Thrift Finder is a web app by LETO Solutions that makes thrift shopping more accessible to the average person. It acts as a one-stop shop for reducing textile waste and helping out local communities.
Imagine if you could challenge an industrial practice that is responsible for 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 each year. This very same practice takes advantage of an exploited labor force and lax child labor laws in developing countries. The practice in question is fast fashion, and it allows companies to churn out cheap clothing items at a massive scale. How can one take on a problem of this size?
The answer is circular fashion. Circular fashion pertains to designing, sourcing, and producing clothing and related items in a way that they can be circulated responsibly and used for as long as possible, and thereafter recycled or repurposed when they are no longer suitable for human use.
With Thrift Finder, our goal was to ensure that users do not have to choose between convenience and sustainability. LETO Solutions makes circular fashion more accessible to the average person by removing any perceived barriers to donating, purchasing, or repurposing used clothes.
Research & Validation
In the beginning, our team knew that we wanted to tackle fast fashion, but we were not sure how we would do this. However, we did have one hypothesis: If we focus on helping older, non-tech savvy users, we can make thrift shopping more accessible to everyone.
With this initial direction, we turned to user interviews to work out the fine details. Five volunteers were recruited via various Slack and Discord channels, and they were asked questions regarding their second-hand shopping and clothing donation habits. Here’s what we found:
- 5/5 participants look for close stores with positive online reviews.
- 4/5 participants want to know what’s in stock.
Buying Used Clothes
- 3/5 participants look for designer clothes at a bargain.
- 3/5 participants make purchases if it supports a good cause.
Choosing Not to Buy
- 5/5 users get discouraged by store disorganization.
- 3/5 participants get discouraged by sizing issues.
Donating Used Clothes
- 4/5 participants donate where they’re familiar with the place.
- 4/5 participants donate where the location is convenient.
- 5/5 participants want clear rules on what donations are accepted.
After compiling our research findings, we created Dolores, a user persona that represents our target users. Our target users are mature, non-tech savvy people that do not have the time or patience to properly vet stores and donation centers. Our product would have to provide immediate and clear results, or we would quickly lose their interest.
Landing On A Solution
After collecting user pain-points and defining our target users, we began asking ourselves some key questions: How might we make thrift shopping and clothing donation simpler? How might we educate users about recycling unusable textiles? Those were just some of the problems we tackled during our initial brainstorming sessions.
In this first brainstorming session, our goal was to agree on an MVP and establish any technical constraints. Our product designer sketched out some features based on common user pain points; our developers identified the feasible features and stretch goal features. In the end, our team agreed that our MVP would have a three-tab layout and GPS capabilities.
We immediately jumped into usability testing so that the developers could learn which features they should focus on. Our black-and-white interactive prototype allowed users to display places that allow them to thrift shop, donate clothes, or recycle clothes depending on what tab they are on. One big takeaway from our testing was that users thought the app let them manage any used items, when the app’s focus is on used clothes only. Another issue is that the majority of our users did understand what clothing recycling was or that it even existed as a service. We tweaked the prototype based on this.
First Pivot: Hi-Fi Prototype
After some discussion with the team, we decided that the style of the mid-fi prototype was too juvenile for our mature users. We rebranded our app to convey our brand attributes: clean, modern, natural, and welcoming. We also decided to scrap one feature due to time constraints: tokens that display the stores’ accepted donations and items in stock.
Second Second Pivot: Hi-Fi Prototype
For the final prototype, we had to make a tough decision: we replaced our internal GPS with a link to an external GPS. This change significantly affected the look and feel of the application, but most importantly, it solved our users’ core needs.
Our current solution has evolved into a simple directory-style web application optimized for mobile devices. Though the application looks very different from our original designs, we still meet our users’ textile-related needs to a large degree. Below are our current features as of May 15, 2022.
- Buy Tab: When users input their location, they’ll receive a list of stores that sell second-hand clothes. The “Get Directions” button opens up the store’s directions on Google Maps, while the phone number hyperlink allows the users to call stores with only one tap. Lastly, the “Get Info” hyperlink opens up that business’s Yelp page.
- Donate Tab: This tab displays the list of stores and donation centers that accept clothing donations. It has the same core features as the buy tab: get directions, phone number, and more info.
- Recycle Tab: Unfortunately, this feature had to be scrapped for time. When users navigate to this tab, they will be alerted that this service is currently in development.
- User Guides: Our guides are used to educate users who are not familiar with thrift shopping, donating clothes, or recycling unusable clothes.
LETO Solutions plans on continuing the development of Thrift Finder, with immediate plans to implement the features that were removed from the original app design. The feature of priority is the internal GPS system, as this feature was well-received during our usability testing. The recycle tab and tokens denoting items in stock and accepted donations will also be further developed.
In the long-term, our team plans on incorporating features that are geared towards the owners of thrift shops and donation centers themselves. Fighting fast fashion will require the help of as many people as possible, which is why we want to bring local businesses on board. Further research will be needed to see what this user base desires in an application so that they can better attract shoppers, donors, and recyclers.
Product Manager Learnings:
"When the conditions are right, every team member will willingly own a place on the table, and contribute towards delivering the best team result." This is my summary of what transpired in Team LETO.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working as a Product Manager, learning a lot from closely interacting with the aliens from the Design and Dev world.
The working conditions allowed me to grow and live my learnings in leading an effective team. In the short time working together so far, we understood ourselves, built trust, and celebrated wins (team wins and personal wins) in our little way. Rolling out a potential game-changer (Thrift Finder) is just the icing on the cake.
I loved being able to work directly with developers and continue with the project even during the implementation stage. Because of this, I got to practice sharing my ideas cross-functionally and flex my creative muscle whenever I ran into any surprise technical constraints.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with another developer, designer, and product manager to build Thrift Finder. My biggest take away has been learning how to best manage my time and learning to create more realistic expectations for our product.
Co.Lab was a good experience because it taught me how to work with people outside my bootcamp. I got to learn another dev’s coding style as well as learn how to explain code in a way that makes sense to people who do not know code.
Full Team Learning
Working in a remote team of professionals from different time zones, functional areas, and cultures made frequent communication a very high priority for our team. Because of this, we quickly adapted to any surprises that came our way. One challenging area to navigate was meeting the developers’ technical constraints without sacrificing our business goals and user needs. Thankfully, our team was very driven, and we were able to build a product that delivers on all these fronts.