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Case Study: Price Patrol


Supplemental Research

Concept Development

Design Strategy

Sketches & Wireframes
Brand Style Guide

Usability Testing

Design Solutions
Project Reception

Final Postmortem

Design Research
Heuristic Analyses

User Interviews


planning for success: an exploration in survival project management

In my first act as PM, I led our kickoff meeting with the goal of establishing a shared working agreement. From there, I developed a project plan and production timeline.


My largest concern was overstepping my authority, so I planned for Agile development with a collaborative mindset, bringing in the team at every step to contest and validate my direction.

In an effort to quickly establish preliminary design goals, I delegated research tasks by discipline. I made the mistake of assuming basic competency with topics like usability, heuristics, and analysis, which delayed our progress by a number of days.

To help the team understand exactly what we were up against, I surveyed twelve competitor apps and websites, evaluating the overall usability of each service in reference to its feature set, release platforms, value proposition, technical limitations, and documented pain points.

I delegated aesthetic and brand analyses to our interface designer, but ended up assisting her in the survey when initial findings proved more superficial than insightful.

While our probe proved extensive, it wasn’t long before I’d confirmed the elephant in the room: pages upon pages of thrifty shopping apps, all defending subtle variations on the same value add.


Given mobile's Red Ocean reality, we identified brick & mortar retail as a serviceable niche, and set boundaries for the experience, especially where new features were concerned.

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With the majority of competitors fighting for the online shopping space, I believed a strong focus on brick & mortar retail might be Price Patrol's best shot at differentiation.


While conservative branding was common, one notable rival made the case for personality—
attracting a devoted user base with its unique & entertaining tone.


No single contender came out on top, but the biggest fish dominated search rankings with professional features and UI. Price Patrol couldn't compete as a one-stop shop.


Some overlap was likely unavoidable, but on the whole, feature sets and value props achieved a striking level of uniformity, simplifying much of our notation to checkbox form.


The most successful platforms survived by sharpening a core focus, such as grocery deals,
and moving forward with enhancements to that specific experience.


I provided guidance, introducing my personal methodology with materials drawn from Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Engineering

As project manager, I saw value in heuristic evaluation as a means of quickly identifying pain points and areas for improvement. As a strategist, I saw value in usability testing as a path to informed direction.


I began by delegating these tasks to our interaction designer while I conducted market research in parallel. However, it soon became apparent how unfamiliar they were with the process, and how much additional support would be required. 

Thus, over the course of the next three days, I provided guidance, introducing my personal methodology with materials drawn from Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Engineering. However, with the sprint’s 9-day timeframe practically folding in on itself, I was eventually forced to take matters into my own hands.

Usability Heuristics & Evaluation

​​Competitors' products were analyzed in regards to the following criteria as sourced from Jakob Nielsen's Usability Engineering:



    +  Does the system keep users informed of what's going on?
    +  Is the feedback timely and relevant?



    +  Does the system speak the users' language?
    +  Is it designed to follow real-world conventions?
    +  Is information presented in a natural and logical order?



    +  Does the system support undo and redo?
    +  How does user agency fluctuate throughout flows?



    +  Does the product follow Android platform conventions?
    +  Have bespoke UI elements been utilized consistently?


    +  Are there affordances in place to mitigate user error?
    +  Does the system provide feedback when errors are made?


    +  What is the total cognitive load placed on users?
    +  How does information design influence interaction design?
    +  Does the system provide help or documentation?


    +  Does the system account for the needs of power users?
    +  Are users able to tailor frequent actions?
    +  Does the experience change with differing use cases?


    +  Is the interface free of noise and irrelevant information?
    +  Has the interface been audited for redundancy?

I analyzed our client app in addition to many of its competitors and peers. Notes from this session are summarized in the gallery below:


Coming out of these analyses, it was clear just how much needed to change. Thus, we prioritized the app's landing, radar feature, and product detail pages as areas for significant improvement.

Everyone was jumping at the opportunity to start building solutions, but we'd first need to develop personas in order to take advantage of our newest discoveries.

Working in conjunction with our research lead, I began by assisting in the development of proto-personas, attempting to filter down the larger population while removing elements of personal bias.

I then contributed to snowball recruitment efforts, consulting on a screener survey, disseminating the document through social networks, and contacting participants to schedule phone calls.

Image by Artem Beliaikin

While our researcher finished up the last of her interviews, I worked to transcribe audio recordings into a comprehensive written document. Together, we moved her findings out of the digital realm and on to post-it notes, organizing the data into an affinity diagram.


Say Hello to Linda.


  • 49, stay-at-home mother of two

  • organized, resourceful, and caring

  • lower then average tech empathy

  • values family, community, and personal growth

  • keeps a daily journal and sticks to a tight schedule

  • volunteers with the PTA and other local  organizations

  • runs errands, does chores, acts as family chauffeur

  • budgets household expenses, preferring to shop local

Pain Points
  • inability to find specific products or product details

  • time-intensive process of driving between stores

  • limited working memory when comparing options

  • self-directed stress of thinking she could have planned better (maximizer personality trait)

Linda's hectic schedule proves that parenting really is a full-time job, and she does her best to stay on top of her family’s eclectic needs.

