In 2018 I joined a team with a monumental task: rebuild the United States Postal Service’s apps for both iOS and Android from the ground up. We pulled out all the stops, beginning a spree of user research, market research, and careful hiring to accomplish this challenging goal and create apps that were on the cutting edge of design and development for the United States’ most beloved agency.
After completing a lengthy requirements session and almost a year of user research, we felt we were ready to begin crafting brand new USPS applications from scratch. We began with pencil sketches and whiteboard drawings, and by the time we were done we had a complete working prototype.
Buy Stamps in Three Taps or Less
One of the key requirements from the folks at USPS was that users had to be able to "buy stamps in three taps or less." Our user research showed that buying stamps is one of the most common things people do with the application, but also is a significant pain point. In the existing application, users had to create a USPS.com account and sign in to be able to purchase stamps.
We streamlined the process by putting a navigation item to purchase stamps front and center on every part of the application. We also implemented Apple Pay and Google Pay to leverage the user's device to simplify the checkout process. If the user does not want to use the proprietary payment option of their phone they can still purchase their stamps with a simple cart and a smooth, modern checkout experience.
Finally, we created a beautiful new experience for the stamp store. Looking through examples of past stamps, we were amazed by the beautiful art and designs throughout the USPS's history and decided to emphasize that in our design. The stamps store stands out in the application but adheres to the design guidelines and style guide that we created to ensure that it feels like an important part of the whole application.
Track a Package
Our research (and our own experience) showed that the vast majority of the time when people used the USPS mobile app or website they were doing so to track a package. We needed to make the process of tracking packages as simple as possible, while also taking into account the needs of both shippers and receivers of packages.
As part of our user research process we created a number of personas to represent categories of our users and their needs. This later made it easy to design each part of the application, and especially Tracking, while keeping a variety of disparate use cases in mind and addressing the needs of each of our users.
For instance, for shippers we made it easy to scan a series of barcodes to immediately add a series of packages to your tracking dashboard before you ship them out. For shoppers and those receiving packages with tracking, we made it easy to add your tracking codes to the application. If you open the app with a tracking code copied, the application will automatically ask if you want to add it to your dashboard.
Once you have your package tracked you have a number of additional features to make it even easier to keep your shipments organized. You can nickname your shipment, filter and search through them, share them with others (for instance with your customers), or even set up delivery instructions.
ZIP Code Lookup, Find a USPS Location, and More
This case study only scratches the surface of the work we did to create a comprehensive, usable prototype of the USPS application. We researched each platform and the expectations of their users. We dug into how our users would expect things like maps, finding locations, help documentation, and settings menus would work and we applied the latest UX principles and theories to each element of the application. We built in animations and transitions that were purposeful and directed the user's eyes to what we felt (and research told us) they would be most interested in. We streamlined every workflow in the application, from signing up to logging in to tracking your package to signing up for the Informed Delivery service. I have been lucky to work on a variety of applications in my career, but I feel I learned the most working on this one and I am very proud of the team and the prototype we put together.