Giftape is an app that makes the process of giving personalized, DIY gifts easy, cheap, and quick.


UX Designer



gifticon2Time frame

3 Weeks


Axure / Photoshop


Research Plan/ User Interviews / Personas  /Competitive Analysis  /Heuristic Evaluation /Journey Map/Storyboard / App Map / Site Map  /Task Flows /Wireframes / Prototypes / User testing

Explore and learn

The problem

Our instructor challenged us to create a product concept for a smartphone application that addresses issues with the gift-giving experience. What issues would those be? We decided to find out with market and user research, with a combination of surveys and exploratory interviews. I had a lot of fun talking with people about their lives and the special (or nerve wracking) occasions in which they felt the need to give gifts to the people in their lives.

We came up with a few areas that we felt were the real crux of the gift giving journey and revolved our interviews around these:

  • What are the frustrations with the process?
  • On what platform do people buy gifts—in person or online?
  • How do people deliver gifts?
  • What’s the average timeframe people work within to choose and deliver a gift?
  • How do people find out what the recipient wants?
  • What kind of gifts do people usually give?
  • What are some competitors to our future app, and how can we differentiate ourselves from them?

We first turned to market and domain research to scope out what was currently available to shoppers, which we used to create a competitive analysis.

The competitive analysis revealed that many current apps (even well-rounded ones such as Etsy and Fancy) don’t let people give the gift of an experience or service. We also noticed that there aren’t many options for creating custom and personal gifts, especially more recommendation based apps like Giftster and Real Simple. This indicated some opportunities for us when moving forward.

Hitting the streets for some exploratory interviews

Since our market was everyone who gives gifts, it made recruiting easier. We spoke with 10 people, in person or through Google Hangouts. The interviews centered around the journey of choosing, buying, and giving a gift. Below is a sampling of some questions that were asked.

  • Tell me about your last gift giving experience.
  • What kind of gifts do you give?
  • How do you find inspiration for gifts?
  • How did you know what gifts she/he would like?
  • Where did you buy these gifts?
  • What are some other ways you choose gifts for people?
  • What was your favorite gift you have ever received? Why?

In talking with people, it stuck me how emotional the whole process was. A huge part of the gifting experience is showing love or friendship, and people feel slighted when they are given something impersonal. In turn, they want to give gifts that make the recipient feel recognized and special. Many times this is hard for people due to lack of money or time. It seems many of the people we interviewed would love to give personal, DIY gifts tailored to the recipient if it were easier and cheaper.


Affinity diagramming

We then took all the key findings gathered from our interviews and sorted it into trends. This helped us organize the information in a way that spotlighted users’ needs and frustrations with the current gift giving process.

Main insights developed

  • Many quick and easy gifts seem impersonal.
  • Some people prefer to make their own personal gifts, but don’t have the time to do this.
  • Many people are on a budget and don’t have much to spare for gifts.
  • People don’t have the time to shop for the “perfect” gift.
  • People want to find and deliver gifts quickly.
  • People don’t always know what the recipient would like to receive as a gift, and don’t have an easy way of discovering this.

Putting a name and face to our user

We created two diverse user personas from the interview insights, then decided to conceptualize and test our solutions.

Our personas seemed to have different problems they needed solved. Lucy’s main needs for quick and convenient gifts seemed like something that many apps are already working to solve. Amy’s need for special and personalized gifts seemed more interesting to me, and more importantly it seemed like there was more opportunity to develop a unique solution for her that didn’t exist in the market already. Now I just needed to understand the thoughts and emotions running through her head as she selected, bought or made, and gave a gift.

Amy's journey

Amy’s journey map starts with her realizing she needs a quick, personalized gift for her friend and follows her throughout her journey, ultimately ending with her seeing how much her friend appreciates her gift.

Emerging principles

The trends we gathered from our research helped us develop the main problem we wanted to solve with our application. This problem was people want to give personalized gifts but often don’t think ahead or know enough about the recipient.

That also led to discover some design principles that we took into the ideation process:

  • Personalized: Leverages personal touch and technology.
  • Intuitive: Creates a feeling.
  • Human: Users should feel heard and understood.
  • Organized: The process of choosing and purchasing gifts should be simple.

Creating an app for Amy

I now felt I understood Amy’s motivations and pain points, so I was able to begin the ideation phase. I began by thinking of what features Amy wants in a gift giving app. I wrote out many solutions, then used POP to sketch out which solutions were Amy’s favorites. Once I settled on a concept, I popped my sketches into Axure to create digital wireframes for future testing.

Emerging principles

Two concepts were chosen, one each around Lucy and Amy. These two prototypes then moved on to validation testing.


  • Concept 1 (Amy): Gift Tape, an app to provide a quick and easy DIY gift giving experience.
  • Concept 2 (Lucy): Local Gift, an app to provide recommendations and quick, local delivery.

Validation testing

Our group then tested these concepts and find the best solution. We created a testing plan with a script, user scenario, a list of tasks, and some post-testing questions, and recruited users who have given a gift in the last year.

The results!

Our test participants overall were more delighted with the concept of Gift Tape. The word “adorable” was screamed many times. All of the users tested found value in creating a personal, customizable gift, but many users also found the app hard to navigate and lacking in visual hierarchy. That meant many late nights ahead to solve those problems.

Ready, set, iterate!

To better understand what our users needed to navigate our app, we first created a task flow. This allowed us to support the user’s journey at each step of the process and make sure the app was feasible as a real world solution. Now that we understood the basics, we created a wireflow. Sketching out the wireflow helped us to ensure that we included each screen and error state needed.

Our greatest finding was that we wanted to have onboarding that didn’t feel like onboarding. We worked to structure the user’s first time around creating a small mixtape through onboarding. Once they actually wanted to send the perfect mixtape that they had crafted, they then had to actually sign up. We thought this gave them to flexiblity to explore the app and learn about it while also encouraging them to become repeat users.

Refine and finalize

Finally we were able to create some higher fidelity wires based off of our wireflow.

Adding some style

After creating a clickable prototype based on the above wireframes, it was time to move into Photoshop to create higher fidelity screens. Each group member created their own style guides and choose how they felt the app should look. It was incredibly interesting to me to see my concept displayed in five different ways. Here are a few examples from my groupmates Laura Grey Humphrey and Marina Kopshyna.

Seeing how each of my teammates interpreted the wires was really interesting to me. The fact that the content was basically the same among all of them meant to me that my concept was strong, and that the app was viable (go to Rewind to find out more on this assumption).

I based my UI on the DIY vibe of old mixtapes. I wanted to draw the user back to that place in time as much as possible with use of fun colors and fonts that looked homemade. 

Final thoughts

I enjoyed empathizing with Amy and finding a solution to her problems. Gift Tape was a good concept, but a concept is nothing if it is not easily communicated. and understood We took advantage of the Agile design process in order to be able to test and reiterate Gift Tape into something our users enjoyed using. However, the work was not finished. I pitched the Gift Tape concept at Chicago Startup Weekend 2016 to surprising results.