“Gift Giver” is the name of a mobile app that provides gift recommendations. My role was to discover if there was a need for the tool, as well as how it could best be used.


  • Contextual enquiry
  • Personas
  • User journeys and stories
  • Paper prototyping
  • Usability testing

User research

I carried out user research to determine if the product was needed and what potential features would be most desired and useful. This was done through contextual inquiry/field visits with users representing a variety of people that purchase gifts both online and at physical shops.

Key findings

  1. Users struggled to think of gifts themselves
  2. Users desired thoughtful gift suggestions
  3. Users wanted easy gift options (i.e. vouchers, flowers, chocolates)
  4. Some users wanted to compare prices

Primary persona

I created the primary persona, Sue, to represent the main user group.

Sue - primary persona

Through user research, I established that there was a need for a gift recommendation tool.

User stories

To create user stories, I first needed to discover the ‘red routes’ or user journeys. Three red routes were identified as being most important:

  1. Get thoughtful gift suggestions
  2. Buy chocolates and/or flowers as easy gift options
  3. Compare prices of gift options
User stories diagram

From these, I created three user stories:

  1. Sue says, “As a mother, I want thoughtful gift suggestions so I can buy great presents  for my children”.
  2. Joanne says, “As a friend, I want easy gifting options so I can buy inexpensive yet quality presents for my acquaintances”.
  3. Robert says, “As a friend, I want to compare prices before I buy so I can get the best deal on more expensive presents”.

Paper prototype

I created a rough paper prototype to quickly test the scenarios and discover any initial usability problems.

Usability testing

In the usability testing phase of the project, I created two test scenarios based on red routes:

Scenario 1: You’re looking for a great gift for your friend, Adam. You’ve already added him to “Gift Giver”, a new app that promises thoughtful recommendations. You don’t have time to wait for delivery. Find Adam a thoughtful gift suggestion and locate a store where you can buy it.

Scenario 2: You want to buy a gift for a work colleague, but you’re unsure what they like, so you’ve decided on a gift voucher. Use the app to purchase a voucher.

I conducted usability testing by observing users interact with the paper prototype. Users were asked to relay their thoughts while using the prototype. Observations based on users thinking aloud as well as their stumbling blocks resulted in insights, or usability problems are outlined below.

Usability problems

Through a formative usability test, a number of usability issues were found. The most common problems were:

  1. Users weren’t sure to immediately navigate to “Giftees”.
  2. Users assumed the “store list” was listing most popular options/best prices.
  3. Users thought “easy gifts” would find suggestions.
Usability problems diagram

Solution hypotheses

Usability testing uncovered a number of user experience issues which could be mitigated by further iteration and testing. Below are some possible solutions that could be tested:

Problem: Users weren’t sure to immediately navigate to “Giftees”.
Solution: Change title to better match user mental models: “Contacts”, “Gift Giving” or “Gift Suggestions” could potentially replace the initial button.

Problem: Users assumed the “store list” was listing most popular options/best prices.
Solution: Redesign store list page or make it clearer through microcopy.

 Users thought “easy gifts” would find suggestions.
Solution: Redesign home page to have fewer menu options or better button labels. Another solution could be to reorder the experience: “giftee selection” first, then options for a recommendation or to choose/search for a gift.