WEB APP DESIGN CASE STUDY
The main goal of this project is to create a web mobile app that helps users find inspiration for their next tattoo, contact artists, and make reservations.
The research conducted highlights how the process of getting a tattoo can vary depending on each artist's preference (websites, Instagram DMs, etc.). Arranging a tattoo appointment with a specific artist can often be a difficult process; Ink Tank aims to create a consistent, streamlined process.
Ink Tank was designed between August 2020 and February 2021 as part of my UX Immersion course with CareerFoundry. I was the sole designer for the duration of the process, supported by my tutor and mentor.
Some of the tools I used: Zoom, Google Forms, pen & paper, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, OptimalSort, UsabilityHub, Balsamiq, Adobe XD, Stark.
Goals: understand the users' point of view and identify behaviours, needs, and pain points in the tattoo-booking process.
The purpose of this survey was to collect data about users' preferred types of tattoos (custom, flash, etc.), what aspects they take into consideration when getting a tattoo, and potential features of interest. The survey was conducted via Google Forms and was completed by 27 respondents. These were recruited through social media appeals, and CareerFoundry's Slack channels.
Analysis of the survey results showed some interesting insights. These served as a starting point for the formulation of the user interview questions:
• Custom designs are the most popular type of design
• When getting a new tattoo, 70% of users consider aspects such as the tattoo design and style. A relevant portion of users (55%) also considers the choice of the artist as an important step.
•People look for inspiration through Google images, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
•The features that garnered the most interest were "view artist profile", "artist reviews" and the booking function. Little interest was shown in the possibility to browse featured artists and browse featured designs.
Example of data collected in the survey
User interviews allowed me to get in-depth information and stories from users, and investigate deeper into their experience to identify needs and frustrations. This was my first time conducting user interviews, and I found the process extremely interesting and enriching, as it helped me gain a deeper understanding of the problem space beyond my personal experience.
The interview questions focused on understanding the following aspects:
The inspiration process
What makes a good and bad tattoo experience
Gauging user interest in potential features
The interviews were recorded and analysed, and findings were divided into four groups, allowing me to cross-analyse statements from different interviewees and identify common goals, needs, and pain points.
Overview of the interview participants.
Some of the insights that resulted:
All interviewees prefer custom tattoos.
The selection process often starts on social media.
The selection of the artist is a priority in all cases.
The artist's behaviour and the environment are aspects that determine a good or bad experience.
The interviewees pointed out several features that would increase their interest in the product, such as favouriting artists and designs, seeing live availability, search function and design upload.
I enjoyed carrying out interviews and discovering the problem space. In particular, the interviews provided very interesting findings and it was a pleasure to hear about different experiences and slowly forming an idea of how Ink Tank could help our users.
If I could do this again, I would make sure to interview potential users from different age ranges to obtain additional insights and identify new issues. I would also try to involve tattoo artists in the interview process and gain insights into their needs and pain points. After all, for Ink Tank to be a successful product, it should also appeal to artists!
& USER STORIES
Goal: condense user pain points, behaviours, needs, and issues into short statements that will guide the next phases of the process.
The problem statement stems from the analysis of user interviews and defines the key user needs that are addressed by Ink Tank, and the product's main goal:
Ink Tank users need a way to navigate the tattoo design and artist selection process because they want to make an informed decision and feel comfortable in the process. We will know this to be true when we see that users start booking tattoo appointments and placing down payments through the app.
Using the problem statement and user interviews as a starting point, I created a series of user stories. These permitted my immersion in the user's point of view, allowing me to determine additional needs and elaborating app functions that respond to these needs.
As a tattoo enthusiast, I want to see the work of good tattoo artists in the style I prefer so that I can get inspired for my next tattoo.
As a tattoo enthusiast, I want to be able to have a personal account so that I can save my information and my favourite artists.
As a tattoo enthusiast, I am happy to travel to get an awesome tattoo and I want to be able to see what artists are available in a specific distance range or number of countries so I can find the best match for me and book an appointment.
As a tattoo enthusiast, I want to see an artist's full profile with examples of their work so that I can decide if they are the right artists for me.
DEFINING THE USER AND
Goal: translate user needs into possible solutions in the digital space.
The user interviews functioned as a powerful tool in the understanding of the user. After analysing the survey results and conducting the interviews, I was able to have a good general idea of what Ink Tank's users might look like. The two user personas (Anne and Josè) are portraits that summarise Ink Tank's users and merge the different habits, needs, and goals that were highlighted in the research process.
Anne and Josè have worked as reference points in the development of the project.
User personas: Anne and Josè
User Journey Maps
At this point, I know who Ink Tank users are (Anne and Josè) and their stories and needs, and I also have an idea of potential features that would benefit them. This information allows me to move on to the next exciting phase and develop user journey maps.
