/slim)

Feedback: “It’s definitely nice to have if it can be even more slimmer. :)”

Enhancement #3: Add snap closure

Adding a simple snap button closure could add an extra level of security — though I also wonder would that make getting money/cards out somewhat harder? How I wish I could do user testing :)

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Adding a hidden pepper snap fastener could add an extra level of security to the wallet

Feedback: “Hmm, the way I grew up with is those snap buttons always make me associate with women’s purse, not men’s wallet… So maybe not.”

Enhancement #4: Change wallet orientation

Another proposal I came up with is to change the wallet orientation — rather than opening the card insert slots outwards, could we let the inserts face inwards? In that orientation, even if the leather inserts stretch out, and the cards slid out of their inserts, they would only slide within the wallet.

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The card insert slots in my boyfriend’s current wallet face outwards for easy access. Over time the slots stretched out, so they don’t hold the cards as snug as before.
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Change the opening direction of card slots from outward to inward helps cards stay inside the wallet.

Feedback: “I like it!”

Enhancement #5: Push the size limit

As a designer who deals with software or web interfaces all the time, I can’t help but push the limit — I managed to come up with a design that’s even a few millimeters fewer than my boyfriend’s current wallet!

How did I come up with an even smaller length and width?

Theoretically, if I had the craftsmanship and skills to sew it with real leather, this seems possible :)

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Size of my boyfriend’s current wallet: 115mm x 85mm
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Size of my proposed wallet: 100mm x 88mm

Feedback: “Whoa, you compared the measurements of all the paper bills and came up with an even smaller design! But the current size is actually ok. I like the option of having just a little extra room so I’ll be able to fit all the things I may want to carry.”

What I learned

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