Final project for DSGN 1 class. Completed delightfully with my teammates Woojin Cheon, Hoaithi (Thi) Dang, Ji-Eun (June) Park.

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Why receipts?

Collect 20 receipts from different stores; it would be surprising to find that any of those receipts match in style, length, or layout of critical information. There was no regards for the purchaser in the initial design. Even today, users are faced with hundreds of different receipt-styles and poor legibility in many instances. These problems take shape as incompatible mental models and lack of critical signifiers. Hence, we chose to give this everyday item a redesign.

Preliminary Problem Identification

We initially started this project by reflecting on our experiences and pain-points with receipts. Certain issues our group members identified included the ridiculous length, messy information presentation, and excessive non-transactional information. In order to quickly verify the validity of these errors, we collected preliminary data through short interviews with friends and observations of people interacting with receipts. Some major errors are listed below:

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Many receipts repeat the same information multiple times. Ralphs repeats the total cost 3 different times. Tapioca Express (TapEx) prints the date and time twice on their receipt

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Another issue found in our observation and interviews was poor readability of critical information.

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We found through our interviews that non-native English speakers had a hard time identifying abbreviations from receipts such as those of groceries stores. Some abbreviations were so complicated even English speakers had no idea what the meaning was.

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A total of 13 lines of credit card information? Do customers need to know each and every piece of information?

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The customized message portion often takes up more space than the transaction details. The fuel points portion of Ralphs receipts takes up to two-thirds of the receipt. It even includes addresses of 2 nearby gas companies.

*NOTE: this “error” was later discovered to be a partial issue. It was necessary to keep some of the information.*

Other errors included

  • Bad accessibility: The typography and spacing on receipts can greatly affect readability for users.

    • Daiso uses multiple fonts, unnecessary capitalization, and boldness of unimportant information.

    • Whole Foods receipt has too little spacing.

  • Not designed with cashier in-mind

    • At Tapioca Express, cashiers have to take the additional step of circling the order number.

However, we started noticing how interactions with receipts were often done subconsciously. In fact, in the interviews we conducted, even with users looking at a physical receipt, most said that the current design is sufficient. Despite this, we discovered how users typically skim through the receipt and focus primarily on the total. Furthermore, noticing variations in design, we began to divide the receipts we collected into categories for restaurants, retail, and fast food.

Identifying elements common on all receipts

We analyzed the common elements on receipts from 13 different businesses we visited during the preliminary data collection. We then placed this information on a chart (shown below) in which a green cell indicated that the receipt contained the information and a red cell indicated that it did not. With this data, we were able to identify the key elements on receipts and later come up with a hierarchy of information. Moreover, noticing how issues such as tipping and having multiple receipt copies (invoice, merchant and customer copies) only existed at restaurants, we decided to limit our scope and focus on designing receipts for businesses that didn’t require tipping (e.g. grocery stores, fast food chains, and cafes).

Table of common elements

Table of common elements

Upon identifying the key elements on receipt, we moved on to explore the root causes of what made receipts not user friendly. We deployed the “5 Whys” technique in order to identify the underlying problems with receipts (shown below). With this information, we were able to construct axes for a design space. We created a design space utilizing receipts from 15 different businesses (shown below). Based on the 5 whys, the first key issue was bad readability, stemming from the necessity for users to constantly change mental models. The second was inefficient space usage, linked to the lack of critical signifiers. On the x-axis, we analyzed efficiency regarding space usage; we were attempting to find out whether the length of the receipt was acceptable for the amount of transaction information. On the y-axis, we compared the readability of receipts; we wanted to find out whether the information was clear and easy to read. Although we found a decent design on the Bottega Italiana receipt, we still saw much potential for improvement. Additionally, most receipts lacked either readability, efficient space usage, or both. Based on this diagram, we narrowed down the traits worthy of integrating and those that should be avoided.

