For one of my upper division classes in college, I was tasked with designing a fictitious mobile application. While we had generous creative freedom with our application concepts, I ultimately chose a rather pragmatic idea that had been on my mind for awhile. A textbook sales app named Flip’d.
Cal Poly students currently have no easy way to directly buy and sell textbooks from each other except for a few Cal Poly textbook exchange Facebook groups. As shown in the image above, the pages are incredibly disorganized and do not serve students’ needs when trying to find a textbook for a class. Students have the option to buy/sell books at the campus store, but students end up losing or spending more money through that route. Buying and selling directly through students is by far the most convenient option. Furthermore, other Cal Poly students are also likely to have the exact book and edition you need if they’ve taken the exact same class. So, the market for selling and buying textbooks locally is there, and students simply need an easier way to do so. Two parameters that our professor set for this project was a way for the app to make a profit and for the app to have an aspect of social media or virality.
I designed an app called Flip’d that would allow students to easily buy and sell textbooks. The app would function as listing service where students would post what they are buying or selling. Students can search for a specific book by various identifiers and they can also input their classes to see books listed that are connected with those specific classes. Students could message each other for information about the book or to arrange a sale.
After I had chosen the problem I wanted to solve, I sketched out wireframes. I went through multiple rounds of wireframes and in-class critiques of the wireframes. The image above was from the final critique of my wireframe. After receiving feedback, I designed the applications UI in Sketch. I wanted to create an app that felt fresh and modern, but was still clear and straightforward.
One difficulty I faced was in designing for the amount of information each book could have. I researched other e-commerce apps to help me get a better sense of how others incorporated multiple pieces of information about an item, and that helped me think of better ways to display elements on each screen.
Fulfilling the Parameters:
Another difficulty I faced involved fulfilling the parameters set by my professors without feeling like they were simply add-ons to the main purpose of the app. For the profitability of the app, I chose to include a comparison option to online retailers. These retailers would theoretically pay to have their textbooks shown or advertised in the comparison. Not only does this provide a profit to the app and is a pragmatic advertising plan for online booksellers, but students would be able to compare prices between local students and online retailers and get better deals.
For the social media aspect of the app, I chose to have students link their Facebook accounts to the app, unless they didn’t have one. The home screen would consist of a feed of people selling or buying books, and there were tabs that could filter the activity between everyone, the user’s friends, or only the user. Students could comment on posts and scroll through the feed to see what people were selling or buying. I was initially reluctant about having to emphasize a social media feature for the app, but my idea originated from the Facebook textbook exchange groups, so it wasn’t out of the question to connect social media accounts. Many students would comment on the textbook sales posts and it would fuel price competition, or students would post funny comments, making things entertaining, so I realized that a “newsfeed” of sorts would be beneficial. Furthermore, looking at my own app usage, I realized that Venmo had successfully implemented a social media feature into its app by having a payments feed, and I would often find myself scrolling through it while in the app.
Tools Used: Sketch, Adobe Illustrator
November – December 2015