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Instashop is a grocery franchise aiming to enter the online grocery shopping market. The purpose of the project was to serve as an exercise that touched all parts of the design process. This assignment was created by Designlab as part of its online UX design boot camp program, UX Academy. I was the sole researcher and designer, working under the guidance of a mentor and participating in critique sessions with peers over Google Hangouts.

After putting together a research plan, I followed a model of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. This allowed me to gain a good understanding of the problem context, make decisions, and get something in front of users to test assumptions and validate ideas.

If you want the TL;DR version of the research, you can download a PDF of my user research report, which summarizes what I did in each stage, the purpose and rationale for using each method, and key insights learned.

If you want a more in-depth look, read on.

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GOALS: Learn who the users are and their behaviors, motivations, thoughts, and feelings, identify user needs


Instashop survey screenshot

As part of my initial discovery process, I launched a survey to find out who the users were and get a general sense of how grocery shopping fit into their lives. The survey doubled as a screener for potential interview candidates later. As this was an educational exercise with a $0 budget, my primary method of disseminating the survey was through social media channels. Obviously, this skewed the results quite a bit (for example, 74.3% of the respondents were residents of California, where I grew up and attended college), so I had to take the results with more than a few grains of salt. With a budget, I would have used Craigslist instead of personal contacts and included incentives such as gift cards.

Based on the survey responses, target users were people ages 18-44 years old living and working in large cities who shop for groceries in person but are open to trying alternatives.

User Interviews

“I was using Google Shopping when they were in the beta phase so they had free shipping, which was nice, but they don’t have that anymore so I use Instacart now, which is still expensive but I just use it because it’s convenient.”

I interviewed 6 people who matched the target user to gain an in-depth understanding of their behaviors, motivations, thought processes, and emotions surrounding grocery shopping. One of the most common frustrations of traditional grocery shopping is its inconvenience. This comes in many forms: how much time it takes, waiting in line, limited operating hours, locations far from home. Convenience and saving time are the driving forces to compel people to switch to online shopping; however, the higher cost is a major factor, and delivery errors (which are even more inconvenient than in-person shopping) are a turn-off as well.

Hear a snippet of one user interview here:


Q: Is Instacart your preferred one?

A: Yeah.

Q: What do you like about it?

A: I like that I can see what the shoppers are doing. So while they’re shopping, they can say, ‘oh, we had to substitute this for this’ and they– they’ll do it in live time.

Q: Anything else?

A: That’s pretty much it. I like that part. Because if they do that, then I can tell them right away, like, “oh no, I don’t like that substitution” or I can be like, “ok yeah, that’s fine.”

Q: Ok, what don’t you like about it?

A: I don’t like how some shoppers substitute weird things, and then– for the items that I want. Or sometimes the orders get mixed up, or they forget something, or the prices are different than what I was quoted on the internet.


Using what I learned in user interviews as a foundation, I developed a persona. Meet Josephine, a busy, on-the-go professional who needs hassle-free ways to save time and money. Everything about her is based on the users I talked to.


I found the persona creation process immensely helpful for empathizing with users (though to be honest, I could have done without the little bar graphs; they take up space without really saying anything).

Empathy Maps

Creating empathy maps really helped me understand my users on a deeper level. I also took this time to build an empathy map for a secondary persona: someone with expendable income who is already invested in online grocery shopping.


The difference in thoughts and emotions between the two was striking, and I realized that whatever solution I was going to come up with would need to meet the needs of both (as well as the business, of course).


Some storyboards start with a scenario where a pain point enters and whatever solution/service/product we’re pushing comes in and takes that pain away, and Joe User is happy. This storyboard does not do that, because I did the assignment wrong (oops).

Instashop Storyboard

It does, however, illustrate a typical grocery shopping situation in a user’s life that could go much better for her if only she used Instashop. So while the storyboard doesn’t explicitly spell it out in the story, it does show opportunities where Instashop can meet users’ needs.

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GOALS: Look at what currently exists in the problem space and what we can learn and use, determine priorities and primary task(s), identify business goals, identify areas where business goals and user needs can intersect

Competitive Analysis

I began looking at existing solutions/competitors to see what’s being done right and what could be done better. Comparing three major online grocers, I created a matrix that was organized based on value to users and cost of implementation.


Anything that was high value/low cost were the easy wins that Instashop should take advantage of. Anything that was low value/high cost probably didn’t belong in the MVP but could be considered for future iterations.

Business Goals

Instashop Business GoalsIn order to easily see what I was trying to accomplish, I created a simple Venn diagram of business goals/pains and user goals/pains. A quick glance at where the circles cross showed areas that Instashop could meet the needs of both.

