1-Hour Product Design Exercises #1

Exercise #1: Design a product to improve the online shopping experience.

Exercise #1: Design a product to improve the online shopping experience.

Click here to view high-resolution design and prototype.

Improving the online shopping experience is a broad scope. It can be taken in many directions and can be tackled with a variety of different products for different audiences. Most of the merchants have spent great effort to improve their online shopping experience from browsing to checking out. However, shopping doesn’t end when a customer successfully placed an order and received a tracking number. More attention needs to be paid to what could happen to customers after purchase. So right from the beginning, I narrowed down the topic and focused on providing a better post-purchase experience. After understanding my goal and defining target audiences, I turned my ideas into a mobile app that could provide better post-purchase services to online shoppers.

Solution sketch

Step 1: Understand the goal

Nowadays we can easily find almost everything online and enjoy the convenience of front door delivery. Shopping websites and apps are doing a great job helping customers find the products they want and make the whole process smooth and enjoyable.

Things are just fine if we only shop from a few sources like Amazon, eBay, Sephora, etc. But if you’re like me, who shop frequently from various places, large and small, domestic and international, on season sales and Black Friday, keeping track of orders and checking statuses can be quite painful. I often find myself digging through piles of emails, trying to remember what I’ve bought, and wondering where are they. To return or replace an unsatisfying item is even worse. Again I have to dig my emails and find the order, read their return policy, remember to drop off in time, and remember to check my refund or replacement in say 5–7 business days.

I take notes, set up reminders, tag my emails, and mark my calendar. But still, I lose packages and miss dates for free return. I wish there is a little something that can keep track of ALL my orders and returns, provide order info and status updates, and remind me when an action is needed. I decided to design a product that can provide a better post-purchase experience for frequent online shoppers. A bad shopping experience push customers away from coming back again. This product can reduce complains and encourage customers to do more shopping in the future, which will continually increase revenue for merchants.

Step 2: Define the audience

People who shop online can be of all age, genders, and social classes. Those who shop frequently and need help after buying are most probably:

  • 13–55 years old
  • shopping frequently, at least every month
  • More female than male
  • Having online shopping experiences and receiving goods by delivery
  • Would consider returning or exchanging unsatisfying items
Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Step 3: Understand customer’s needs and context

While going through the process, this is the usual context for online shopping customers who need post-purchase help:

When: After customers have placed an order online, they will be waiting and finally receive their packages. It usually takes 1–7 days to get delivered, some stores offer faster delivery. Upon receiving it, customers will try their stuff and decide whether to keep them or not. If they decided not to, they will contact the store, pack and ship the items back. They will be waiting for either a new package or a refund. Next time customers may want to see what they have bought before to make better choices.

These could happen at any time of the day, and during any time of the year, especially in sale seasons when people do more shopping than usual (mid-year sale, black-Friday, Christmas).

Where: People do online shopping using their laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones from anywhere. However, using mobile devices is much easier to track information. I’d expect most people would use their smartphones for post-purchase service.

Needs: Online shoppers usually have to keep in mind how many packages they’re expecting and want to know where are they now, when are they arriving, and where to pick them up. If they decide to return the items, they need to know the return options and the time limit, and when can they get the exchange or refund. They may also need to know their sizes and preference for brands they have shopped before and need recommendations for easier future shopping.

Step 4: Define the product

The product should be mobile so customers can track their packages and returns on the go. I think to build a mobile app that tracks statistics, gives timely notice, and keeps shopping record would provide them with the best experience. I named this mobile app “Packy” in short of “package guy”. Hope “Packy” could become a good helper for online shopping customers.

Photo by Yura Fresh on Unsplash

Step 5: Solve

Assuming most of the users already have online shopping experience and have been receiving deliveries successfully, and assuming most of the shipping services have tracking, and most of the merchant offer return/exchange options.

To further find out what would happen after customers placed orders and what they need, I have drawn three storyboards: tracking a package, making a return, and browsing shopping history.

Storyboard 1 — Tracking a package

1. Tracking a package: People shop at different online stores and packages can be delivered by different shippers. Packy can collect order information from different merchants and can keep all the delivery status up to date. After customers link their email account to Packy, Packy will find emails that contain order confirmation or shopping receipt and read their information, such as stores, shippers, tracking number, return policy, etc. Then Packy will organize all the orders and visualize their shipping status. Users can easily see how many packages are they expecting, where are their packages, and when are they arriving. Packy also notifies users when and where to pick them up. Customers will less likely to forget or miss a package even though they may have bought a lot of stuff at a time. Packy may also be able to link to Google, Facebook, and Amazon accounts. Users can manually add orders and packages as well.

