Case Study — Whisky Wisemen

Joseph Jin Hyuk Lee
Nov 14, 2016 · 10 min read

Connecting a community of whisky enthusiasts that aspires to #dogood and #bebetter, every day

Project Summary

Whisky Wisemen is a non-for-profit organization of whisky enthusiasts that aspires to make a positive impact in our community. There is currently no centralized communication channel for the community and the members are limited to exchange their contact information during social events. The proposed mobile application removes the pain of connecting with members by engaging members to interact and share information on the platform. My role was to research, design, test all UX-related activities related to the project. I collaborated with another UX Designer and two UI Designers.


Whisky Wisemen Society
Lesley Brown, Chief Executive Officer


Create a mobile application prototype to increase engagement between the Club Wise members.


Mobile Application (iOS)


UX Designers: Joseph Lee (me), Lara Hughes
UI Designers: Crystal Chow, James Oliver


3 weeks

Design Methods & Tools

User Interviews, Survey, Competitive & Comparative Analysis, Contextual Inquiry, Affinity Diagram, User Persona, Feature Prioritization, Sitemap, User Flow, Design Studio, User Testing, Paper & Digital Wireframes (Sketch), Clickable Prototype (InVision)



Whisky Wisemen is a non-for-profit organization that is brought together by the love of whisky. The vision of the organization is to grow an inspiring community of changemakers that aspire to do good and be better, every day. Started in Vancouver in January 2013, the Whisky Wisemen movement has expanded to chapters in different cities from Victoria, Calgary, New York City to Grand Cayman Island.

The Opportunity

The demand to bring together the influencers grew as the Whisky Wisemen community grew. As a result, Club Wise, a member-based group within the Whisky Wisemen community was born. Club Wise members are currently finding it difficult to connect and communicate with other members. Our team had the opportunity to provide a digital solution to increase engagement between the members.

The Challenge

Sharing of information and ideas through conversation is the foundation of achieving great things for any community. However, most people dread over networking and speaking to strangers. Many apps that attempt to solve this are often abandoned as it offers little value to the users and the users find themselves sticking to mainstream apps. The main challenge of this project was to create a platform that engages the users in order to build a stronger community.

Project Goals

Our client had clear ideas on how the app should look like. The project goals that we have identified with the client was to:

  • Enable members to find each other more readily
  • Educate members on whisky
  • Create a membership directory with pictures, names, occupation and description
  • Create ease in distribution of information such as event updates, calendar invitation, and news
  • Facilitate charitable giving/engagement.


As a first step to understand our users, we conducted interviews with the Whisky Wisemen members and whisky drinkers to find the user’s pain points and motivations. We also conducted surveys to whisky enthusiasts in our personal networks and whisky-related social media groups to gain a holistic behavioural understanding of our users. We were particularly interested in learning about the motivation to join a community and do good for the community. Some of the key questions that we asked were:

  • Why did you join the Whisky Wisemen community?
  • What motivates you to attend Whisky Wisemen events?
  • Do you attend networking events? Why?
  • After attending networking events, how do you prefer to communicate with the people that you’ve met and on what platform? (such as phone call, text message, email)
  • Do you volunteer? Why? How does it make you feel?
  • Why do you donate to a particular charity?
  • What makes you trust a charity?

Most of these questions were open-ended as we wanted to find out our user’s motivation towards networking and charitable giving. We secured eight interviews and received 36 responses to our survey within the first week. Here are some of the key insights from our research:

On networking:

“Networking events are difficult because you have to go through the barrier to talk to someone to have a conversation. I feel that they could be forced.”

On charitable giving:

“I like doing charity work as it makes me feel good about using my time and skill to give back to the community.”

We found that our users found networking to be important yet difficult. They did charitable work as it made them feel good to give back to their community. There was an opportunity to alleviate the pain of networking and show the user’s impact of their contribution to the community.

Meetup | Linkedin | Distiller | Distilld | Untappd

While conducting user research, we analyzed how networking, community and alcohol-related platforms satisfied their user’s needs. The biggest takeaway was that features were implemented to facilitate a community building through common interests. For example, Meetup users can view other event attendees profiles to find more about each other. Similarly, Untappd engages beer enthusiasts by facilitating conversation with wish lists, badges, and reviews. Our team drew inspirations to help our users to network easier and learn about whisky through the community.


Affinity diagram time-lapse

We sorted our research findings using affinity diagrams to find the common themes and trends. The result revealed a consolidated data that was much easier to work with. Taking our refined data, we were able to conceptualize our user persona.

Here is Jack Daniels. He is a 30 year old Financial Planner that strives to develop personally and professionally every day. He wants to be part of an inspiring community and contribute his time for the greater good of the society. He enjoys drinking whisky and wishes to learn more about it as he often finds himself drinking whisky with his clients. As a busy professional, he struggles to find and build meaningful relationships with the people that he meets.

