UX Methods for Choosing Gifts

What do you like about Christmas the most? I enjoy getting gifts from loved ones, and I bet you’re not too different. Gift-giving can be a profound way to show people that we love and care for them. The trick is for it to be personal and carefully considered, which can be quite a challenge.

As UX professionals, we’re familiar with the idea that UX methods can be useful in many situations. I take this a step further and sometimes use them to solve my daily problems— surprisingly it works quite well! What about using  our design problem solving techniques to choose the perfect gift? Why not? Let’s dive in!

A cliched, but effective, beginning: Setting goals

First of all, we must set some goals for our gift-finding mission. How do we define ‘gift’? What makes something a good one? Let’s imagine we are finding a gift for dear Snowy, our beloved but imaginary Christmas friend.

Our gift for Snowy should:

  • be dedicated to Snowy
  • be something useful
  • make Snowy happy
  • avoid creating complications for Snowy
  • be inspiring

If you  look carefully, you can see these are exactly the same goals we might define for our users.

A Plan Based on Design Processes

Now that we have set some goals, we want to define a plan that helps us achieve them. Sound daunting? Maybe not as much as you think. We are probably doing this everyday; we’re just not aware of it. Our iterative human-centred design process— researching, analyzing, designing, prototyping, testing, and repeating— is a soliddesign process that gives us confidence we can reach the right solution.  

How might we use this process for choosing a gift? Let’s take a deeper look!

Research Phase:

We have several options for how we conduct research,but the two most suitable methods are direct observation, and in-depth interviewing.

Direct Observation: We must understand how Snowy is spending her time. What makes her happy, angry, or sad? What are the problems and the solutions she explores in her daily life? Observation is a method that should be done with minimal interaction with the participant.

In-depth interviewing: And, of course, true understanding involves communicating. We might choose a topic that is indirectly related to gift giving or receiving, and listen to her experience around these events What makes her happier and excited? Hearing her stories might prove to be really useful in answering questions like this.

Analysis Phase:

After finishing the research phase and collecting some important findings, it’s time to understand what the feedback really means. We have three possible ways to achieve this:

Affinity Mapping: We might list some important findings, stick them up on a wall, and then group them into categories or similarities. Then we’d name each group. The names might be time-related, such as morning, afternoon, or evening. Or they might be location-related, such as school, at work, at home, etc. But careful! We must  group them based on the story of our participant.

Journey Mapping: We can chart the gift recipient’s daily journey. This is a great way to see what happens when, where she feels emotions and particulat pain points, and where certain solutions might be applied in Snowy’s daily life.

Empathy Mapping: The perfect method to generate a deep understanding of Snowy’s perspective; how she feels, what she fears, what her pains and gains are regarding getting gifts.

Design Phase:

After the research and analysis phases we will have findings, and some insights and meaning around these findings—important ideas and constraints that we can apply to our gift-finding mission.

Thanks to our research findings we will have everything we need to suggest options for the perfect gift for Snowy, as well as the right gift box, gift card, and even the right things to say inside the card!

Prototyping & Testing Phase:

For this project, the Prototyping & Testing phase is the moment we give our gift to Snowy. It’s a bit more risky than testing an interface because gift-giving is fundamentally about emotions, and we don’t know what’s going to happen… It’s possible Snowy won’t like it after all, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  Our use of proven UX methods will decrease the risk of that for sure.

So, then, here is our motto for 2019:

If you don’t want to risk it, then UX it!


Berivan Atik

Berivan Atik

I work as  UX Researcher & Designer at Userspots, an experience design agency based in İstanbul, Turkey.  I also facilitate and mentor university students and other young people in user research and product design. I love sharing what I know, and learning things that I don’t know. I believe sharing knowledge is the key to being successful, and enjoy incorporating the things I learn into my life—not just as professional development, but also personally.

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