yuanzhou@gatech.edu   |    (917) 755 6835   |   linkedin.com/in/yuanzhouhci/

Online Thrift Shop


A mobile app helping young adults buy and sell used items safely and conveniently in urban areas


1. Overview

Design Objective

To improve the experience of buying and selling used items online for young adults in urban cities.

These young adults have difficulty:

•  Finding places that are close to them and safe to meet up.

•  Assessing item integrity.

•  Selling and buying used item at a fast speed.

•  Having trust in people they are trading with.

My Role


2. Formative Research

Research Goals

1. Learned about how and why young adults living in urban areas sell and buy used item online.

2. Understood how young adults feel about selling and buying used item online.

3. Discovered pain points and selected problem space to better guide our design

My Role

1. In the formative research phase, I contributed to design of survey and semi-structured interview. I conducted 2 preliminary interviews, co-distributed survey and conducted 3 semi-structured interviews. I also took part in task analysis. Then I worked with teammates to analyze our data and distilled the user requirements and pain points from our findings.

2. I actively contributed in the ideation, sketch and wireframe phases. The final wireframes are revised and finalized by me. I also created the user flow. Currently we are working on the prototype.

3. In terms of evaluation, I mainly contributed to the feedback sessions for wireframes. I worked as facilitator, moderator and notetaker.


Sep. 2018 - Now


Pen &Paper

Google Survey




Project Team

Yuan Zhou

Whitney Nelson

Raj Smith

Nia Lindsey

Anna Malecki


Preliminary Interview

After choosing our theme as trading of used item locally online, we firstly conducted preliminary interview with 5 participants using convenient sampling to learn about  their online shopping experience of used item and their issues and preferences. We analyzed the data using qualitative coding to find recurring factors that our participants concern: convenience, safety, anonymity.





Then we used survey to collect participants’ general opinions on those factors of their online shopping experience of used item and their demographic information, as well as an open-ended question about participants’ greatest concern. We distributed our survey through several channels with the intent of reaching a broad range of participants.

Out of 68 responses we got from the survey, some important finding are

•  Most people who buy and sell used items locally online are 18 - 34 years old and lives in metropolitan or suburban area.

•  People are neutral about anonymity when buying or selling used items.

•  People generally feels safe about meeting up buyer or seller.

•  People think shipping the item and meeting locally are two most convenient way to sell and buy used item.


We analyzed the qualitative portion of our survey using qualitative coding. We let the data speak for itself by initially reading through the qualitative responses, we then generated codes for the most commonly referenced ideas. After matching each qualitative answer to a code, we performed a total code count. We used the top referenced codes as major themes in our research and used them to drive our interview question design process. These major themes are:

•  Quality and scan     33

•  Safety                       10

•  Meet up                   10

•  Shipping                   4

•  Unsatisfaction          3


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how




Semi-structured Interview

We conducted semi-structured Interview with the goal to 

•  Learn about users’ past experience of buying and selling used items online.

•  Gather more in-depth data about people's values and attitudes for the major themes we identified through survey and probe into the reasons behind.

We pooled 5 people who are our user group as interviewees from participants who filled our survey and were happy to be contacted for follow-up. All of our interview participants are buyers. We analyzed interview data by creating an affinity map to identify buyers’ need and recurring themes. Some important findings are:

•  Buyers rely on trust in sellers when buying used items.

•  When it comes to meet up, buyers need to meet in a place that is close to them and makes they feel safe.

•  Buyers have difficulty assessing item integrity. They want the items to fit information provided by sellers and need to avoid scams.

•  Buyers need to be able to communicate with sellers .

•  Our users are price sensitive. They need cost efficient shipping and get a good deal


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how

Out of time limit, we were only able to get informal interview data from 2 sellers. We were able to understand their motivation and that many of their need overlaps with buyers’ need. Aside from that, sellers want to sell their item in a relatively higher price and sell their used item at a fast speed.




Competitive Analysis

Based on insights we concluded from the former research, we did competitive analysis in the filed of buying and selling used item. 


We were able to know more about the existing solutions on the market that attempts to solve user need and pain points we found so that we could better estimate our problem space. For example, Facebook Market uses seller’s facebook profile information to help build trust in sellers. However, we won’t be able to have all of user’s facebook profile data, so different features(s) need to be developed to build the theme of trust.




