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Zazzle Play


Web App Design + Collaboration


A collection of activities that help lower the barrier to creativity by providing a source of inspiration through engaging experiences.

Future of Zazzle

What is the task?

Zazzle is a on-demand online marketplace that allows designers and customers to create custom designs and products. Whatever you dream of, you can create it. The task was to act as a R&D department looking a year ahead and transforming them from a marketplace to a creative platform.


Pre-COVID 19 Kick off session with our clients Parker Bossier, Lonny Chu and Sean Narvasa (Unable to attend).

My role

  • Led strategic planning of sprints, set weekly goals and facilitated meetings to ensure the team met deadlines.

  • Conducted innovative forms of user research and generated insights to inform designs.

  • Helped design lo-fi through to hi-fi screens and established visual design system for the team.

  • Crafted micro-interactions for the homepage, logo and navigation bar.

  • Produced promotional video for Zazzle Play to highlight features in a digestible format.

Timeline: 8 months, January - August 2020

Team: Alice Li, Hailey Motooka, Rituparna Roy, Nat Schade



The Blank Canvas Dilemma

Definition (noun)

\blaNGk ˈkanvəs diˈlemə\


The paralyzing effect one feels when attempting to produce something, beginning from an empty slate.


Creativity is easy, right?

The creative process is different for each individual and poses a challenge of starting with a unique blank canvas each time, resulting in a high bio-cost for the user. When given no constraints at all, participants struggled with creating from a blank canvas as shown in the video below. Furthermore, Zazzle’s image as a marketplace results in users adopting a passive, browsing mindset. They are overwhelmed by the freedom that tools offers and results in abandoned carts.

Why does it matter?


If users give up on their creative projects, it results in lower conversion and less revenue. Zazzle currently generates over 50 million dollars in revenue with the current Marketplace and Create tool, lowering the barrier to creation results in a higher volume of products created.

Customer Retention Rate


With over 13 million monthly users, over 70% of which are new users because most creations are event-driven, resulting in high customer-acquisition costs. Zazzle Play’s new collaborative experiences can incentivize users to return and expand customer segments.



Zazzle Play


Brainstorm and Create with One Move


We devised a system, Zazzle Play, a series of brainstorming activities that integrate with Zazzle’s existing online tools to help people jump start their projects and bring their ideas to life. Unlocking the creativity they've always had.


The primary goal of Play is to help people get started by helping them tackle internal barriers, such as doubting oneself, or external barriers such as the pressure to find the right inspiration. We created two activities as a proof of concept: Teamwhirl and Time Trinkets.


Reduce the effort of creativity

Provide a source of inspiration

Integrate with existing components of Zazzle

Be fun!







Collaborative Brainstorming


A collective brainstorming session for a group of individuals creating towards a common goal by engaging in fun and humorous tasks.

User Input:

Set up a series of fun questions with friends or family to save your favorite responses for inspiration.

Activity Output:

Keywords to filter by to quickly find relevant design elements.


User Benefits


Gain New Perspectives

The more the merrier. Collaborators can work together to inspire one another with their responses.


Referential Starting Point

Saved responses are used as filters to bring relevant content to help jumpstart the creation process.


Flexible Output

Collaborators can choose how much they want to invest into a given project, whether to answer questions or create something.

Time Trinkets


Leveraging Memories as Inspiration

An easy way to create digital assets for someone by remembering one’s fondest memories.

User Input:

Respond to prompts that helps walk users down the memory lane by uploading photos, videos, recordings and drawings.

Activity Output:

Ready-to-user digital assets for their projects and an interactive card for the receiver that tells the story of their memories.


User Benefits


Ready-to-Use Assets

Polished digital assets are created simply by uploading an image, video and other types of media input.


Same Input, More Output

Users can easily visualize their time trinkets on other products to compliment the digital card.


Inspiration Through Memories

Questions that evoke nostalgia through memory recollection inspires individuals to create meaningful gifts.

Promotional Video

Build and Browse

A New Home Page: Are you here to Build or Browse?


First impressions are important and the Build and Browse model is goal-oriented, transforming Zazzle from “here are our products” to “what are you here to do?”

Transforming from a Passive Mindset to an Active one


The new build and browse organization of the Zazzle tools allow users to go from a browsing (passive) mindset in the marketplace to one where they take action first and have clarity of where to find the right tools.

Passive mindset


Design Features


Provide outline of steps in Play activities

Active mindset


A New Navigation


A flexible navigation system where users can quickly identify the tools available to them and access them all in one place.