Feature Prioritization

Our team attended the Whisky Wisemen’s #ThirdThursday event to better understand how the users would use the app. We asked the Club Wise members to sort the Trello card based on what features they would like to see implemented. We gave each feature a number based on its ranking to give a statistical significance. We learned through this exercise that the users preferred features that would help them to network by learning more about each other. Users were less interested in gamified features.

At the initial kickoff meeting, we asked the client to provide us the top three features that the business would like to implement. We compared the user and the client needs as shown below:

To satisfy both the user’s needs and the business needs, it was necessary to compare the features side by side. It was clear that both parties valued communication. Secondly, whisky knowledge was important but there was a misalignment of importance with benefits/deals. As a result, we prioritized on building a community through facilitating communication, encourage whisky knowledge, and add value to the membership by offering benefits and deals respectively.

User Flow — Be Accessible

Taking the features that we’ve identified, we started brainstorming the user flow of our persona’s journey. After rounds of testing and iterations, we concluded with the above user flow where the users are easily able to navigate from one task to another.


Design studio

After identifying the user flow, our team did a series of design studios to sketch and explained our design solutions. Design studio exercise allowed us to bounce off each other’s ideas and communicate our design solutions. After building on each other’s ideas, we finalized our concept and converted into paper wireframes.

Paper Wireframes

We did rapid prototyping with paper wireframes as it’s quick and easy to do. After a series of testing, we analyzed the feedbacks and iterated our design to increase usability. We repeated this process until we had a solid direction before moving onto the digital wireframes.

Design Iteration #1: Introduction of the Tab

Key features accessible anywhere

During usability testing, we noticed that the users were navigating back to the dashboard after completing a task to perform a new task. It was annoying and it frustrated the users especially if they were to do several tasks in one session. To solve this problem, we implemented a tab to allow users to quickly navigate between the main pages. As users gained familiarity with the tab after completing a series of tasks, the users referenced the tab first when moving onto the next task.

Design Iteration #2: ‘Whisky Barrel’ to ‘My Profile’

Before → After

Our initial design had the Whisky Barrel page to encourage users to learn more about whisky. When given a whisky-related task, the users were navigating to My Profile page instead. When we asked the users about their thought processes, the Barrel tab was ambiguous and new users did not associate it to be a whisky-related page. When asked about why they navigated to the My Profile page, users indicated that because the tasks were about them, it made sense for them to go to My Profile page. Taking the insights, we decided to get rid of the Whisky Barrel page and replaced it with My Profile page. As shown on the picture above to the right, My Profile page displays everything that is connected to the user from MY events, MY badges, and MY shelf.


User Tasks

You have been approved by the Whisky Wisemen Society to become a Club Wise member. Congratulations! With your acceptance letter, you receive an authorization code along with the link to download the Whisky Wisemen mobile application. Here’s what you can do with the new Club Wise app.

  • Find the upcoming event and buy a ticket
  • Find Lesley Brown on the member directory to say hello
  • Find out about how to earn badges
  • Scan a whisky and add it to the wish list
  • At the Blackbird pub, Club Wise members are eligible to receive 10% off their bills. Find the coupon inside the app and present to your server to receive the discount.

The Prototype

Try it yourself! The prototype made with InVision can be found below:


When we presented the final prototype, our client was very pleased to see the requested features implemented while fulfilling the user needs. The client has expressed the desire to move forward and develop the app in the future and that they would like to continue to work with us. As we revisit this project, we want to further determine the minimum viable product (MVP) and introduce the features gradually to align the client’s budget.

Presentation day: Ever had an Irish Coffee 9AM in the morning?

Key Learnings

  • I learned about the UX Designer’s role of aligning the business and the user needs to identify the MVP. Although the client may have feature ideas, I learned that it is important to verify the needs with data to make informed design decisions. Also, constant communication with the client is the key in determining the MVP that will have the greatest positive impact on the project.
  • I particularly enjoyed the contextual inquiry of attending a Whisky Wisemen event to speak to the users in a social setting. I found that people are more open to give honest opinions in an open setting and it helped us to better understand our users.

Client Feedback

“Working with Joseph over the last couple months to build our App has been enjoyable with proven results at the end of the project. His results as a UX Designer surpassed our expectation, designing a beautiful experience that our members have raved about and now asking for. He had the ability to take what was given to him and create something that we could not have imagined.”

— Lesley Brown, Chief Executive Officer

*Photo credit: Some photos in this article are taken from Whisky Wisemen’s website and Instagram page.

Joseph Jin Hyuk Lee

Written by

Product UX/UI Designer | Portfolio:

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