5 Whys

5 Whys

Design Space

Design Space

Planning prototype

Through our preliminary research, we were able to identify key areas of focus for the redesign. For instance, we focused on removing repetitive information and only including elements common across all analyzed receipts. Another focus was having an efficient layout to save paper and maximize readability. In this redesign process, we also wanted to consider accessibility, in particular for people with dyslexia. Based on online research, we discovered that lightly colored paper, 12-14 point sans serif font, and bold text for highlighting are commonly believed to be best for individuals with dyslexia. On the other hand, glossy white backgrounds, italics, all caps, and underlining have been found to impair reading for dyslexics. With these ideas in mind, we decided to move onto prototyping to get quick iterative feedback.

We first grouped the types of receipts into two major categories: digital and paper. Digital receipts was abandoned for further exploration as it may not be well received among the technologically-averse and those that do not own a digital device. The best option was still to use paper receipts. As the option is not as environmentally friendly, we later stressed on designing in a more space-efficient manner.

Round 1 A/B testing & interviews


Prototype 1A

1A is our first prototype; I created the physical product with Adobe Photoshop. It is designed with the following features:

  • Similar to existing receipts while stripping all the unnecessary information identified in the previous section and improving the use of space

  • Black lines to segment big chunks of words to make information more legible

  • Order number at the bottom right to make it easier to locate

  • Feedback portion shrunk into a link

We then use information from the Bottega Italiana receipt to come up with a realistic mock up. Avoiding presenting wireframes ensures that interviewees’ attention don’t get distracted.


Prototype 1B

1B pays little attention to maintaining the look of existing receipts. Instead, it focuses purely on visual hierarchy, presenting information from most to least important. Its features included:

  • Oder number and total amount at the very top

  • Logo and address to the bottom since we hypothesized they were the least important information for consumers

  • Accessible by not using full capitalization and choosing dyslexia-friendly font

  • Black lines to segment big chunks of words to make information more legible.


A/B testing results

Location: Roots dining hall; 6 interviews conducted

Results: Many interviewees preferred type A simply due to aesthetics; one of the primary reasons was related to the big, beautiful logo at the top. Worried, we thought about replacing the logo with a gray rectangle that simply had the words “LOGO” over it. However, our professors disagreed with the change stating it is better to make the receipts as realistic as possible.

Solution: Instead of merely asking about preferences, we decided to ask interviewees a series of question in order to identify subconscious issues with the existing design before asking them for feedback on our prototypes. We believed that this would allow the interviewees to make the decision between type A and type B based purely on design rather than aesthetics. Moreover, since it was suggested that we create a realistic scenario for interviewees to better provide feedbacks, we decided to add the logo of our interview location to the mockup receipts.

Round 2 A/B testing & interviews

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In round 1, we realized the receipts were too different to easily compare and that the feedback did not lead to meaningful conclusions. Thus in Round 2, we came up with prototypes 2A and 2B, specially designed to mimic receipts of the planned interview location. We also told interviewees that we were prototyping new receipt designs and implied that our designs could one day be used in the store. We believed this method forced the interviewee to be more critical when analyzing our design.


A/B testing results

Location: Perks Coffee Shop; 6 interviews conducted

Results: After changing our interview method, the trends of preference changed drastically. Five interviewees pointed to “total” as the most important piece of information to them, and stated that 2B having the total at the top appealed to them. Additionally, all interviewees commented on how both design were preferable to the existing design. Feedback included how both are improvements in simplicity and readability. Many interviewees expressed how they used the logos to distinguish between receipts when looking a pile.

Round 3 A/B testing & interviews


We increased the quantity of redesigns to 3. As our planned interview location, TapEx, has an order number system, the top portion for 3B had to include both the total and the order number, leaving no space for the logo. Thus, we were curious to find out whether the top portion should be increased in height so that the logo can be stacked on top of the order number and total. We ended up having 3A, 3B, and 3B2, a version of 3B with logo at the top (shown above).


A/B testing results

Location: Tapioca Express; 8 interviews conducted

Results: All of the interviewees preferred the 3B-series with the majority preferring B2 over B1. This proved that, while interviewees liked the redesign that focused on order of importance, they also appreciated having the logo at the top.


