Zazzle Maker Kits

Maker Kits is a digital service designed for Zazzle Inc that provides users with curated asset kits to customize/design with, making customization design more accessible and engaging for ordinary customers through the magic of kits and the power of collaboration. This is a Capstone project for the MHCI program at Carnegie Mellon University. Our ideas have been integrated into Zazzle Create and is now live.

Context & User Research

Problem statement

How might we make customization design more accessible and engaging?

Founded in 1999, our client Zazzle enables consumers and designers to create unique products and prepare them for on-demand production by independent manufacturers for B2C and B2B customers. Zazzle makes ordinary moments more meaningful by enabling users to customize their physical world and aspires to become the destination where people can make anything. In order to achieve that, Zazzle aims to support digital creativity for the production and exchange of both digital and physical artifacts among users, making the customization design process more accessible and engaging. Zazzle is particularly interested in supporting ad hoc collaboration for this purpose.


Connecting users, unleashing creativity.

The goal of our project is to help users unleash their creativity through various modes of collaboration. We’re exploring new and innovative ways to connect different members of the Zazzle community, both users and designers alike, to lower barriers to creativity, inspire new ideas, and boost the feelings of engagement.

Lower Barriers

Inspire users to feel confident in their creative abilities.

Inspire New Ideas

Help users have more ideas and better outcomes by working together.

Boost Engagement

Give users a reason to come to the platform, stay longer, and return often.


Figure out barriers that impede engagement of customization experience on Zazzle.

In order to reach the above mentioned goals, we conducted contextual inquiries, sent our survey, and did affinity diagraming with the data collected. We got connected with more than 100 individuals during the process, including the Zazzle customer service team, potential users, scholars studying creativity and community, local creative community runners & participants, etc.


The current ways of customization design on Zazzle provides either too much freedom or too many limitations.

Through generative research, we found out that on current Zazzle, the most common ways of customization design are: starting from scratch (a blank canvas), or choosing a template. For ordinary users who don't have strong backgrounds, starting with a blank canvas can be too intimidating since it provides too much freedom and requires lots of expertise. On the other hand, simply choosing a template can be too boring since, by the time users arrive on the canvas, most of the creative work has already been done by the template designers. Therefore, we were curious: Is there a sweet middle ground on the spectrum that provides just the right amount of guidance to ensure the quality of works, yet is able to unleash users' creativity?


Zazzle's current 'product-driven' information structure doesn’t correspond to users' 'content-driven' mindset.

Based on our generative research, we realized that distinct from other E-commerce customers, for Zazzle users, It’s the design on the products that matter most, not the products themselves. However, the current Zazzle follows the common E-commerce 'product-driven' structure: users have to search and choose a product first, and then make designs or choose a template for it.

However, for the majority of Zazzle users, they come to Zazzle with a 'content-driven' mindset. They care more about the patterns and designs on a product way more than the product itself. Especially for an event planner, it's common for them to pick a theme/style first and make sure that all the products follow it.


Zazzle already has an active designer community that could have been further utilized.

Zazzle's ecosystem is made of three key stakeholders: customers, designers, and manufactures. Currently, Zazzle already has a large number of designers who post their works on the platform as templates or final products for sale, some of them have contract with Zazzle, others are just ordinary users with design expertise. We realized that there's endless potential to leverage this already existing community.

Design Concept


Maker Kits: a sweet middle ground on the 'scratch - template' spectrum.

We defined 'Maker Kits' as curated collections of digital asset kits that users can combine and modify to make their ideas come to life. With the help of Maker Kits, users neither have to start from a blank canvas nor have to be trapped in the limitations of templates. It's a sweet middle ground on the 'scratch - template' spectrum, which allows customization design to be neither too intimidating nor too limited, but handy, delightful and engaging.


Follow Maya's Journey, see the magic of Maker Kits!

Maya is planning a birthday party for her daughter Zaha and wants everything to be just perfect! With Maker Kits, Maya can easily customize all party supplies at once in the same style. Check outthe video to experience Maya’s party planning journey!

Lower Barriers

Users can customize products using pre-designed digital asset kits.

