Project Penny

In a team of 4, we are designing an app for sending pennies to your friends, as well as using it to create microtransactions of joy.

How Might We:
Attach an emotional value to sending 1 cent, and how can we leverage this for social good?

My Role:
Designed Hi-Fi UIs and interactions.

Participated in user research, and prototyping sessions.

First, the final design! Then I'll show you how we arrived at this solution.

or jump to the process + design decisions now

The joy of microtransactions contains elements of the joy in gifting, except the latter is usually achieved through a physical gift. Furthermore, gifting inherently contains feelings of obligation. Project Penny touches upon the merging of the joys associated with physical gifts with a digital artifact, while removing the feelings of obligation into a spontaneous “gift-like” activity.

View Research Decisions

Research Insights & Competitive Analysis

Sending money online has become as simple as a few taps on a smartphone, and there now exists a much larger market for designing around mobile payments.

We used venmo as a case study for our idea: it requires the least effort to actually send money, and also that it's the most social of mobile payment apps. There is room to leverage Venmo's commenting/liking features for social connection.

There is an entertainment value in "liking" a friend's public payment. Venmo's lack of anonymity is unique as well, one of us sent a celebrity a penny.

In the Yo app, you can send literally a word "Yo" to a friend, and nothing else. The novel "uselessness" of Yo likely contributed to its success. We saw the ephemeral popularity of Yo as an inspiration for building a similarly light-hearted app that may achieve viral success.

User Research Experiment 1: Pennies vs Potatoes

In this experiment, we had 5 participants send pennies to five of their friends on Venmo, and then send a picture of a potato-meme to a different set of friends. We asked all participants to reflect on their experience at the time and also after 48 hours to learn about any follow up interactions.

Sending a penny on Venmo's comedic effect is not different than spreading a meme, we assumed that there is something specifically unique and entertaining about sending a penny to a friend that is more powerful than a meme. We wanted to test this assumption and not fall victim to the "correlation equals causation" fallacy.

All participants echoed our thoughts about the novelty of sending pennies, they enjoyed the trolling nature specifically. Sending pennies was seen as more universal than sending a potato (which lead to awkward interactions). We decided it was best to continue our design around sending actual pennies rather than "valueless" memes.

User Research Experiment 2: Giant Pennies

We designed a meme-themed penny and laser cut it into wood. Three of our team members gave five pennies to their friends (total of 15 people). We spontaneously gave it to a friend, and observed the reactions.

While we gained a better understanding of what it's like to give a penny, we also wanted to understand hwo people react to spontaneously-presented token gifts.

One fun reaction included What is this, a drink toaster? (a purpose for which it was promptly used). Another friend even mentioned she wanted to buy the fake penny!

People enjoy reciving spontaneous gifts, even if the gift's identity was ambigous. All these gifts resulted in a brief conversation that otherwise would not have occured, this is a positive social outcome that we can use for good

View Ideation Decisions

Storyboarding Scenarios

We explored different use cases in our brainstorm sessions and found the following use cases emerged in our storyboards

Scenarios backed up by data will inform how we want to design the interactions within the app.

Connecting old friends and also maintaining relationships.
Breaking the ice with new friends.
Just for fun & trolling.
Meeting new contacts/celebrity communication.

View Implementation Decisions

Rapid Paper Prototyping

We started out with very low fidelity paper prototyping to test the core functionalities of Penny, as well as our UI design choices.

Rapid prototyping and iterations allowed us to quickly test out different UI layouts and flows, without having to waste time making a pixel-perfect flow only to have it not work.

Here's a summary of what I did & learned in this project:

What I Did

Participated in rapid prototyping and conducted user research to validate or bust our assumptions and design choices.

Used animation to give delight and joy to once static interactions.

What I Learned

Rapid iteration and user research is a must for design, or else you will get tunnel vision and end with something unusable.

Adding animation can provide a feeling of fun and quirkiness in a design, as well as bring focus to important areas!

Here are some more projects of mine