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CASE STUDY: PRICE PATROL

PROCESS OVERVIEW

Secondary Research
Concept Development
Design Strategy

Sketches & Wireframes
Brand Style Guide

Usability Testing

Design Solutions
Project Reception

Final Postmortem

Market Research
Heuristics & Usability

User Personas

LINDA & REBECCA

DISCOVERY PHASE

After receiving nominations to act as Project Manager, I contributed to research efforts through comprehensive competitive analysis, in addition to heuristic evaluation and usability testing of the app's existing design.
 
I then assisted our lead researcher in the analysis of user data, organizing a series of affinity maps, crafting use case scenarios, and collaboratively developing primary and secondary personas.

Discover

PLANNING FOR SUCCESS

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.

TESTING THE WATERS

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.

 

Research revealed an uncomfortable truth: Price Patrol's value proposition wasn't particularly unique, and would require focus and specialization.

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.

BRICK & MORTAR SPECIALIZATION

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.

IMPORTANCE OF BRAND IDENTITY

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

RED OCEAN ECOSYSTEM

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.

UBIQUITOUS
FEATURE PARITY

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.

IMPORTANCE OF SPECIALIZATION

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

HEURISTIC EVALUATION & USABILITY TESTING

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 delegated 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 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.

Interface and flow were analyzed in regards to the following criteria sourced from Usability Engineering:
 

  • Visibility (communication of system status)
     

  • Mapping (efficacy of language/metaphor)
     

  • Freedom (fluidity of system states)
     

  • Consistency (homogeneity of elements)
     

  • Recognition (burden of cognitive load)
     

  • Flexibility (efficiency/fluidity of use)
     

  • Minimalism (relevancy of content)
     

  • Error Prevention (agency of user pre-error)
     

  • Error Recovery (agency of user post-error)
     

  • Help (quality of guidance/documentation)

PERSONA DEVELOPMENT

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.

With data in hand and a stronger understanding of context, I assisted our lead researcher in affinity mapping, resulting in the development of primary and secondary personas.

PRIMARY PERSONA:

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

Overview

  • 49, stay-at-home mother of two

  • organized, resourceful, and caring

  • lower then average tech empathy

  • values family, community, and personal growth
     

Behaviors
  • 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 McMullen
SECONDARY PERSONA:

“I want designer things without the designer price tag.”

Overview

  • 24, Social Media Specialist

  • image-conscious, hip, and impulsive

  • high level of tech empathy

  • college-educated urbanite
     

Behaviors
  • 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

Rebecca Young

PLANNING & VISION PHASE

In collaboration with our research lead, I internalized secondary findings describing prevalent mental models for decision-making. This helped bring Linda to life, fostering knowledge of her personal needs.

With the team ready to discuss their proposed solutions, I led collaborative whiteboarding exercises with the goal of defining experience goals, prioritizing features, and developing a shared vision.

Envision

THE PARADOX OF CHOICE

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.

Faced with the challenge of delineating design direction as my team moved into exploratory ideation and problem-solving, I exercised due diligence in investigating this research further.

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.

THE MENTAL MODEL

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.

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.

MAXIMIZERS & SATISFICERS

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.

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.

DIRECTING OUR EFFORTS

Bringing these insights to the group, I led the team in collaborative brainstorming, 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

Delegating the digitization process proved an effective tactic, as research lead Monique Boediono was able to develop these excellent wires with lightning fast turnaround. Horizontal scroll to view the full set.

DESIGN GOALS

  • Streamlined Interaction
    Price Patrol’s existing user flow was clunky and inefficient. We needed to address this process with consistent and standardized functionality, especially surrounding search.
     

  • Intuitive Software Tools
    Keeping Linda’s context at the heart of our design process, we wanted to implement simple and relevant resources, like customized lists, to fulfill her unmet needs.
     

  • Practical Data & Resources
    Taking into account maximizer tendencies, we hoped to supply “insider” content, like buyer's guides, so that users would always feel they were making informed decisions.
     

  • Strategic Innovation
    Without the time to revolutionize, we aimed to innovate carefully. New features, like a barcode scanner, could mitigate pain points while retaining an MVP sensibility.
     

  • Professional Brand Identity
    It was unclear exactly how branding might evolve, but everyone could agree that Price Patrol's current look and feel failed to communicate a strong value proposition.

PRIORITIZATION

  1. Existing Pain Points
    Of utmost urgency were the usability issues uncovered in early-stage testing. These primarily concerned search filters, product/merchant info, and the radar feature. 
     

  2. User-Driven Differentiation
    Price Patrol's best chance at Red Ocean survival hinged on the successful fulfillment of unmet needs. Lower-effort additions included calendars, curation, and customization.
     

  3. Overall Polish
    Even the most minor of details, like the size of a tap target, could make or break the Price Patrol experience. User testing was crucial to ensuring a seamless experience.
     

  4. Blue Sky Innovations
    With a laundry list of concepts at the ready, any additional resources would be put towards features like price prediction, in-app couponing, and route planning.

  • Spoiler Alert!
    We didn't hit many of our blue sky targets given the timeframe. However, working towards these more exciting goals effectively energized the team, while also helping to minimize rabbit-hole prioritization disputes. 

SURVIVAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT

DEVELOPMENT PHASE

As our team was impeded by unforeseen circumstance, I took the lead in concept development, spearheading an extensive, last-minute design studio process to develop testable wireframes and stay on schedule.

 

Then, concerned with the app's appearance, I facilitated a casual focus group, proceeding to leverage garnered insights as I assisted our visual lead in defining brand aesthetics such as color palette & visual metaphor.

Picture this. It's Monday morning and you're four days out from a hard deadline. It's at this exact moment that you learn of your team's predicament, that 100% of your collaborators are stalled for progress and were unable to complete any of their work.

That was my reality entering the third phase of the Price Patrol redesign. My research lead was home with a stomach bug, my interaction designer had re-stressed a previous injury and arrived in a wheelchair, and my visual designer
was blocked by software licensing issues.

Big picture milestones, like our findings report, preliminary style guide, and first draft digital wires, hadn't even gotten off the ground. That's when this became a challenge of survival project management.

Taking matters into my own hands, I organized an emergency design studio process to efficiently develop integral IxD artifacts. I engaged my remaining team members in rapidly building out solutions, critiquing screens, iterating designs, and synthesizing the best outcomes.

 

Nine hours later, we were well on our way with sketched wires. Yet, once again, our interaction designer struggled with basic competencies. Their lack of familiarity with basic software tools would manifest in delays of up to 72 hours, and without the time to coach and guide, I delegated digitization to our researcher while I assisted visual design in creative strategy.

Develop

GOING DIGITAL