Bringing small online shops to in-person markets

Within a team of four, we designed an app that empowers online sellers by making in-person markets accessible to them so they could build trust and emotional connections with their customers and products.

The concept...

There are many barriers to entry for small businesses to sell products in person such as high startup costs.

As a result, many small businesses start by selling on online platforms such as Etsy or Amazon.

COVID-19 forced drastic changes to the way we shop. Despite these changes, 90% of commerce still takes place in the physical world...


There are some things consumers prefer to shop for in person, especially when it comes to one-of-a-kind items. With online shopping becoming easier and more convenient, it’s becoming increasingly hard to make human connections with local makers and their products. Consumers want to see, feel, touch, smell, and sometimes even hear certain products before purchasing, especially if the product is unique. Consumers want meaningful connections to the items they are buying and to the stories about them.

Problem space

COVID-19 uprooted the way people shop. Many small businesses had to embrace eCommerce or close their doors. This is problematic for a few reasons. First, since the pandemic started, data shows that two-thirds of consumers have changed the way they shop due to COVID-19. Yet despite recent changes, 90% of US commerce still takes place in the physical world. This suggests that people really prefer to shop in person. Second, our reliance on shipping has drastic consequences for our planet. Disconcerningly, packaging accounts for 40% of the global demand for plastics. And third, shipping is an evergrowing, complex, and often problematic logistic. Returns, shipments, globalization, sustainability, and labor shortages, are just a few intricacies that affect a business’s bottom line.

My role: Big ‘D’ | UX designer

Throughout the sprint, I led a team of four UX designers (Elena Lugo, Gabriele Dobbins, Jordan Cantor, Lester Li) and applied my design thinking to our process. We were deliberate with everything we did which also included embracing ambiguity. We blocked out time to be intentionally unintentional.


Created topic maps, conducted business research, competitive feature analysis, user interviews, conducted an email survey, created a screener survey, affinity maps, user personas, user journeys, MUSHCOWO map, feature prioritization, sketching & design studio, prototyping, and moderated & unmoderated usability testing.

Tools-not done

Figma, Zeplin, G Suite, Keynote, Trello, Zoom, & Slack


2-week sprint + post-course reflections & learnings


of US shoppers changed the way they shop


of US commerce still takes place in the physical world


Direct correlation: eCommerce x problems with shipping logistics


One such problem is the global demand for plastics

Our goals

Learning goals: Product team workflow

Every stakeholder has their own focus and goals. In this project, we learned how to craft impactful stories for different types of stakeholders. Executives, engineers, designers, and other team members might have different understandings of the UX process. We designed our app and then told our story with this in mind.

Research & project goals

With our insights from research, we created a platform that modernizes local markets for small business owners so they could have access to the features of a storefront, without a brick & mortar location.

Our user research sought to find out: (1) what buyers expect when shopping for unique items; (2) shopping patterns and habits; and (3) what are the struggles of starting a business and selling at markets.

Our challenge

A startup incubator simulator

The design prompt was to explore a problem space of our interest along with a potential strategic partner that supports our project. In other words, as a faux startup, design a standalone app with a potential business partnership in mind and pitch our concept to them.

With Flea, online-only sellers can have a physical presence, without a brick & mortar location.


A seller's app

To find local markets to sell at

Click through my seller's prototype below!

Our solution for local makers and sellers

  1. Pickup & return options for sellers without storefronts

  2. Manage reservations to sell at local markets

  3. Imagined API integration so Etsy & Flea shops are automatically synced and managed on a single app


A buyer's app

To foster serendipitous purchases of unique items

Click through my buyer's prototype below!

Our solution for local shoppers

  1. Pickup & return options to avoid shipping fees

  2. Ability to shop locally, both online and in person

  3. Modernizes the local market experience and makes the ability to shop locally more accessible

Pickup with Flea, ship with Etsy

New APIs & seamless syncing

A single source of data for:

  1. Updating product details such as inventory

  2. Updating geolocation data

  3. Product reviews and ratings

We imagined a cohesive platform where buyers could shop on Etsy with a pickup option.

End of TLDR

I created the final screens shown above after the 2-week sprint as a personal UI challenge. Placement and content remained the same. I changed the color scheme, interactions, and the theme of the design.

I also learned some very valuable lessons from this exploration:

1. Accessibility

Phone ergonomics vs. accessible touchpoints

While scrolling through LinkedIn one day, I came across a post about Apple's new dynamic island accessibility issue. And the more I researched, the more I learned. I plan to continue to learn and incorporate inclusive design into my process.

2. Audience

Who am I talking to?

WIRED has a series called 5 Levels in which expert scientists explain concepts with varying degrees of difficulty. The biggest lesson for me in this project was similar to this. That is, I learned the importance of knowing who the audience is.


My UI update was inspired by the apps I love to use. And we created a series of flows that help our users reach their goals.

Here's how my team and I did it.