Task Analysis

Based on former research, we had a more comprehensive understanding of how users sold and bought used items locally online.


We abstracted detailed process to get the shared higher level one. Then we broke it into detailed steps to further capture user needs and existing pain points.


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how



Synthesis of Findings

After aggregating all the data we have gathered, we were able to identify all the user need and pain points, user’s altitude of the entire process of buying and selling used items locally online. We also identified 3 major themes: safety, item integrity and convenience. To present our data, we created persona for both of our user groups, which also helped us better emphasize with our users. 





We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how


Design Criteria

Finally, in order to have a more specific guideline for the following design phases, we generated design criteria based on user needs. 


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how




3. Design Iteration


After creating the affinity map, we “walked the wall” and generated design ideas for the high level sticky notes we produced (the purple sticky notes).


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how

With user requirements in mind, we produced more design ideas by brainstorming as a team. We came up with over 50 design ideas ranging from both high-level concepts and low-level features that would address user needs and pain points.

Based on the each idea’s feasibility, creativity and how well each idea addresses user need, we chose 3 design ideas as a team to further develop wireframes for each idea. To better present our design ideas to our user, we also developed storyboards for each idea.




Lofi Wireframes

1. Meet-up Helper

This idea allows buyers to browse items that are close to them and addresses the pain point of having difficulty finding places that is close to them and safe to meet up by recommending safe meet-up places that are both close to the buyer and the seller. At the same time, it requires sellers to upload photos taken within the app to avoid scam. It also allows in-app communication and payment to provide a convenient and safe online shopping experience.


The main weakness is that our design builds on an assumption that there are a lot of people posting items on our app. Buyers might have a very limited options of items to choose from. They might also feel frustrated for not being able to find what they are looking for.


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how

2. Locker Agent

This idea addresses safety by allowing buyers and sellers to trade used item without meeting up and adding a verification employee. The seller will write a checklist  of his used item about its condition and functionality. Buyers will browse online. Once an agreement between and seller and the buyer is reached, the seller can leave his item at a locker and then one employee will verify his item based on the checklist. Once the item is verified by the employee, buyer can come to the locker and pick up the item.


The feasibility of this idea is slim because the idea is centered with a locker but we do not have much data about what our users want for the locker based on our research. At the same time, it lacks the consideration of large items that can not be kept in the locker and the cost of manufacturing and placing the lockers.

3. Thrift Shop Game

This idea applies gamification mechanics to the whole meet-up experience to build trust and encourage personalization. Design features include a virtual front store, a personalized avatar, real-time location display and mini games.


The biggest weakness of the idea is that it contradict with sellers’ need to sell their used items at a fast speed. Another weaknesses would be the ability to produce constant new content to keep the system interesting to users. 


Feedback Session for wireframes

We utilized convenience sampling to gather 8 participants that were representative of our user group. We described the main idea of each idea, showed our lofi wireframes to each participant and utilized storyboards to help users understand the shopping experience of each idea. At the end of the session, we asked for their opinions about these ideas,


After gathering qualitative data, we analyzed our data by quantifying our participant’s top design choices and using qualitative data, specifically quotes, to expand on what aspects of our designs users liked and disliked. (negative attitudes are displayed in green and positive attitudes are displayed in red).


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how

For design 1 Meet-up Helper: 

Overall, participants stated that Meet-up Helper made them feel safe, was the most streamlined idea, and felt that design idea 1 seemed to offer the greatest item variety in comparison to our other design ideas. Of the 8 interviews we conducted, 5 interviewees stated that Meet-up Helper was their top preference. Meet-up Helper also directly addresses previously identified user concerns pertaining to safety, quality, trust and convenience.


For design 2 Locker Agent:

Participants liked the quality verification component and the addition of an employee introduced in Locker Agent. However, respondents also felt this idea was “clunky,” and limiting in terms of items. In addition to these details, we also considered the feasibility and business implications of implementing lockers and felt that these difficulties were unnecessary. 


For design 3 Thrift Shop Game: 

Participants felt that though it was fun and more personalized, they felt that they wouldn't know what to do in the application as it was presented in the sketch and felt that the gamification concept was confusing and distracting from the goal of buying and selling used local items.


Due to these considerations, we chose Meet-up Helper for further wireframe and prototype development.




Next Step

Our next step is to develop more complete wireframe and prototype for Meet-Up Helper. Then we will conduct usability test to evaluate and further improve our design.