Inspire New Ideas

Users are able to design multiple products at once in the same style.

Boost Engagement

Users are able to collaborate with friends or design experts throughout the process.


Kit Browsing & Kit Detail

The new Zazzle create tool makes it simple to customize and preview multiple products at the same time. With Kits, it’s never been easier for users to design a whole suite of products that look great together.

Combo Recommendation Engine (Wizard Quiz)

Our recommendation engine learns about users’ style and event preferences to connect them with everything they need to get started with maker kits.  

Recommended Combo

Idea Canvas

Collaborating with friends to plan a dream event? Idea Canvas offers users a simple and joyful way to share and get real-time feedback on design ideas, inspiration, and works-in-progress.

Highly-Simplified Create Tool

The new Zazzle create tool is highly-simplified and intuitive to use. After choosing a certain kit, users are able to apply layout, elements, background, text, and uploads to the canvas, and enjoy the delight of design and creation with Maker Kits.

Multi-Product Design

The new Zazzle create tool makes it simple to customize and preview multiple products at the same time. With Kits, it’s never been easier for users to design a whole suite of products that look great together.

Multi-Product Preview

Can’t wait to see what the party will look like? Neither can we. The new product preview feature lets users view all of their products side-by-side, so users can be sure that everything’s perfect for the big day before they click to order.


Maker Kit Design Guideline Cards

To sum up the project, we have compiled the most important things we learned into Design Guideline cards. We hope that they can shred some light on the implementation of the Maker Kits system. Click to view the digital version of the guideline cards.



Workshop: “Are Maker Kits a viable way for users to create?”

In order to validate the maker kit concept, the first question we asked ourselves was: is our idea even a viable way for users to create? To answer the question, we designed a physical prototyping session. In this session, we asked our 7 participants to design a birthday card or t-shirt for their friends with the maker kits we curated in three different themes. None of our participants is from design background, and relatively have few or no experience designing t-shirts or birthday cards. Throughout the session, we found that our physical maker kits truly made design more accessible in terms of offering easy start and reducing efforts to maintain style consistency.


Usability Test: “How do users work with Maker Kits in a digital format?”

With everything we learned from physical prototyping, we decided to move forward with digital maker kits to see how we can transfer the great experience people had with the physical prototype to digital. We scheduled five user testing sessions to ask participants to plan an event using our interactive prototype. Key features we tested: we observed how users browse and select kits, collaborate through idea canvas, create design variations, and preview their design work and products. The mockups shown in the Design section were refined version based on usability testing feedback.

phase 3: collaborative

Workshop: “How do Maker Kits impact the way that users work together?”

To explore how real-time collaboration with Maker Kits is unique, we conducted four user testing sessions with simulated Maker Kits cross-comparing two variables: relationship and communication mode. During the test, we use Figma to simulate the kit experience and use Slack to simulate the remote chat feature. We noticed that friend-friend collaboration was joyful and dynamic, while expert-novice pair needs some goal-setting beforehand. We also noticed that in remote sessions, the participants tended to reserve communication for higher-level decisions and actions, and were less likely to collaborate on smaller, more granular decisions. The conversation was mostly task-oriented, with little to no social interactions.


UX methods can be fun and creative, don't be afraid to 'invent' new methods when in need.

Since our project has a lot to do with unleashing users' creativity, we ourselves were also trying to push our boundaries to be more creative with the methods we conducted. In the evaluative research phase, we tried so many fun and innovative methods to evaluate our designs, including the physical kit prototyping, lego activity, and the collaborative workshop. We were trying our best to not be limited by traditional methods, but to find the ways that best fit our research needs. These newly created methods turned out to be quite effective and made the whole journey a lot more engaging as well.


We were designing not just an independent product, but a part of the future Zazzle planet. It's important to think of its integration into the current eco-system.

We were lucky enough to be assigned a project that was envisioned as a part of the future Zazzle planet, but it was also challenging because it was not simply a passion project that can go anywhere. During our design process, we were able to visit Zazzle on-site in the bay area, talking with clients and various stakeholders to better understand the Zazzle eco-system. We tried to not only design a 'class project', but something that can realistically be integrated and implemented in the near future.