Maintain integrity of Create toolbar


Present relevant information for Live sessions

Anatomy Breakdown


Suggestion Panel


This seamlessly recommend products, streamlining the transition between tools regardless of the mode. It also provides people the opportunity to visualize their designs on relevant products. This presents people with relevant but potentially unexpected gift ideas; ultimately, promoting people to explore Zazzle Create or add products to their cart directly.

Design System


I managed the design system of components within Figma to create consistency across the screens. Here are some of the highlights of the different components, and referenced material design for best practices.


Modular Iconography


The new icons were designed with scalability in mind and represent the building blocks for creativity. The build tools are similar to the browse tools, yet slightly different to help users differentiate the current mode.

design process


What is creativity?

Directed Storytelling


We started this project with a broad scope and after understanding the client’s goals in the kick-off meeting, we utilized directed storytelling as a way to dive deeper into the possible directions to explore.


The beginnings of clustering the 750+ white notes collected from the directed storytelling sessions.

Derived Themes


We interviewed 13 participants of varying backgrounds and collected over 750 data points that were synthesized into seven categories.


How might we...


facilitate collaboration between strangers?
encourage interaction with non-monetary value?




Creativity is different for everyone

The cost of creativity is high

People need to feel mentally safe to collaborate

Key insights

What is collaboration?

Remote Research


We created design research methods to understand how the relationship between designers and gift givers would affect the collaboration. Pairs of users were tasked to design for gifts of varying relationships. Below are some highlights from these studies.

Key insights



Humor is an important aspect of collaboration as it bonds people together

People default to sharing memories through the form of storytelling and images

People want to make meaningful gifts

Storyboarding, Lo-fi Prototyping and Speed Dating

30 storyboards were created initially by the team to generate a wide variety of solutions.


10 storyboards were refined internally to narrow down for testing.


7 iterations of conceptual prototypes were generated based on the user feedback from the previous round.


revised storyboards were speed dated to identify the most validated solution.


final direction selected.


Response from Using Activities in Gift Giving

I think it's a great idea. It communicates to the person how much time and effort you're putting into giving them something memorable. It also adds another level to friendship.


Various sessions of using to validate user needs

Key insights




People want to make meaningful gifts but are often discouraged by their own perceived ability to create

The longer you know someone, the harder it is to create a unique gift

People value an experience over a physical gift

Where should we introduce our solution?

Survey says...

After determining what we should create, we turned to users once more to identify where in the creative process should the solution exist. This survey collected data from 72 respondents about the different phases of creation.

[I think the most challenging aspect of] creativity is figuring out what that ’something’ is. It is sometimes too vague to turn into a concrete artifact.

The most challenging phase of creating a gift


How might we...


facilitate the output of brainstorming to be used as an input in the process of creating?

Gift Creation Journey

Experience Map.png

Key insights



People feel they can rely on their own memories as a source of brainstorming ideas

People seek to create experiences that aren’t just a summary of their relationship with the receiver, but something that builds upon the existing relationship

Iterating designs

Testing flows and screens

We conducted a series of usability testing with our MVP flow to polish our visual design for the landing page, navigation bar and the activities themselves. We adjusted the detail of information, placement of components and structure based on participant's input, internal team discussions and client approval.

Example Usability Finding

UF Interactive Journey - 4.png
UF Interactive Journey - 6.png

future steps



Let's prove that we're helping

Although Zazzle Play is created from months of research, it has not been released to collect data about how it is actually performing. Below are some of the metrics to keep an eye on early in conjunction with the qualitative data to use to understand how the activities can be tweaked to optimize their effectiveness.

Conversion Rate:

An important indicator of how successful Play is as it will indicate the perceived relationship of effort and output for users.

Abandoned Carts:

This compliments the data of conversion rate but will be more specific as to where users drop off.

Usage of Different Tools:

A metric to help identify the user's willingness to explore and support Zazzle's pivot into a creative platform.

Future plans

Expand the System

Currently the two activities focus on augmenting collaboration and leveraging memories as a source of inspiration, but as more activities are added to the Play collection, they will focus on other elements that would most benefit users. We created a product road map to help plan the high level steps and utilize the scalability of Zazzle Play.


Personal takeaways


I'm Comfortable with Ambiguity

Many lessons were learned about navigation the nebulous space of creativity and collaboration and below are my three big personal takeaways.


Whether it is selecting which research method to deploy, or building which specific features out, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the goal in order to prioritize.

Stay focused:

There are many interesting problems to solve, but it's essential to identify the right problem to solve and solve it well.

Less is more:

In a similar vein to staying focused, being concise is a skill that is a prerequisite to solving wicked problems.

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