letgo — an exploration of feature integration

Integrating new features for a seamless user experience

Restless reinvention. This is an idea that I’ve seen reinterpreted in many ways while exploring design thinking. With this approach, your scope is constantly moving, your eyes are consistently seeking ways to tinker and make the things we use everyday better and maybe even simpler. Restless reinvention allows for continued innovation which in turn leads to untold growth potential for us and the things we interact with. Restless reinvention means that there is no such thing as a finished product, everything is a prototype just living its days in ever shifting phases and iterations. When facing the idea with this mindset, any product is a canvas, even the things that seem perfect at their intended function!

We live in a super interconnected world (we are lucky to be here!). Not only are we interconnected, but our society has found wonderful ways to integrate technology to increase the means by which we do normal things such as communicate. A great benefit of this integrated world is our ability to interact with people that we may not have ever met in our daily lives. This interaction or the hope of this interaction has lead us to find and create ways to interact that go beyond just talking. In 1995, Craigslist and eBay were founded and would go on to “modernize” and iterate upon the centuries old process of peer to peer shopping- “good ol’ buying from each other in a non-store based format”. 22 years later, both Craigslist and eBay are way further along in terms of capacity and reach but they are no longer the only players on the field. With the age of apps and the continued growth of integrated society, there are many other services that aim to continue the peer to peer selling format.

Launched in 2015, letgo is a newer peer to peer buying and selling platform that plays the same game as Craigslist but has decided to focus on the app market (one where Craigslist isn’t as strong). Another huge difference in letgo, is their choice of an integrated chat feature aimed at making communication between users as simple as possible — this is done through removing the guesswork of how users communicate outside of the app by just providing them with in app means. While this is a simple yet powerful change in the process, it doesn’t solve many of the problems that letgo faces. These problems range from physical safety (letgo has been associated with armed robberies and murders) to simple scams (one person holds up their end of the process but the other end simply falls through). A typical process follows a buyer and seller agreeing on the sale of an item posted on the service and then agreeing to meet in person for the physical exchange of goods and currencies. This is a beautiful transaction in a perfect world (the perfect world being one that we don’t quite exist in yet). Working with a team of myself and two other UX designers, we set out to approach issues that letgo was having and conceptualize new features that will offer solutions to the problems that letgo users were facing. Our team was tasked with integrating new features into letgo’s structure that would create a safe way for users to complete an ecommerce monetary transaction(from both buyer and seller perspective’s) while having letgo make some money from said transaction. How might we build a secure commerce feature that would benefit buyers, sellers, and letgo alike?

We had a lot of assumptions going in about what a user would want from a transaction such as the one letgo facilitates. These assumptions were based on the ideas of what users of peer to peer sites deem safe mixed with the ideas of users of ecommerce transactions in general (not necessarily peer to peer) mixed in with initial research into letgo competitors in general. All assumptions were rooted in hard truths — users wanted to trust their sellers or buyers, they wanted to make sure they were getting what they paid for. They want to know that they are guaranteed as a safe of a transaction as possible. With these assumptions in mind, we moved further into our research phase and created a survey that we would use to identify our target users: individuals who have been part of a certain number of peer to peer transactions (in the past year). Our survey focused on whether or not users have used peer to peer platforms and tried to extract specifics behind those who have had negative experiences using these platforms.

A pretty strong turnout from the negative experience camp.

After we identified users who fit into our target group from our survey screener, we set out to interview 12 individuals. The questions we asked were: When was the last time you purchased something off of a peer to peer platform?

What makes you feel safe purchasing something online?
Can you tell me about a negative experience that you had with an online purchase?
What is your preferred e-commerce payment method?
Do you feel comfortable attaching banking information to an online platform?
Have you ever done an in person pickup for anything you have purchased online? Do you have any requirements for this sort of pickup (ex: specific setting, time of day, companion)?
What would you require from a peer seller before picking up a product in person?
You mentioned that you also have sold an item using a peer to peer platform. Can you tell me about the last time you did that?
As a seller, are you/would be willing to pay a small percentage of your profits to a host website? (Ex: Would you allow ebay to take 3% of your total profits in exchange for facilitating your transaction?)

Our interview results were strong and quickly backed up our initial assumptions. Users wanted confidence in their purchases. They wanted to purchase things securely on a trusted platform with trusted users. Some overwhelming data poinst that we synthesized from our interviews were that PayPal is the standard that users expected and felt comfortable with in their online transactions and that users were generally on the fence about meeting up in person with a stranger and had requirements for this to actually happen (things ranging from meeting in a public place to bringing a friend along). From our data, we generated 6 “I” statements:

aka “I want to feel GOOD about this transaction in every possible way”

The data points and these “I” statements lead to the following two primary personas being born:

Maria is frequent user of peer to peer platforms making her very experienced in the game.
Mike is a situational user of peer to peer platforms, one who will use it when the need arises but doesn’t frequent a site or app.

With Maria and Mike, we were looking at users who have very different general uses for a peer to peer platform but they both had the same types of requirements. They wanted to be sure that this transaction would work out in the way that they intend it to. Our new problem statement was also born out of synthesizing this data: How might letgo facilitate a safe and secure in-person peer to peer transaction?

We researched what was industry standard, weighed this against the data we pulled from our surveys, previous research and interviews and moved into our design studio. We loved the “conversational” process championed by services such as letgo — where the bulk of a transaction process is planned out by simply talking to the other party in the transaction. We took this idea and compared it to a full transaction conversational method championed by newer peer to peer services like grailed. We wanted to incorporate our ecommerce process within this conversation so that there could be an entire transaction history right in the chat! The idea was to keep it simple, lighthearted and to make further use of letgo’s already present AI. To take it a step further and reach outside of the app into the physical implications of a transaction, we decided to integrate the option of a “GoBox” similar to Amazon Lockers or even allowing letgo’s AI to suggest safe or suggested meetup locations within a specific area.

Hey user! We’re going to make sure that nothing goes wrong for you! Shout out to our teammate Samantha for also playing the role of UX photographer!

Our design studio resulted in the layouts that we thought made sense and a logical user flow.

We engaged in two rounds of usability testing — the first with a super simple layout that seemed to confuse the users we sought who were familiar with letgo (or similar apps). Users were able to get through their tasks but were confused with the placement of functions in the conversation, thinking they completed messages (rather than clickable options). Our second round of testing integrated a keyboard and letgo’s ever popular suggested response feature that definitely alleviated the majority of users’ confusion and allowed every user to seamlessly make it through each of the 3 scenarios that they were presented with. The scenarios were focused on the perspective of our persona, Maria who wanted to buy a product, securely checkout with said product via the app’s new ecommerce transaction feature and successfully negotiate a dropoff for said product to a GoBox. After this she wanted to build her rapport on the app by verifying her profile from her phone number (in addition to the Facebook and email verifications that letgo currently offers). Maria could also check to see her history of sold items and view her LetGo balance — held in a Venmo style account which could be used within the app or cashed out to various secure accounts such as PayPal.

Throughout our process, we kept thinking of ways we would love to further develop this app. It could be by offering an “uberEATS” style delivery service for a product or having a set dropoff location such as a local UPS store or pharmacy where a user could then go to pick up the item at a later time. All in all, I believe users will gravitate toward the conversational features as our digital presence and digital interactions with people around us become stronger and more prominent. When everything is framed in this conversation view, there aren’t multiple phases that one has to check to see all points of their transaction, it’s all right there in the chat! Remember that couch that you love so much but won’t fit in your new apartment? Letting go is easier now, all it takes is a quick chat!