USPS mobile app

  • Client: United States Postal Service
  • Duration: 2019
  • Role: design leadership, product strategy, product management, business alignment, narrative design, and communications
  • Goal: Redesign a mobile app for USPS
  • Outcome: A reimagined servicing experience for 25+ million customers of the United States Postal Service

As a head of design at the federal contractor consultancy, I was leading a team of designers, researchers and business analysts to reimagine a mobile experience for the USPS.

The old app was facing many challenges. For starters, it had a web-based front-end in a native “wrapper” which resulted in a slow and clunky experience. We’ve made a decision to design and develop it as fully native apps for iOS and Android.

The previously defined product strategy was also problematic. USPS had two flagship products: a core servicing app (USPS Mobile) and a separate app for tracking mail and packages, called Informed Delivery. Our research had shown that customers would prefer having one app with a unified experience.

In addition, we were facing severe stakeholder resistance. Being used to much more conservative and seemingly predictable “waterfall” processes, they were reluctant to embrace the ideas of human-centered design and a more iterative Lean/Agile approach. Most of the features and user stories were pre-defined before the project had started, and weren’t fully based on research.

So we’ve decided to start with just that—extensive user research. Millions of people are using postal and shipping services very differently and might have very different needs. We wanted to be inclusive of everyone, and at the same time deliver an improved experience within the time constraints of the federal contract.

After interviewing dozens of customers, we were able to define three core user personas:

  • Mohammed: a logistics manager, who frequently ships packages on behalf of their company. Mohammed is a power user and cares about staying in full control of his operations while saving time in his routine.
  • Chen: a small shop owner, who ships goods to the customers. Chen cares about tracking her packages to make sure the purchases are delivered to her customers on time.
  • Tyrone: a regular person who is not familiar with postal services as a whole. Tyrone is rarely shipping anything but is frequently receiving packages from making purchases on the internet.

We’ve spent a lot of time sharing the design and research processes with our partners and stakeholders. User personas, user scenarios, and user journeys were quite new concepts to them, but over time we’ve managed to gain their trust. Together, we were able to redefine most user stories and our entire product roadmap around the actual needs of the postal customers.

Given the limited number of designers on my team and a high probability of pushback from the stakeholders, I’ve decided to focus our efforts on low-fidelity design deliverables—paper sketches and collaborative whiteboarding sessions—to make sure we can quickly iterate and process the feedback effectively.

And given the tall list of pre-defined features, we had to adjust our product management and sprint processes too. I’ve recommended using faceted feature analysis to quickly prioritize existing features as a team and balance the user needs against the development complexity and business requirements.

I’ve also implemented a multi-track sprint schedule to make sure we’re iterating based on the insights from our ongoing user research, while constantly sharing our work with the stakeholders through collaborative work sessions and product demos.

My goal was to prototype in code as efficiently as possible instead of producing too many high-fidelity design artifacts. I’ve coached my team to work side-by-side with our engineers to develop reusable components and iterate on the experience together.

Within just a few weeks we were able to sketch a new product roadmap and update a set of features to match the needs of our customers.

Together with our stakeholders, we’ve re-defined an information architecture and the application flow. We’ve introduced a new human-centered content strategy to help customers like Tyrone feel more confident with postal services. And we’ve designed a centralized dashboard to help customers like Chen and Mohammed stay in control of their shipments and track packages on the go.

The work on this project still continues, and I’m hopeful millions of customers would be able to use the new app and enjoy postal services very soon.