In these documents I analyse the user experience throughout a specific journey (in the case pictured, the tattoo booking process), identify their emotional journey and break down the process into small steps, defining how to transpose this into a digital product in the 'opportunities' section.
The 'opportunities' section includes a more complete list of potential solutions for specific user problems, while 'thoughts' and 'emotional experience' allow to understand the user's feelings in the process and identify critical areas.
Task Analysis & User Flows
The user journey maps enable identifying the path that users can take to achieve their goals. This translates visually into task analyses (as bullet lists) which are then developed into user flows (as graphs). The user flows provide a first glance into the overall solution process translated into a digital product, which set the basis for the next stage: information architecture.
This was one of my favourite phases of the process, as here I started developing solutions to the problem. I found the process of creating user personas exciting and enriching, as I got to know the people I was designing for.
Looking back, it is now evident how all the steps involved were necessary for the development of effective solutions that respond to user needs. I believe that this phase is where I learnt the most, and I am looking forward to deepening my understanding of the user and developing user-centred solutions.
Goal: organise pages intuitively in a sitemap.
Sitemap / Card Sorting
I was able to create an initial sitemap using the user flows as a starting point, allowing the structure to follow the user journey optimally. Later I included in the sitemap other elements that did not appear in the flows such as the user profile page and the sign-up flow.
The resulting sitemap required validation from potential users. This was addressed through an open card sorting exercise in which participants were able to organise the various sections in a way that made sense to them.
Card Sorting results
The results of the card sorting exercise confirmed the initial sitemap and suggested other links between pages and functions that were not considered initially. This is what the final sitemap looks like:
The sitemap was very clear in regards to what the primary pages of the website would be. Having five main elements allowed a smooth translation into desktop navigation while presenting some challenges in the mobile version.
I used a flat navigation system at the bottom of the screen to allow visibility while providing the user with a well-known mobile pattern.
I limited the flat navigation to 4 elements (Home, Search, Favourites, Profile) to ensure visibility and allow wider touch targets. The most interactive pages were prioritised, as these are the tools that users need to complete their goals.
The blog section was removed from the main navigation due to its consultative nature; users would be able to access the latest and most relevant blog entries from the homepage instead.
I placed access to private messages in the top right of the screen; later in the process, the notifications icon was also added in this position. This follows the well-known pattern set by Facebook and other social media and provides the user with a logical position for 'live' elements.
Mobile navigation sketch
Goal: create a mid-fidelity prototype with key functionalities.
Wireframing with Balsamiq
The sitemap defined the structure of the app, but it was necessary to develop wireframes to determine the internal structure of each page and establish links between its key features. This was achieved using Balsamiq Wireframes; the software allowed me to create rapid solutions and define the layout and links between pages and functions.
Once I was satisfied with the wireframes, I decided to develop them further into a mid-fidelity prototype. My goal was to define the user's interactions with the product and increase the level of detail and fidelity of the wireframes to achieve a testable prototype.
For this phase, I used Adobe XD as I needed software that allowed the creation of a prototype.
Goal: verify overall usability and navigability of the prototype, identify errors.
Conducting the test
The test questions focused on three of the main functionalities that were developed in the prototype and had the following goals:
Determine learnability of the onboarding process and errors.
Determine clarity of homepage and navigation: can the user understand their purpose?
Determine learnability and efficiency in the search function.
Determine learnability and efficiency in the booking function.
Five interviews were conducted remotely, testing the mobile prototype via the participant's desktop device; one interview was conducted in person on a mobile device.
The interview started with a brief introduction to the project to prepare the participants for the tasks ahead.
After asking relevant demographic questions, the interview continued with three scenario questions that had the objective of analysing the user's progress through the tasks. The interview included several open-ended questions about the user's overall impressions and expectations on specific pages. Task difficulty was measured through single-ease questions.
Usability Testing participants
Affinity mapping of the errors encountered in the testing phase.
Each colour is associated with a participant.
Each interview was recorded, and I analysed recordings and notes through the following methods:
Affinity mapping to determine common observations and feelings, quotes, and errors and identify the issues to prioritise.
Rainbow spreadsheet to identify common comments and errors and propose solutions.
The findings are described in Ink Tank's Usability Test Report, which you can read here.
After identifying and prioritising the usability issues in the prototype, I decided to run a couple of preference tests with different objectives.
I planned not only to implement changes in the prototype but also to increase the level of fidelity in the next iteration. In light of the upcoming changes, I needed some external input in understanding the best way forward. For this reason, I designed two different visual renditions of the onboarding process and conducted a preference test through Usabilityhub.com.