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GOALS: Come up with potential solutions, visualize information hierarchies and how users will complete primary task(s), create rough draft(s) with focus on functionality

Card Sort

Instashop Card Sorting Results Snippet

I ran an open card sort on Optimal Workshop so I could see what users’ mental models were of grocery item categorization. This let me know what language and groupings made sense to the users, so naturally I incorporated that information into the categories on the website to minimize cognitive load.


Instashop Sitemap

Drawing out a sitemap helped to visualize the hierarchy of pages on Instashop’s website as well as the connections and relationships between them. My first shot at it was a rather intricate (i.e. convoluted) sitemap:


(Oh, boy.) I realized a lot of it was out of scope for a V1 that hadn’t even been tested yet, so I trimmed it down to focus on fewer things that I could show to users. All the other stuff could come in future versions if it turned out there was a need for it.

User Flow

Writing each step of the user flow allowed me to visualize a red route that a user might take to navigate through the site and complete a task. One of the most typical tasks is buying an item, so this user flow included everything beginning from the entry point, then finding the product, adding it to the cart, running through the checkout process, and finally purchasing it and receiving confirmation of the transaction.


The wireframing process was about generating rough drafts of a design. Referring to the sitemap and user flow, it became obvious what key screens I’d need to make. I focused on functionality with an intuitive layout and sensible structure before making any moves toward stylistic choices.




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GOAL: Create a working prototype that could be tested with users

Instashop Paper Prototype

I did a very low-fidelity prototype (paper sketches) in Marvel as a sort of quick practice for myself, then set to throwing my wireframes into InVision for testing and linking the screens together to simulate a real website.

Instashop wireframe prototype on tablet

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GOALS: Test the prototype with users, compile insights gained from user testing and feedback

Before doing live in-person usability testing, I got quick and dirty feedback on Verify (now Helio) by launching click tests and memory tests on the wireframes.

Thankfully, there were no unwelcome surprises in the results: People knew what to look at and where to click.


With this small bit of validation, I let good enough be good enough and began usability testing.

After running through the spiel of procedures, getting permission to record, and explaining the “think-aloud” method, the task prompt I gave to users was simply to

“Buy two boxes of cream cheese and have them delivered by tomorrow.”

Then I sat back and watched.

Instashop Usability Test Photo

The very first user got stuck for several seconds pretty early on because I had made the terribly fatal mistake of designing the flow in a way that I would do it instead of what the users actually do. I had failed to include an accelerator to guide the user to the next step after adding the items to the cart. This was a simple enough fix that I revised the prototype to include it before further testing. As it turned out, every single user after the first one ended up using it, and I learned a valuable lesson that I knew in theory but now knew in practice.

You can play with a tablet version of the InVision wireframe prototype here. I should warn you that it doesn’t have much functionality beyond the task outlined above. Also, the checkout process needs a lot of work to become more intuitive and user-friendly.

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Instashop Affinity Map

This affinity map shows some of my reflections on the usability tests. Errors directly inform areas for possible improvements. Were I to continue this project beyond the assigned exercise, the next steps after testing would be to 1) determine whether anything in the Define stage needs to pivot and 2) use the insights from testing to iterate on the design by running through ideation and prototyping a V2 to test again. Repeat this process (and/or jump around the process) as necessary.

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To get things going with branding and style for Instashop, I started ideation with just a brainstorm of adjectives and (crudely) sketching whatever came to mind. Some logo ideas formed from that and I explored them, trying several different directions. I then narrowed it down to a few choices and moved from pen and paper to Sketch to see if I could flesh them out.


After consulting with my mentor to help me choose the logo, I created a style tile. I chose the colors– orange and yellow complemented by shades of green– for their associations with energy, vibrance, happiness, health, freshness, and nature (in the United States anyway, where my target users are). Building off this, I made a UI kit and basically filled in my wireframes.


Again, if I were to continue the project, I would test the designs and iterate on them based on user feedback. I’d also need to meet with stakeholders to learn what the primary business objectives are. My goal is always to design something (or contribute to the design of something) that solves problems for both the business and the user, and I can only truly understand what those problems are by talking to both.

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Some other artifacts created during this process are not shown here simply because they’re a bit text-heavy.

These include:

  • Research plan (and related materials arising from research such as survey data and interview notes)
  • Instashop feature matrix/spreadsheet
  • UI requirements document
  • Usability test results document

If you’d like to view copies of any of these documents, please feel free to contact me directly.