Round 4 A/B testing & interviews

Because the demographic of interviewees on campus mainly consisted of Asian students, we felt the need to also take into account perspectives from other age groups, races, and backgrounds. Thus, we chose Ralphs for our final round of interview. The interviewees were ultimately asked to compare one redesign, 4B, with the present Ralphs receipt.

While mocking up the Ralphs receipt, we noticed how the type B design could end up becoming too wordy (large amount of grocery item) and overwhelming when there are multiple lines of items. The issue is mainly caused by the small spacing between lines in addition to all words being bolded. In order to tackle this problem, we significantly increased the spacing while unbolding secondary information, such as quantity and individual price. This went against our purpose of increasing space efficiency. However, it was necessary as readability was the most important; we needed to find a balance between solving the two major problems.

There were a few other elements we attempted to redesign. We tried to shrink the “fuel points” portion into just a link for feedback, and the savings for each item portion into “total card & coupon savings” typical on Ralphs receipts. The feedback link was done on all other of our redesigns as well, while the savings section was only applicable at grocery stores. Moreover, instead of abbreviations, we provided fully spelled item names. While trade-offs included the decrease of readability with large texts blocks (difficult to locate specific information), the new design allowed people, especially foreigners, to better understand what was bought. To balance the two effects, we adopted a mix of boldness and wide spacing.

The conclusion we reached at Ralphs was extremely different from what we expected as interviewees provided input we had not previously heard. All interviewees preferred the new design compared to the existing one. However, they also provided some feedback, allowing us to refine the final design.

One primary complaint was about the fuel points section, which we shrank into a link. Many elderly people shared that they couldn’t access the internet and thus wouldn’t be able to see their fuel points. We were surprised as we didn’t think about how our design would lead to certain people permanently losing access to information. As this was significant, we added a simplified fuel points portion on the final design.

Moreover, many interviewees preferred having savings for individual items listed, instead of just a total amount saved. One interviewee told us about how people liked seeing themselves saving money. Having individual savings would increase the buyer satisfaction. Turns out our design involved lower customer satisfaction and potentially a harm to the company brand image. We therefore decided to add the information on the redesign.

The departure from abbreviations, however, was welcomed by interviewees, especially non-native English speakers. Many interviewees agreed that abbreviations can be confusing so they would rather have full names of items. We also received positive feedback regarding the bigger font size from elderly interviewees because it was easier for them to read.

Final results

Final designs

Final designs

Results of each round of A/B Testing

Results of each round of A/B Testing

As we progressed from round 1 to 4, we identified the type Bs as the design most preferred by users. Based on this result and user input, we made changes to the winning type in order to ultimately come up with a final proposal containing the best design. Some information that was initially deleted was added back ultimately, such as the individual discount information and certain unrelated information. The boldness and spacing incrementally evolved during the process while key redesigns, such as total amount at the top, stayed consistent throughout. The final redesign created a balance between space efficiency and readability.

Instructor Feedback

Generally, our paper received positive feedback from our TAs and IAs. However, various problems were pointed out. As the course was mainly geared towards initial stages of user research, we weren’t taught in-class about prototyping and testing prototypes. Hence. our decisions regarding prototype testing and iterating wasn’t well backed nor justified. A TA commented: “Although impressive, the complexity of solving your original issues became much larger once you made multiple redesigns and did user testing. Simplifying your project would have been really beneficial.” Another TA pointed out how it was alarming how not a single user preferred the existing design. We might’ve asked leading questions or hinted participants to like the redesign. For the design space, we learned how the terminology “efficient“ should’ve been better defined as it is vague and subjective; everyone has their own standards of efficiency.

As this was our first complete redesign process, we were beyond appreciative to have received all the comments from our instructors. Our experiences from DSGN1 later went on to influence our other work in more intermediate design/ prototyping classes.

For details on design process, reflections, and future plans, refer to the full paper.