UX case study

Product design for an online toy library

In this case study, I am going to share insights on the design process I accomplished for Swapie startup, which will be hopefully implemented early in 2022.

My roles

As a co-founder & product designer, I was responsible for the product design from idea to production: User Research, User Interviews, Personas & Empathy Mapping, User stories and flows, Sketching, Wireframing, Visual Design, Prototyping, Testing.

01. uncovering problem space

Toy story 2021

Toy clutter

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience and entering this new reality was a big surprise for me and my husband in many ways. One of them is that babies need a lot of toys - a lot of toys. It doesn’t sound that horrible until you see the scale of a disaster! We felt like we’re losing a never-ending battle with toy clutter in our house.

Toys are expensive

Besides taking up lots of space, high quality toys are also very expensive. Yet, buying less toys was never an option for us: we wanted our kiddo to have access to all kinds of toys for encouraging developmental milestones in her early years. And of course, the toy market is massive!

Environmental issues

Additionally, buying new toys has a negative impact on the environment. According to Medium, approximately 80% of all toys end up in a landfill. The truth is that parents are often too busy juggling multiple responsibilities, and this results in toy management naturally falling into the last priority. Parents tend to store all these toys thinking that they will need it again, but instead they reach the tipping point where the house is overflowing and they decide to declutter in anger and throw out all the toys.

How could we make this toy story less painful and more affordable? More joyful and sustainable? How do we declutter the house?

A photo of Veronika's daughter Olivia in a room cluttered with toys
Our little one in a typical cluttered sitting room.
02. startup idea

Designing playtime in a more sustainable way

Luckily, once we reached our tipping point, my frustrated husband decided to launch the first online toy library in Moscow, and as a UX designer I helped him with it.

What is Swapie

Swapie is an online toy library startup in Moscow that offers access to high-quality toys in a more affordable and sustainable way through toy sharing. With a Swapie subscription, parents can swap toys anytime for free.

A toy library subscription not only helps parents get access to the best toys and reduce overconsumption, but also find a new solution to old problems:

1. Toy clutter will no longer be a problem. Keep only the toys that you need!
2. Toy expenses are limited by a toy subscription price while you have unlimited access to toys.
3. Toys in our library are safer than those in nursery or soft plays thanks to our multi-step cleaning technologies.

03. The mission

Design challenges and constraints


First, most parents in Russia are unfamiliar with the concept of a toy library and tokens, unlike other European countries. We needed to introduce to them a novel concept of toy sharing.


The product itself is quite complex and unique. It's a mix of traditional e-commerce and a subscription platform with tokenized products.


And of course, our main constraint was the initial kick-off budget. We decided to build the website first as creating the app was too expensive and time-consuming in the early stages of our project.

Our high level goals were to

  • Engage parents in toy sharing
  • Create a brand that parents trust
  • Improve the shopping experience for busy and tired parents.
A photo of a toy set
04. solution

A Netflix in the world of toys

We designed a neat solution to improve the toy shopping experience for our users by combining the best design practices from ecommerce to the flexibility of our unique subscription model.

1. Get a subscription

A subscription plan defines how many toys you can have at a time. Tokens are used for pricing the shared toys to allow easy swapping.

2. Order toys from catalog

Explore our catalog and place your order within your token allowance

3. Swap toys anytime

To swap toys the user simply adds new toys to her cart and select current toys to return.

4. Keep toys you love

If the user wants to keep her favourite toys, she only has to pay the price difference for the toy and we will return the tokens to her balance.

5. Cancel anytime

The user can cancel the subscription any time when all toys are returned. Additionally, the user can upgrade her plan increasing the token allowance.

Live prototype

The deliverable for this project was the prototype in Figma, which you can test below.

06. kickoff

A promising start

Having our hypothesis in mind I started off with secondary research to explore competitors and gather facts about our potential users that can help us to narrow down the target audience.

Early insights from the toy market research

  • Swapie will be the first toy subscription service in Moscow, but there are similar successful toy sharing platforms in the UK and US that we can learn from.
  • In the first 2 years of having a child, parents spend on toys 90% of overall budget spent on toys per child. More than 50% of existing rental service users cater to children below the age of 5.
  • A variety of products are key in the renting business as customers tend to perceive more enjoyment when looking at a greater selection of products.
07. interview

Connecting with our potential audience

I talked to 8 families in Moscow. My goal was to understand the challenges parents faced and their goals in toy shopping.

