Shopping Lists — An efficient way of discovering and curating small businesses on Instagram Shop

Select screens off the prototype for Shopping Lists


This humble little project started from a sense of frustration with the tedious process of shopping for independent brands.

My Buyer Persona

I am not always content with items off a big-box store and prefer pieces that have a bit more personality. My first thought is always “can I buy this secondhand” and “how can I support small businesses at the same time” when I need to buy something. I also appreciate it when brands are transparent about their causes and values and want to try my best to make sure my money is going to a meaningful cause (this of course doesn’t need to be always the case).

The Modern Buyer Journey

The modern buyer journey can oftentimes be very non-linear. For example, I would start by creating a Pinterest board of visual inspirations for the home. This is a happy place for me when daydreaming starts and ideas kick in. Then, I would usually start by identifying the items we need urgently, usually more practical things for the kitchen and bathroom, and start sourcing them on eCommerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada (Southeast Asian-equivalent of Amazon). These are usually non-statement pieces in the home.

Considering the digital ecosystem

The Customer Journey Map

I started mapping out the different platforms and shops I was visiting, the good and the bad, and how different apps were integrated for a seamless customer experience.

Customer Journey Map for shopping online

Ecommerce big boys: Lazada, Shopee, Taobao

The Good:
These platforms are usually built on amazing recommendation algorithms and seamless checkout. What I loved about Shopee and Taobao specifically is that shipping estimations are transparent and you can even track the status of your parcel periodically on Taobao. Search filters can be super helpful and I loved the ability to browse similar items even if what I was looking for did not show up immediately upon search.

Secondhand marketplace: Carousell, Facebook Marketplace

The Good:
My favorite pieces of decor in the apartment are all from Carousell. There’s truly a joy to thrifting. I like how I’m able to find more unique items, especially small furniture and decor on the platform as compared to platforms like Shopee.

Lifestyle brands: Instagram x Shopify

The Good:
I discovered most of the independent brands through Instagram ads, thanks to the incredibly accurate targeting. I loved how these shops usually have an air of DIY spirit to them. The branding is usually super well-thought-out, trendy and authentic.

Inspiration from other apps


The Korean home decor mobile app O-House helps people discover and purchase decor items by exploring a user-generated style gallery for design ideas, and it will help you discover your own design preferences. Within the app, there are options to select the type of home-style — apartment, one-room, two-room, country house, etc. — and check the interior styles. Click on the product tag for more information and to purchase items in-app.


I enjoy the amount of details provided as part of the product info, clear shipping fees and delivery estimations. I also like the filtering system on the app and the helpful recommendations based on my likes and the ability to curate my bookmarks.

Scoping Down

Instagram as the chosen platform for the case study

The reality is that gaining new users can be a huge challenge to any app and so it made more sense to build on top of an existing platform instead of designing a completely new app for the sake of it. While I enjoyed using Etsy, there are not too many Singaporean sellers on the app and I wanted to focus on a platform where there’s already a good mix of local and overseas independent brands. Since I did discover most of these brands through Instagram, I decided to double down on this platform as part of my solution.

Focus on solving for the customer discovery stage

Since Instagram has already designed and partially rolled out the checkout experience, I figured it only made sense that I focus on solving for the top of the funnel — matching shopping lists to discovery.


How might we make the process of discovering and buying from small businesses more seamless?

The design solution should hopefully be able to help the modern shopper find and support small businesses a lot easier, and ideally a solution that can be easily implemented. Success would be a robust and inspired pool of independent small businesses and shoppers who are able to buy from brands they truly resonate with.

Scope, Timeline

~3 weeks. This was a self-initiated personal project I worked on in my free time during weekends. I took charge of research, design, and testing.

Key takeaways from the research

I spoke to both buyers and founders of small businesses to find out a little bit more about how they feel about the state of shopping for independent brands. I was interested in understanding the problem from both points of view:


  • Motivations for supporting small businesses
  • Things they value when they shop online
  • Frustrations when they shop online


  • Pain points when managing a small online business
  • Motivations for starting a brand
  • Thought process around brand building and customer engagement
Priority for buyers and sellers respectively

My takeaways:

  • The age of the intentional shopper — The modern shopper is sophisticated, well-researched, and intentional. If only there was a way to quickly connect brands to buyers who have aligning values and styles.
  • Inspiration and discovery are a big part of the eCommerce journey — So much time is spent on researching, it would be a priority to make the discovery journey more delightful and less painful. Would be cool if search options could directly be influenced by the buyer’s taste and style.
  • Seamless digital payment + inventory is important for small business owners — an issue for smaller and emerging sellers who do not already have a Shopify account set up I suppose. Interim solutions include using Cococart, a Typeform-like website builder that can be set up easily, albeit with very little freedom to play around with shop branding.
User Story Map — Shopping List on Instagram Shop

Designing the Solution — The Prototype

The final prototype was designed to include these features to Instagram Shop:

  • Integration with Pinterest
  • Comprehensive filters for shopping list (brand values, delivery options, price, etc)
  • AI-driven recommendation system based on user’s preferred style
Shopping List — a proposed Instagram Shop feature

User Testing

I shared the prototype with some friends and gathered some interesting feedback.

  • How would the current Bookmarks interact with Shopping Lists? Will Shopping Lists complement Bookmarks? How will all the new user data influence the Instagram Shop homepage feed?
  • Will these shopping lists be public or private?
  • How will sellers benefit from all these user-generated shopping lists?

Closing the loop — Did I answer sprint questions?

I think the prototype presented is still at the stage of a conceptual proposal.

Key takeaways

  • Lots of areas for improvement — Since this is my official product design case study as part of my portfolio building, I definitely felt a strong sense of imposter syndrome at various stages. One area I will surely need brushing up is establishing the discipline to create and reuse components for screens.
  • User interviews will light the way — I started the project slightly baffled and overwhelmed. I knew I had many personal pain points but struggled to translate them into a visual, tangible product solution. Talking to users really helped to provide some structure to my thoughts, and guide me in scoping down to the actual user journey to design for.



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Visual-turned-UX Designer. Always a work in progress