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HiUSA is an app to help Chinese travelers who come to the US to make purchases of luxury goods easy by cooperating with large brands and minimizing language barriers incurred during the proces.

1. Research

2. Design

3. Development

1. Research

Research includes direct paper survey with merchants and users, face to face interview, and competitor analysis.

2. Design

This design covers all the phrases that a design process should typically include. Wireframes were created with Illustrator and Sketch, high fidelity mockups were created with Sketch and Photoshop, and interactive prototype was created by InVision, together with After Effects which was used to created interaction animation.

3. Development

I was not involved in the development of the iOS app, however, I developed HiFu's website, which is available on GitHub. I also developed HiUSA's WiFi Login page as advertisement to anyone who use the WiFi.

Project Details

Client: HiFu Services

Date: 2014 - 2015

Online: www.hifu.co

In this project, I started the whole design from scratch, being in charge of initial brainstorming, low fidelity wireframes, high fidelity mockups, usability testing, user needs investigation, etc. This app is intended to help Chinese travellers who do not speak English better shop in the US. We encourage face to face purchases, rather than online shopping.
I talked with more than 160 merchants in various malls and outlets, created more than 30 iterations of product design, and tested more than 80 times with either Chinese travellers or US merchants to make this app live in the market. I also created website, which is available on github.

Behind The Scene, In Great Details

User Experience Design, User Interface Design, User Research, Prototyping, Wireframe, Mockup, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Web Development


From 2005 to 2014, Chinese tourists to the US has increased by around 230% in this ten year period. Thanks to great advance of China’s economy, most affluent Chinese family choose to go overseas other than stay within China for their family vacations. For them, almost every tourist site in China is always packed with way too many people, negatively decreases their travel experience. US, instead, has been dominantly one of the favorite destinations, for its well protected natural environment, less people, relative cheap products and multiple culture settings: of all these reasons, we can hardly ignore the expenses they spend in the US.

Why they would like to come a long way to buy something that are also available in China? That is because, sales tax in China is considered higher than US, especially for those luxury products (which might be quite common in the US). For VAT alone it is 17%, let alone higher tariff etc. For the same products, they can easily buy in the US with 30%-50% discount. Other than that, they fear they could easily fall into traps and buy some counterfeited products in China with prices of authentic ones.

Problem Space

Since we know the background, we can get a sense of the problem space that we are in. If we separate these “Chinese tourist in the US” alone, we can easily identify the problems they may face during their trip: They do not bargain much since it is already cheaper than in China, most of them can hardly speak any English, they do not know what are the stores nearby and what kind of coupons available.


We have so many predispositions in this specific problem space, the next thing we need to do is to validate them. We investigated shopping center / malls nearby, including Stanford Shopping Center, Great Mall, and Green Mall and we found it quite easy to combine face to face interview and paper survey research techniques. Based on our product timeline, we initially planned of 30 face to face interview with target users, and 120 copies of paper surveys. Below is a cloud bubble where keywords were frequently mentioned.

Initial Research Insights

I went to shopping centers nearby and talked with Chinese travelers, from who we validated our assumptions:

  • They did purchase a lot of high value products like designer watch, bag, clothes, as well as common brands, including Nike socks, New Balance shoes etc;
  • They had quite limited schedule when traveled in group, which they complained a lot. It means they do not have enough time to make purchases before they have their foot on the vehicles to another site. They badly need a tool to help them plan ahead.
  • Most of them, especially for seniors, have language problems as they do not speak English. So communicating with cashier would be so hard. Although some stores has started to hire Chinese cashier, most of others were falling short on it.

By doing these user researches, we can easily understand what pains our target users are suffering, and what this unborn product would be like. User research is like the constitution of whole product, and any design that does not follow would inevitably fail at some points.

Competitor Analysis

We referenced and analyzed some popular coupon apps such as Shopular, RetailMeNot, and due to the special consideration for our target users, we also referenced popular apps in China to minimize any learning curves.


We started to play with wireframes, our very first version of wireframe targeted to just solve three emergent problems:

  1. Help them find discounts/coupons;
  2. Streamline the whole purchasing experience by just showing cashier of their coupons;
  3. Let them know what are popular nearby.

So our very first wireframe looks like this, which we abandoned:

Problems with Initial Wireframes After Usability Testing

Although we created a set of wireframes for this project and was excited about it, we found a lot of problems after we put it into real test. For example, seniors seemed to be hesitated when they click through the wireframe and they are sometimes confused what to do next. They also complained the registeration process was too long and should still have room to simplify. We gathered many many complaints and kept improving our wireframes. After several rounds of iteration, we recreated our wireframes as such:

We did over 20 iterations before we reached our wireframe milestone and finalized to high fidelity mockups

High Fidelity Mockups

We created our mockups based on what we had so far: A set of fully tested wireframes that could solve user's pain, at least to some extent for now. After careful color picking, choice of design style etc, we created our high fidelity mockups as following:


(Actual data was intentionally hidden due to policy) We had hundreds of users within several days after our first release and gained around thousands of dollars revenue, relying on mouth to mouth recommendation.


Design is always easier said than done. The biggist challenge I faced throughout this project was research research research. During the design process, I took tremendoud efforts to figure out exactly what users really wanted. While they sometimes really did not know what they wanted, I seemed to know what they wanted (really?). How to resolve such conflicts between designer and users is tricky, however not impossible. I took different strategies on how to dig deeper inside of our users: interview, survey, observation, and I even took the stand points from merchants to expand my user centric view. It turned out to be quite well.

One More Thing

I also designed WiFi signage for each merchant we cooporated, based on individual color scheme.

Fun one

I spent several days in the field, took my prototype and went to shopping center nearby. I pretended I did not speak English and I just show cashiers the prototype with Coupon page on it, then I observed the reaction of the cashier and “eavesdropped” some conversations between cashiers discussing the coupons. Of more than 60 field testing, 49 testing had a “node” or a “thumb’s up” signaling the passing of the test.

I did have purchased a lot of discounted socks through my product though, probably good for the next 5 years at least.

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