Storyboard 2 — Returning an unsatisfying item

2. Returning an unsatisfying item: A lot of times customers would like to try and then decided either to buy an item or not. Some online stores like Amazon provide services that customers can get several options, return the ones they don’t like, and only pay for those they’d like to keep. Packy reads return policy of the items and tells customers if exchange or return is available, what’s the time limit, and how to do it. Packy also helps find nearby shippers like UPS and FedEx. Users can set up a reminder for drop off. Again, Packy collects shipping information and tracks packages of returns. It then tells users when the return is received, then the exchange is shipped, or when the refund is completed. Users can always manually add other shipping and track packages they just shipped out to anyone.

Storyboard 3 — Browsing shopping history

3. Browsing shopping history: Many people like to learn from the past and so do online shoppers. A lot of times customers try to remember their previous choices, such as sizes for different clothes made by different brands, colors to avoid, styles to follow, and reviews they’ve left. “ Did I buy it before?” “Why did I return it?” “What Europian shoe size should I pick for this brand?” Packy keeps records of previous orders in detail. Users can easily browse and search. Knowing their preference helps customers save time and shop wisely.

To start mapping out the interface, I sketched several main features and their screens:

Features and screens

The first screen is a hearty welcome with a short tutorial. Users can skip it at any time and start to log in or sign up. Although Packy collects information mainly by accessing emails, to reduce the friction of creating a new account, users should be able to log in or sign up with their own shopping and social accounts like Google, Facebook, or Amazon account.

The screen after login, or the default screen, is the main package tracking screen. The menu at the bottom has four categories that allow users to navigate between main screens for packages, returns, order history, and setting. The menu stays at the bottom on most of the screens so users can quickly find the main features. Users can start a new return, or start adding new packages or orders that can’t be found in emails by simply tapping the “+” button on any main screen.

The items under each category are shown as tags and sort by time. They can be searched and filtered. Each tag shows an image, basic information, and status of the item. Tapping on a tag for a package, a return or an order leads to the detail of it. Users can find more information about the item, edit it, go to the original email or shopping website, and start returning it right away. Some stores may require customers to go to their website or contact their service to make a return. Packy gives links to the original emails and shopping website. Again, Packy reads emails that have return information and makes updates. Packy collects return label, find nearby shippers, and reminds users to drop off their returned items at a certain time or location. Packy will also remember the reason for these returns and give customers suggestions and recommendations for their next shopping.

Notifications and reminders will pop up on a locked screen with an image of the purchased item, brief information, and delivery status. Packy notifies users when new orders are placed, packages are shipped, packages arrive, returns are received, and users are refunded. Users can set up reminders for return drop off at a certain time or location. Once users complete a process, a success screen will pop up and let users know what they have just completed and what’s the next step.

Step 6: Measure

The success of this solution could be measured by in-app rating, net promoter score (NPS), task success rate, and other metrics.

Click here to view high-resolution design and prototype.


I am an architectural designer seeking new opportunities in product design. This series is to help me practice design thinking and skills that are required by the role of a product designer and to help me build a portfolio for my new career.

To solve a challenge, firstly I need to understand why I am designing this (“Goal”)and what problem I am trying to solve, who am I building this for (“Audience”) and what are their needs and some contexts (“Needs”); then I’ll think about what I can do to meet their needs(“Ideas”) and give solutions (“Solve”), finally I’ll define measurement and possible next steps (“Measure”).

These exercises are done in about an hour with paper and pen. A limited time forces me to focus on the integrity of a product at the beginning of the design process. Some of the solutions will be developed into high-resolution mockups and prototypes. Challenges are mostly from subscription like WeeklyUI, Weekly Product Design Exercise, UX Collective, InVision. A super useful book I’ve found for product design practice is Solving Product Design Exercises: Question and Answers by Artiom Dashinsky.

Happy 2019! Hope this exercise series can help me develop problem-solving skills and become better prepared for my design career.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash
Tong Zhang (Toni)

Written by

A product designer based in the Bay Area looking for new opportunities. A dog mom of two Frenchies. http://tonizhang.com/

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