The process

First, designing the right thing → Second, designing things right → Evaluate & iterate

After topic mapping, our team decided to explore small businesses and sellers. We discovered various problems and create a product backed by research. After the program finished, I revisited the UI design of the project. I studied UX/UI solutions from apps that I love to use to see how and if those concepts could improve our app.

2-wk sprint





Post sprint


User research & interviews

Listening to sellers' & buyers' experiences

We also found it important to validate the problem space through user research. Our team conducted interviews with 5 sellers and 5 shoppers. We created a screener survey to find sellers who sell physical goods without a brick & mortar shop. We asked questions that aimed to uncover our users' pain points, frustrations, and past experiences with selling unique, one-of-a-kind, or handmade items.

We then synthesized our findings through affinity mapping and distilled insights from strong groupings and themes.

Sellers' key takeaways

  1. Operational conflicts affect the growth of small online & in-person businesses

  2. An emotional connection helps vendors sell their products

  3. Shipping logistics and fulfillment create indirect challenges for the vendors

Shoppers' key takeaways

  1. Shoppers like to browse in person when they don't know what they want

  2. Shoppers feel guilty and embarrassed when they don't support small businesses

  3. The ability to return items is a strenuous necessity

Personas + user journey

Designing for our target audiences

After we gathered our thematic insights, we created two personas that reflect our target audiences: one for our sellers and one for our shoppers. And with our newly crafted personas, we mapped out a user journey that shows the stages with the greatest opportunity. We noticed that the areas for the highest digital impact were the stages where Tara and Jamie are not interacting in person. The moments before and after a market is when we can best aid in the process.


Sketch & ideate. Evaluate & sift. Rinse & repeat.

Revised Problem Statement

Shoppers like to shop in person and stumble upon cool and unique items. The ability to talk to makers and sellers helps build an emotional connection to the product, seller, or brand. In part, this is because interpersonal moments help bring a story to life. So we set out to build a platform with this question in mind.

How might we help online sellers interact with customers at in-person markets to build trust and an emotional connection to their products?

Design studio

We held various design studios throughout our process. For the design studio that led to the MVP of our redesign, we used a MUSHCOWO map and feature prioritization matrix. We distilled features from our insights that address pain points we uncovered during our research.

We prioritized these new features & changes...

Sketching on Cr@zY 8'$

As a way to generate and explore a lot of ideas and concepts quickly, we ran rapid-fire timeboxed design studios. Our team sketched, ideated, iterated, and debriefed on what works and what doesn't. We focused on addressing the insights we got from our research. In particular, we focused on...

  1. Chat feature

  2. Pick-up/return options

  3. Shop management & logistics processes

  4. A flow for reserving a booth at a local market

  5. Featuring local trending products and shops

Usability testing

Mid-fidelity high-fidelity

In order to ensure our product met the expectations of our users, we had 2 rounds of usability testing with 10 participants. After testing our mid-fi designs, we revised the project to address the issues we surfaced. Check out our process below.

Reserve now was hard to find

Many of our participants didn't understand the location of the reserve now button was at the end of the horizontal scroll bar.

So we moved the button

We relocated the reserve now button from the end of the available dates to a permanent button below. This had a significant effect and raised our overall success rate by 80%!

Most people tap on the photo

All of our participants initially clicked on the photo to move to the next screen.

A humbling learning experience

We fixed this glaring oversight and made the photo a touchpoint to move to the next screen. This increased our success rate by 10% to 100%!



Bringing technology to antiquated models of organizing

Flea brings in-person markets to the 21st century. After the 2-week sprint as a personal UI challenge, I updated the UI with solutions inspired by the apps I love to use. Apps such as Resy, Duolingo, Nike, Lyft, Etsy, and Square. And I created a cohesive series of flows that help our users reach their goals.


Flea 3.0

I created these final screens/flows as a post-course UI challenge, inspired by the apps I love to use

The shopper's interface

  1. Standardized design language

  2. Standardized spacing

  3. Standardized 4-column grid

Flow of reserving a booth

  1. Less information at once

  2. Buttons instead of dropdowns to gamify and improve the flow experience

  3. Consistent design system

Designing for accessibility

  1. CTAs attached to the bottom

  2. Confirmations attached to the bottom

  3. Optimized for single-handed use

Contextualizing stats & chats

  1. Easy-to-read stats

  2. Relevant listing stats

  3. Reimagined notifications to be shown in the message box for contextualized chatting

Etsy integration

  1. Find sellers that are participating in a nearby market

  2. Shared reviews

  3. Shared inventory information

Post project reflections

The art of telling a Pixar perfect story

Stories enable shops to connect with their community. They provide narratives of meaning, purpose, history, and direction. This lesson was also realized when crafting our project's story. The importance of learning how to articulate design decisions, design processes, and the whats and whys was made clear to us.

For me, storytelling is more than a well-crafted presentation. In addition to that, it can help us remember the values we hold dear. And for future projects, we can retrospectively think of well-told stories as a method of wayfinding. In other words, stories help us remember what's important so we can more easily repeat successes or avoid failures.