The participants were mostly recruited through CareerFoundry's Slack channels. Out of 14 participants, 86% preferred the first image. Some of the reasons were the better readability of the text and the traditional button shape which was easier to identify.
Goal: improvement of the prototype by addressing the issues that rose from user interviews, application of visual design principles.
Following the feedback from users in the testing phase, the app was improved by including more detailed pricing information throughout the app, reviewing the copy on several pages, and implementing more information on the artist page, such as location info and availability tag.
The first steps in the definition of Ink Tank's visual design were the implementation of Gestalt Laws and visual design principles to the mid-fidelity prototype. Following these principles allowed me to create a consistent, intuitive interface while respecting the original layout.
In this phase, I also had the chance to explore Google's Material Design. This was an incredible opportunity to explore visual design standards and consider the inclusion of some of these aspects in the design of Ink Tank, to create a familiar look and inspire confidence in the user.
At the end of this process, I was able to develop the design documentation that defines Ink Tank's brand identity. I was familiar with this process thanks to my background in graphic design, but it was extremely interesting to adapt it to a digital product, for example including specific information about button design and navigation items.
You can see the full design documentation at this link.
For this second iteration, I sought advice from fellow designers. I appreciated the opportunity to take on feedback from other designers to assess not only the functionality but also the visual design of the product.
This was done through Adobe XD's "Design Review" sharing mode. I was able to obtain feedback from five other students, my tutor, mentor, and a professional visual designer. This process highlighted several aspects that I did not consider, demonstrating how it is important to involve others in the design process.
Goal: implement changes following peer feedback, implement accessibility guidelines.
After collecting feedback from fellow designers, I was able to implement changes to the prototype and get even closer to Ink Tank's definitive form. I decided to take on board some of the comments, based on my perception of effectiveness and priority.
Peer feedback and resulting edits
Implementing Accessibility Guidelines
Accessibility was the protagonist of this third iteration. I had the opportunity to explore WCAG Accessibility guidelines and review Ink Tank's prototype to make sure it complies with the standards. I was able to identify and rectify several issues - the most severe of which was the insertion of input field labels within form fields (see example below).
The plugin Stark allowed me to run a contrast checker and colourblind simulator, which resulted in the modification of button colours, error messages, and the calendar widget.
This phase was one of the most interesting to me, as it helped me realise how many aspects of accessibility can be easily overlooked by an untrained designer. I would love to explore this aspect further in the future.
Of all the issues that arose in the user research phase, not all have been addressed in the current version of Ink Tank. Therefore, it is important to keep working on these issues to implement features that respond to user needs.
In particular, the next hypotheses will address the topic of loyalty: experienced tattoo collectors expressed a slight aversion to paying deposits, as they feel that this practice affects their experience. I think that Ink Tank users would welcome a feature that rewards regular users with benefits such as optional or reduced deposit rates. I predict that this might encourage users to engage regularly with the product to obtain their "top user" status.
Some interviewees also expressed their need to have detailed information about the space where the artist will work - not only cleanliness but also privacy and design are aspects that users consider when making a reservation. For this reason, Ink Tank will feature more detailed location information in future iterations. This will hopefully increase user confidence and increase their trust in the product.
Ink Tank was a challenging and rewarding project for me. Following each step of the design process allowed me to gain precious insights into the Design Thinking process, and analyse my current skillset to identify areas of improvement.
I must say, when looking back at the whole project I feel a sense of pride as I realise the amount of work that has gone into the design of Ink Tank. Of course, there is always room for improvement and expansion - my instinct is to push to continue testing and expand the app's features, in particular messaging and favouriting.
The sense of pride arises also from my awareness of the journey not being perfect. My learning curve was scarily steep in some phases, starting with the initial research. I had little experience in conducting surveys and found writing the survey and interview questions particularly challenging. If I could go back, I would definitely design a different survey, focusing less on numerical data that had little relevance in the overall project (e.g. How many tattoos do you have?). In-person interviews (both in the initial and user testing phase) had a reassuring human component and allowed me to fix my script mistakes by engaging in a conversation with the participants. Nonetheless, I think these were all precious lessons that can only be learnt in the field, and I am happy I encountered them.
Once I overcame the challenges encountered in the research phase, I got to learn more about the user journey analysis through the creation of user personas, journey mapping, etc. I was truly motivated by this phase, as the research data came together and I could finally start visualising solutions.
My passion for solutions materialised itself in the prototyping phase. I felt engaged in developing and testing visual solutions, and although I could perceive my lack of experience as a limit, I was glad I could explore UX patterns and solutions for Ink Tank's users. I am determined to expand my knowledge through research and practice.
I believe that the best way to learn and improve is with practice, and I look forward to improving and acquiring new skills by getting involved with new projects.