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Conceptual Responsive Website Design

My Role

UX designer creating a returns workflow from conception to delivery.

The Problem

Busy people want a quick and easy way to return online purchases. 

The Goal

Design an intuitive and efficient returns workflow.

I was the lead UX Designer creating a retail returns workflow from concept to design for empaTEA. As the sole designer, I conducted competitive analysis, created user flow, conducted interviews, wire framing, low and high fidelity prototyping, usability studies, and design iteration.

EmpaTEA is a non-profit online retailer selling socially and environmentally responsible tea and tea accessories returning profits back to a cooperative of independently operated tea growers. 

Kicking things off 

Understanding the user

I conducted a user research questionnaire to gauge purchase returns frustrations based on past experiences. These are the overwhelming takeaways:

Getting started

The majority interviewed expressed frustration with locating where to initiate a return. 


Most interviewed stated it’s often difficult to locate returns policy details while shopping or during checkout.

Return shipping

All respondents expressed frustration locating a return shipper near them or selecting shipping options while making an online return.

Understanding the competition

I wanted to understand how the competition handled shopping returns and looked for opportunities for improvement. I conducted a competitive analysis of three direct and one indirect competitor. The results of which influenced design and processes.  

Meet the users

I felt it was important to create a pair of personas to put a face to the users. These personas were used to inform design decisions.

Kathy Longo







Masters Degree

Miami, FL

Brother, dog

Communications Manager

"I work to shop and shop to live."
  • Find the best deals for shoes and clothes online.

  • Find the stores with easy return policies since a lot of stuff doesn't fit when I shop online. 

  • Prioritize quality over quantity when on a shopping binge

  • "They make it so easy to buy things but impossible to return them."

  • "I never have boxes or tape to package up returns."

  • "Why can't every store be as easy as Amazon?"

Kathy works for an international recruiting agency as a communications manager and lives in a condo with her younger brother, Jen, and their dog, Percy. She loves to shop for clothes online as a way to relax after a long day of work. Kathy is adventurous and spends her weekends surfing, diving, rollerblading, and all other types of outdoor activities which requires a lot of shopping for equipment and outfits. She hopes to be promoted soon to the agency’s Paris office so has been working particularly hard for the past year.

John Blandy







Some college

Moscow, ID

Married, 2 children

Public works laborer

"I'm working hard to give my family the good life now and in the future. I have no time to waste...on anything."
  • Quickly find and buy clothes for my kids

  • Shop at stores that have free return shipping

  • Read reviews and size charts to minimize time sending items back.

  • "Living in a small town means you don't have access to all the stores your kids want to shop from."

  • "Why can't it be easier to buy clothes online?"

  • "Everything seems to be going up but wages."

John is a laborer for the town public works department and has recently returned to school to finish his college degree in construction management. He has two daughters, 11 and 14, and is married. His wife has had some medical challenges which have forced her out of the workforce for the last 18 months placing a greater burden on John to handle day-to-day parenting. She hopes to resume normal activities soon. This has forced John to take on overtime which is making his schooling difficult. He works 50 hours per week and spends 15 hours per week on school work.

Creating a framework

To understand how I could create a better experience for the return process I designed a user flow. It helped me focus on the overall experience and less on the design details. It also let me see the entry points into the workflow more clearly.

The Design

Wireframing on paper...

I wanted to create a series of wireframes that reflected the minimalistic theme of the the project while addressing user needs and the project goals. I got to work with pencil and paper…

...and digital

After fleshing out ideas through paper wireframing, I wanted to further refine the vision with a series of digital wireframes.

Home.Mobile 0.0.jpg
Final design
Final design

Driven by feedback from a usability study, the final deliverables demonstrate adherence to the project goal: Design an intuitive and efficient returns workflow.

Mobile screens demonstrating returns workflow

1. Start

2. Enter through the footer

3. Returns landing page

4. Access order details

6. Selecting items to return

5. Order details

8. Shipping instructions

7. Select shipping carrier

9. Confirmation


Product display pages

My account returns pages

three screen desktop mock up left-min.png
Sticker sheet

It was important that users could feel the calm and vibe of empaTEA throughout their interaction with the product. Cool colors and clean typeface transmit the empaTEA brand.


In Summary

empaTEA is as much a state of being as it is a retailer. Although it wasn't always easy bridging these two worlds, I think that I’ve done a good job merging a soothing shopping experience with the end goal of designing an intuitive and efficient returns workflow.

Future Steps

Expand usability testing to a more diverse audience to seek out unaddressed pain points or accessibility concerns.


Conduct further research with user group to itemize any additional areas of need.

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