  • Have children aged 0-5
  • Live in Moscow
  • Buy toys for their children
  • Use online-shops or rental services for toy shopping
Kids of the interview participants
Our little interview disturbants but also true clients

Focusing on users with children up to 3 years old

According to our early insights, in the first 2 years of having a child, parents account for 90% of the overall spending on toys for babies. In addition, mothers in Russia normally return to work when their babies turn 3 years old. Indeed, when a child goes to a nursery at 3 years old, they naturally need less toys at home. Thus, after talking to different families, we decided to narrow down our target user group to families with children up to 3 years old.

Quantitative research results

I also run the survey that helped define key characteristics and create a catalog. Using both qualitative and quantitative results, I summarised key learnings about our users:

  • Mobile web is a primary platform for our users. Indeed, often, parents on maternity leave hardly use laptops.
  • Our typical users are Millenials. Parents with children up to 5 years are usually aged between 25 and 40 years old.
  • Focus on accessibility and simplicity. Young parents are famous multitaskers with a constant lack of sleep.
09. Prototyping

Making our ideas tangible

To turn our ideas into product we started with paper sketching as a quick way to make ideas tangible and testable.

Using paper sketches I created a quick prototype using Invision app and conducted Guirella testing in a local cafe.

Key insights from Guerilla testing
  • Users try to find more detailed information on how we work such as areas where we operate or how to swap toys.
  • Token pricing concept requires explanation.
  • Some users prefer to start browsing first without going into subscription details.

Keeping red routes simple

A millennial’s attention span is 8 secs. Our goal in designing Low Fidelity wireframes was to make the content succinct, relevant, personalized and meaningful.

To reach our goal, we made the following design choices:

  • Scrollable landing page with 5 sections: How it works, toy categories, pricing, popular toys, and F.A.Q.
  • Simple 4-step onboarding process to get users started.
  • Progressive disclosure to more advanced features such as toy swaps process and token balance.

Making our design intuitive

Wireflow is a particularly helpful tool for building out the user flows when you have multiple states of the same screen as well as scrollable landing page. I used it to create flows that are clutter-free and lack friction points.

10. visual design

Choosing the visuals

We used our empathy maps as a foundation and inspiration in building the styleguide. We created a color palette that conveys positivity, joy and trust as defined in our key brand attributes.

Primary, secondary and brand colors

Interative color variations

11. Usability testing

Uncovering opportunities to improve

I tested 5 potential users to make sure our product offers a smooth experience. First round of usability tests helped identify a few critical issues in our design:

Critic Issues

List of refinements:
  • Add a catalog button to the Hero section to help explore toys quicker
  • Partly show the ‘How it works’ section on Landing page as a hint for scrollig
  • Change the order in tariff plans, describing what users get first
  • Add fixed CTA to catalog
  • Reduce amount of text on Hero section.

Incorporating feedback

Once I identified changes that need to be made to the prototypes, I started incorporating those changes into my work.

Next iteration

Second round of usability tests showed far better user experience and also identified a few more minor issues:

Call center button

Users weren’t sure if this button had a ‘Call’ feature or ‘Text’ only. I changed for more inclusive icon

My account

Users tried to click ‘log in’ to create an account first ignoring the CTA. I highlighted CTA using the contrast color.

Single vs Multiple view catalog switcher

Single view button looked like a checkbox and someone tried to tick it.

User Menu

Users preferred to have more optionality in the menu. I added all vital links to avoid user’s frustrations.

12. project wrap up

Landing page

Onboarding process

Sign up


Key learnings

The art of the interviewing people

It was challenging to take the neutral position when it’s your startup on the table. You want to prove to everyone that this service is a lifesaver, but that is not the goal of the interview. The goal of the interview is to forget about my personal experience and empathize.

Importance of Synthesizing

After collecting input from different users, it was important to avoid the temptation to add a lot of personal details when creating personas: I realised that too many details was distracting and made my personas less credible as an analytical tool. I tried to assemble a persona’s descriptions around behavioral patterns and minimize the number of user personas, so it’s possible to focus on designing for relevant user types.

Information architecture is a game changer

Our product has a lot of different scenarios and features, so when I put everything together it looked very complex and overwhelming at first. But creating sitemaps and user wireflows helped me derive useful content structures and provide smooth user onboarding experience from complex sets of information that we had.

Next steps

Currently, we have MVP version of our product launched with 30+ customers using it. Our next steps will be to update the website gradually to make it comfortable for our users. The following things could be done as a part of the website update:
- Perform A/B testing
- Solicit feedback from our customers
- Monitor the analytics.