"I want to get the best deals for my family."

With her husband providing the family’s only source of income, she strives to make the most of the limited budget allotted for groceries, school supplies, housewares, and other essentials. This means planning and organizing is vital to her purchase process, and price comparison is a must.


While she sometimes has trouble with her smartphone, she recognizes it as a powerful tool for keeping track of sales and coupons. She usually does the research at home, but becomes stressed when she forgets to bring her list to the store.

When it comes to shopping for her family, Linda is often on-the-go, and wants to find the best items cheaply and efficiently. It's important that she can locate her purchases in a hurry, making convenience valuable. But given time, Linda prefers to maximize, comparing brands and price points, and sometimes even saving items to purchase when they go on clearance.


Most significantly, Linda prefers to see and feel an item in-person before deciding, and thus, most of her purchases occur in-store.




24, Social Media Specialist

image-conscious, hip, and impulsive

high level of tech empathy

college-educated urbanite


enjoys window shopping anytime, anywhere

makes the majority of her purchases online

follows celebrities on Instagram

expresses herself in primarily material ways

Pain Points

lack of product or inventory information

inability to browse or otherwise narrow down her choices

outdated websites/unprofessional product photography

missing out on a flash sale or finding out too late

Secondary Persona


Supplemental Research

Concept Development

Design Strategy

Sketches & Wireframes
Brand Style Guide

Usability Testing

Design Solutions
Project Reception

Final Postmortem

Design Research
Heuristic Analyses

User Interviews

Amidst what I can only describe as an extraordinarily detailed analysis session, a peer used a word that I wasn't familiar with: "satisficer."


In posing follow-up questions, it came to light that her current findings, especially those regarding customer mental models, mirrored the work of influential American psychologist Barry Schwartz.

Succinctly, Schwartz' most salient hypothesis concerns the so-called Paradox of Choice, which posits that individuals suffer increased anxiety, regret, and self-doubt in the face of overwhelming variety.



Relating consumer stressors to characterizations put forth in the 1950's by psychologist Herbert A. Simon, Schwartz notes core distinctions between two prevalent personality types, and the individuals that embody them in decision-making:


Maximizers, similar to perfectionists, need to be assured that each of their decisions was the best possible given context.

They attempt to make the ideal choice in every situation, and are generally happy only when they feel successful.


Satisficers, on the other hand, hold fewer standards and criteria (though rarely none at all) and tend to locate the first suitable choice available.

Satisficers don’t often account for the possibility of better decisions, or perhaps don't care, and often spend less time in deliberation. According to Schwartz, they are less likely to suffer associated anxieties.


In describing prototypical decision-making processes, Schwartz posits the following steps as integral to an average consumer purchase strategy:

  1. Defining the goals. You'll likely ask yourself "what do I want?" and judge viable goals based on expected or remembered utility (how you anticipate or recall feeling).

  2. Prioritizing the goals. You'll attempt to evaluate the importance of meeting those goals, usually with assistance from your own pool of anecdotal evidence.

  3. Defining the choices. You'll decide which options are worth considering, setting boundaries for which factors should and should not inform your decision.

  4. Evaluating the choices. Based on the factors you've chosen, you'll weigh your options in regards to how effective you perceive them to be in reaching your goals.

  5. Selecting an option. More likely than not, you'll eventually come to a decision, picking the option that you feel is most likely to produce a desired outcome.

  6. Adapting the model. Given the relative success or failure of your decision-making, you'll likely alter the way future goals, options, and possibilities are evaluated.

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It quickly became apparent that Linda, with all of her planning and budgeting, perfectly exemplified the Maximizer role.

So while Price Patrol's existing platform provided an overabundance of choices (including product, brand, location, price point, seller, etc.) that might overwhelm her, I believed our content strategy and interaction design could evolve to assuage this issue, rather than cement it. 

While it seemed that limiting the products available to Linda might cause a different kind of frustration, I imagined that with the addition of some basic algorithms, we could effectively reduce the time, effort, and cognitive load associated with a shopper's comparative research.

Bringing these insights to the group, I led the team in a collaborative brainstorm, weighing the perceived impact of various solutions against collective time and resources.

With too many ideas on the table, I broke out the MoSCoW method in order to aid in feature prioritization.

We agreed that our first priority should be refinements to the
app's existing functionality, and to this end, I developed a series of design goals based on our transcribed meeting notes.

Our next concern was the app's value prop. Based on Linda's unmet needs, we chose to move forward with innovations targeting efficient use, planning, and organization.

~ First Iteration ~

we chose to move forward with innovations targeting efficient use, planning, and organization