The Project

The assignment was to design something for others from your personal values; within the theme of sustainability. For people with an expensive hobby, impulse buying is easily justified and can lead to large unplanned expenditures with a negative impact on ones life.

Project Details

  • year2019
  • clientMaster Design for Interaction
  • natureIndividual Project
  • what I didObservation, Interviews, Contextmapping, Design for Emotional Dilemmas, Interaction Prototyping

Problem Scenario

Every now and then, people experience clear moments in which they know how to be happy. However, when infatuated with a possible impulse buy, we tend to forget these things, or make false rationalisations. Moreover, buying environments offer no reward for not buying. Even online, you need to close the webpage which feels like denying yourself the possibility. Through sensitizers, interviews and literary research it became clear that there is opportunity space in the time between impulse buys, where the user can prepare themselves for when desire strikes again. My research group consisted of people from my personal life, and later I focused in on wristwatch enthusiasts because of my affinity with that community. They are very much aware of their impulse buys, and the impact on their life. A lot of them spend time on forums, webshops, and auction websites looking for the next best thing. Some of them indicated to want support in stopping themselves.

DESIGN GOAL    Make the user aware that they are being irrational before buying, so they can increase their resistance to buying.

INTERACTION VISION   Like being really well prepared for an exam: knowing the situation and how to handle it.

Triggering an emotional dilemma

At the core of the problem is an emotional dilemma that needs to be addressed. There are different strategies for this. I first tried to give the user arguments against buying that they would collect over time. However, in an irrational situation, the brain cannot do anything else but make counter rationalisations to arguments. So it had to be something that goes beyond reason.

KEY INSIGHT   Using actual arguments prompts counter rationalisations. More success is likely when appealing to the user's emotions, by offering a satisfying way to start taking a step back from the purchase.

Browser Plugin

A browser plugin was created that reminds the user they may not want to buy right now. They can download and install it in a reflective moment, to prepare themselves. Later, whenever a watch buying opportunity is on screen, curtains appear on the sides. They highlight to the user that they have a decision to make, and offer the opportunity to close them. The result: they do not have to deny themselves the purchase right away, and they can take a step back to reflect on their decision.


The demo shown above is a modified chrome extension that loads one page over another. The page containing the curtains was made with HTML, CSS and JS, based on an example that can be found online.

USER QUOTE:   "It was 2AM. I was looking at a Seiko. I saw your thing and thought: oh yeah, I should ask myself if this is what I really want... It wasn't..."

Three things I've learned

  1. You can design more effectively by quickly validating assumptions.
  2. When designing for the long-term, you should have the time to validate. People don't carry out the behavior you want to test every single day.
  3. I am quite good at finding patterns in complex information.

More Work

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