Prototyping: Personalisation and content structure

Where I’m at

This week I’m at the stage of usability testing my low-fi prototype. In theory low-fidelity prototypes allow the user to test the interaction flow without a vast expenditure of time or resources (Hannah 2021). In practice I believe that I spent too long trying to ‘perfect’ my low-fidelity prototypes as I was worried that users wouldn’t understand the potential functionalities without photos & detail. The first person I showed the prototype to (non-UXer) wasn’t clear that the empty boxes were placeholders for imagery. So I realised that introducing the prototype and the fact that it’s low-fidelity, not fully populated with content, was an important first-step in my usability session introduction.

I initially created categorisations and information architecture based on my research interviews with designer-makers, so now I’m validating the functionalities that came out of these initial insights.

Some of the initial insights on how my research group designer-makers browse & buy materials were:

“High-level categories such as ‘card’ ‘modeling materials’ would be my first go-to”

“Browsing images is like going to a physical shop, seeing what’s out there gives ideas for what I could make”

“The first specification I look at is the price”

“I like shopping online as you can see all of the options and compare”

“Trusting sellers is an important factor in deciding to buy”

Fig 1: Screenshot from usability testing call
Adding customisation

Each person interviewed was a design student or designer-maker, however their needs and behaviors vary depending on their discipline. So although the audience initially seemed like a specialised niche, there are various needs and browsing styles to be met. This is why I started to explore the idea of customisation, allowing users of the app to choose material categories, location and groups. Similar to Depop, which I explored in my competitor analysis, this provides a homepage that meets the individual users’ personal browsing needs. Of course it is possible to personalise each person’s feed using an algorithm according to their behavior on the app. NN Group define the difference between customisation as by the user and personalisationas by the system being used, and make the following point:

“The upside of customization is that each user can get exactly what they want, because they are in control. The downside is that many users don’t know what they actually need and that most users are not interested in doing the work required to tweak the user interface to match their preferences.” (Schade 2016)

However the research group validated the idea that customisation would support their browsing experience:

I’d like to see fabric and relevant items to my course, I don’t need to see wood, metal etc.

Personalisation would help to see quick access to relevant materials.

I’d narrow it down by use – high level use such as textiles / model-making.

So I was interested to see how they’d use the functionality in the app. I conducted cognitive walkthrough sessions with my low-fi prototype, asking users to talk me through their experience of navigating the app as they went along.

Fig 2: Depop screens, custimisation and menu
Usability testing results

My second round of usability testing with a low-fi version of the mobile app was very revealing. I tested it with three of the students from my initial interviews as well as two working artists. All participants tested the onboarding process which included an option to customise the homepage on entering the app (similar to Depop). All those who tested the app were adverse to the customisation process during onboarding. They wanted to get straight to the browsing experience, and some said that they would leave customisation until they had browsed and understood the app. Others said that they’d expect the homepage to become more personalised (by an algorithm) the more they used the app.

Seeing their eagerness to get straight into the app made me reconsider the onboarding screens. Limiting the introduction to one screen and giving the option to browse without creating an account will mean users can test the app and see if they’d like to use it. Last term, in my research project I studied persuasive design and became aware of design that violates people’s autonomy. Autonomy can be violated by design through coercion; design features that make it difficult to learn about an app, quit, leave, or disengage (Wilmer 2017). I want to make sure the projects I design give people the freedom to discover as much as they want about the app before deciding to give away their personal data by signing up.

Participants were interested in the community side of the app. Seeing the groups as a chance to browse materials in their local community and interest areas, and the browse page as a chance to search wider. This affirmed that the community feature should be a key element in the app, having sellers’ photos and location on listings also created a sense of trust with participants.

A fine artist pointed out that she would like to see what’s free and be able to browse by colour. This was reaffirmed by another art student who’s browsing behavior was quite different from her design contemporaries. The cross-disciplinary community that Wastevine hopes to cultivate means that there are several browsing styles to account for, so I need to narrow down and analyse which make the most sense and are the most needed.



HANNAH, Jaye. 2021. ‘The Difference Between A Wireframe, A Prototype & A Mockup’. CareerFoundry [online]. Available at: [accessed 23 Mar 2022].

SCHADE, Amy. 2016. ‘Customization vs. Personalization in the User Experience’. Nielsen Norman Group [online]. Available at: [accessed 13 Apr 2022].

WILMER, Henry H., Lauren E. SHERMAN and Jason M. CHEIN. 2017. ‘Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning’. Frontiers in psychology.

Fig 1: Screenshot from usability testing call, 2022, by author

Fig 2: Depop screens, 2022, collage by author

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