What Really Matters to Users?
Real User Issues & Research Questions Revisit
Fixing problems revealed from a usability test is not solving problems. As an interaction designer, what we are supposed to do is actively seek the fundamental issue.

With this mindset, we came up with following questions to find what truly matters to users.
What drives users purchase beauty products?
How do users get information on beauty product/ beauty related problems?
How do users buy beauty products?
Secondary Research — From existing surveys (Statista Surveys, N= 1000+)
Interviews — 16 female and 8 male
To get insights into the above questions, we mainly used three research methods: secondary research, interviews, landscape analysis.
Over 50% would refer to resources online before purchasing, even if they prefer to buy offline.
For online shoppers, customers prefer product review from
People love to spend the time to explore, and they are usually open to try new beauty products.
individuals over companies
personal experience over general description
visuals over text
Recommendation from friends

Read beauty and cosmetic magazines (63% of national survey respondents)
Read product reviews online
(Youtube 54% of national survey respondents)
Watch online tutorial (Youtube 53% of national survey respondents, online blogs 36%)
Fitness and effectiveness
Promotion and deal
Recommendation from friends if they are alike
Trusted Brand
Free sample
Fitness and effectiveness

Promotion and deal
Recommendation from friends if they are alike
Trusted Brand
Free sample
Insight Finding
Have to search back and forth for the lowest price.
Used a very good product, but felt uncomfortable sharing beauty related info on Facebook..may look awkward to my friends, if I do so.
Review sessions on Amazon or store websites look boring. Not too much room for creation. Not motivated to share my experience.
Recommend by leaving a positive comment under the “comment” section is not effective at all. Most people only look at the rate but don’t read carefully of each comment. Don’t want to waste my time leaving a very detailed comment.
Makeups have so many color codes, have to remember the specific code and select every time on the new webpage. Requires lots of memory, sometimes have to check back several times before making it correct.
See the picture of a makeup product and want to buy the exact same one, but don’t know the color code in the pic.
Don’t know where to find info.
Information is fragmented, it’s here and there, have to do multiple searches to view enough info for a product.
Want to save some info, but it’s hard to put all relevant things together and revisit later.
Recommendations from commercials are not trust-worthy; those from individuals are usually not detailed enough.
YouTube bloggers are more beautiful than ordinary people; What
looks good on them might not look good on us.
Product reviews are usually text-heavy, lack of photos or videos, so it is not reliable.
Looking up for information
Making a purchase decision
Sharing and recommending
Based on the research we have done above, a user experience journey can be summarized as follow:
User Experience Journey
We did an insight-driven landscape analysis to identify broad values and opportunities for Arsenal, And we found out that…
Products’ Forms  
Product’s Goals  
Goals of those products are either encourage users to
| Purchase |
| Learn about beauty products |
| Form their own styles |
Nowadays beauty associated apps are mainly focusing on online shopping and online community/social media two aspects.
Therefore, we summarize mobile apps from those two fields as follow:
Online Shopping

Online Community



Form style

Post photos and videos
Share post to story
Organize saved posts
Gift/special offer
Purchase liked look
Explore products
Search with barcode
Search with voice
Search with picure to purchase
Book reservation
Shop in big events
Find store
Save feeds
answer question with text, image ,and video
Save feeds for group
Virtual makeover
Search with picture
Recommend feeds
Watch stories
Link to third party page
Discuss in group
Discover inspired posts
Beauty tips
Ask question
Follow topics
Follow people
Sephora mobile
Sephora feature
Instagram feature
Instagram & Pinterest
Quora & Pinterest
Instagram & Pinterest & Quora
Sephora & Ulta feature
Sephora & Instagram feature
Sephora & Instagram & Ulta feature
Ulta feature
To validate how the product idea and key functions work, we conducted a usability test on mobile phones and laptops, in person and remotely, and followed up with in-depth interviews.
We continued the testing until we found user problems became repetitive. Totally nine users participated in the usability tests.
“Ask me too many personal information before providing any value. What’s the purpose of choosing skin tones? Seems like nothing is different if I don’t do it.”

“Registration information is too complicated. What is the difference between username and  first /last  name?”
“Too many steps before the start, I would like to browse first and then consider whether to use it.”
“I don’t want to enter my information at first, they may be able to provide a skip option”
Usability Test
For interface like login/register, profile editing, the design should follow the rule of “Moderate conservative”
What conflicts users’ need?
Do not add learning cost to users for your creation on those existing paradigms.

Do not scare your users by asking too many personal information at the very beginning. Only asking the most necessaries ones.

Beauty knowledge is a very personal experience but not a standardized formula.
What else conflicts users’ need?
In the current version, a user has to recommend a product from an existing database with the same picture. However, users need the right to speak for themselves with their own pictures, videos and etc.
Getting attention from others is the goal but not sharing products.
What conflicts users’ need?
Sharing any product is the method but not the goal.
Attention comes from offering something others look up to or are willing to become. Therefore, giving a product name and brand is not enough.
Convergence on getting results of answers. Divergence on searching for answers.
What conflicts users’ need?
We can approach a specific question in many different ways, but not only using one method to get many unrelated answers.
Self-improvement(Becoming beautiful) is the goal but not purchasing.
What else conflicts users’ need?
Users are willing to know if the color code matches their skin type/tone, or if any product can solve their problems. Purchasing happens when users believe a product can benefit them.
Purchasing intention comes from the right of choice but not compelling.
Anything else?
We cannot force users to buy one product through our selected channel. We need to provide reasons for selections.
“Only one picture, very limited information, I want to see more real live pictures here.”

“Those questions just float on the screen, they look so weird…and I might consider uploading some pictures to better demonstrate my question.”
“The product image looks like an ad, not a shared product.”

“Question mixes with recommendations. What if I just want to read questions? ”
“ACTIVITY is confusing” “what does activity means? Any different from the feed?”
“ This is confusing. Do I have to select photos from the database? Can I add my own photos? Or everybody uses the same photo for one product?”
“Those questions are too overwhelmed, and I just want to know something related to my skin issue.”
“Is this an online shopping app? why it encourages me to purchase this quick?”
“Why does it only link to Nordstrom? Is this an ad from Nordstrom?”

“What can I search? people? products or anything else?”
household income
household income
> $ 200k
Beauty product purchase is inelastic to income. It means income isn’t a big factor for cosmetic purchase decision (Ipsos, 2017).
84 billion USD
The U.S. is the most valuable beauty and personal care market in the world (Bureau of Labor Statistics — 2017).
50% of customers are open to buy cosmetics online. They will go to multi-brand online stores such as Amazon, Sephora, Ulta. (statistic, 2017)
Online Purchase
Background & Cosmetic Market Overview
You might not know we care more about appearance and beauty more than we think. How could it be? Let’s see a group number first...
How to find the right product?
How to become a better yourself to confront all of these situations?

Arsenal is an online social media platform focusing on sharing knowledge about beauty products and tips.
It helps users learn and grow along the way with a positive company and become their own beauty experts.

It has an early online version, you can find it on
This project is a redesign for its mobile end.

Creating bondings by encouraging users to share their beauty tips and experience, and learn from each other.
Communities are formed spontaneously by any topic users are interested in and highlighted by hashtag
Appealing topics
- Every post is shown with several different tags
- Open one tag => Check out all posts under a specific topic
Let users consume knowledge and also be able to give it back.
- Add questions  
- Add posts
Gathering people
- Recommend people you may know
- Recommend famous people
Final Design With Highlight Feature
Build up an all-around immersive learning process in both passive and active ways. Let users learn something even when they are wondering.
Learning-centered on me

- Set your own personal facial features when signing in  
As a guy, valentine’s day is coming. There is a specific lipstick a celebrity had before your girlfriend wants.
You don’t want to ask her directly. How can you find it?

As a new grad student, you have been traveling a lot for interviews. Last night you stayed up late because of the late flight, and this morning you have an important interview with your dream company. How to look energetic?

As a girl or young lady, this Saturday is your first date with a cute guy you met on a board game event last week. How to impress him?

Learning can’t be real without actually trying out products

- Price comparison for the same product from different websites
Learning not only when paying attention

- Passive learning: Browse recommended feeds under the tab explore
- Active learning: Choosing a specific category
- Active + Positive learning: Search under the search bar  
Your Arsenal
- Organize your saved and favorite posts/photos/video/etc.
Celebrities are not far away anymore

- Invite someone famous in a community to answer your question
“Free trail”
- Browse Arsenal app content without logging in
- When actually viewing or saving any detail post, directing users to login in/Sign in page
After doing all the research above, we synthesized insights as follow:
Purchasing is not the goal, but becoming beautiful. Therefore, beauty product purchasing process is actually a learning process.
Beauty expert comes from personal learning and communication among like-minded people.
Personal influence comes after establishing experts status. And experts would attract more people to join the group.
Exchange ideas in groups
Personal efforts
Celebrity(Expert) effects on groups
Group size
Add a post or a question
Add a post
Personal collection
Add hashtags on a photo
Add a question
Once a user wants to read a  feed’s detail content, he/she will be led to the login/sign up page
Once new users open the app at the first time, he/she will see recommended feeds
Once he, she logged into Arsenal, he/she will be able to check out any feed posted from people he/she has been following
Read a post on its detail page
Create a user profile to get a more accurate recommendation
Check out related products and deal details
Check posts and questions under a hashtag
Check out a person’s posts
Check out a person’s posts
Check out a person’s posts
Open up a question to see its detail
Check out questions
Explore people
Explore questions
Explore posts
Check out posts under categories
Search anything you are interested in
Searching results
Brainstorming & Sketch
Card sorting
By synthesizing as above, we have shifted our focus from specific products to ourselves(personal growth on beauty).
Therefore Arsenal’ design goal is to help its users to become their own beauty experts.
Design goal
Design direction
Creating an immersive learning process.
Building their personal beauty collections
Growing together in communities

Prototype & User flow
April - September 2018

Usability test & Insights Finding

Lowfi Prototyping
Visual design

06 Insight Finding

01 Background & Cosmetic Market Overview

09 Design direction


02 Introduction  


03 Final Design With Highlight Feature


11 Prototype & User flow


10 Brainstorming & Sketch


07 Insight

08 Design goal  

Secondary research & interviews


User Experience Journey


landscape analysis


Cart sorting


04 Usability Test

05 Research Questions Revisit

Check Out Final Design
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