Helping Square merchants manage and reach their goals with relevant app recommendations.


User Research

Interaction Design

Visual Design


User Testing


August 2019 -

December 2019


Adobe XD

Adobe Illustrator



Tiffany Chao

Titilayo (TJ) Funso

Joshua Galang

Ngoc Tran



Square empowers over two million merchants around the world by helping them run their own small business. Using a suite of ecommerce tools and smart solutions, Square creates products used for selling goods and services, from brick and mortar locations to online shopping experiences. While Square remains strong in physical stores, Square products are not built with the concept of extending across multiple channels. 

How can Square help small businesses integrate and manage their brand across touchpoints and sell to more customers?


Problem Statement

How might we help Square's merchants seamlessly integrate their data across different channels?


Designing a Square Solution

Square Route is an extension of the Square dashboard that provides merchants with personalized recommendations of Square-integrated apps. These apps can help manage merchant businesses and achieve business goals based on income, employee count, business type, and personal goals that can be set. With reclaimed time and focus, merchants can focus on their store and running their business with ease.


Research + Design Methods


Online Research

Online Survey

Contextual Inquiry



Concept Testing


Heuristic Evaluation

Moderated User Testing






Online Research


How does the Square POS (Point of Sales) system work?

How can current Square merchants receive help?


Created Square accounts to familiarize with the system.

Perused Square Seller Community, an online help forum for merchants to receive official Square advice.


Learned about users, frustrations, and triumphs.

A more experienced Square merchant uses more Square products - a majority or Square merchants have food and beverages businesses.

Square products have a high learning curve.

Online Survey


Identify usage patterns in Square merchants.

Identify goals and attitudes of sellers - growing business, increase income, etc.

Obtain contact information for subsequent research sessions.


Developed an online Qualtrics survey to gather representative data

Distributed through Square Seller Community and reached out to dining establishments through social media


Collected 25 responses, 10 of which were from primary users. 

Sellers use 6 different Square products, with Square Dashboard the most commonly used.

Free response questions showed that attitude towards business running is 'fun' and 'enjoyable' but also very 'exhausting'.

Contextual Inquiries


Understand Square merchant daily workflows

Understand the tasks Square merchants use Square products for and why they use these products

Identify the common underlying work structures across various types of food and beverage businesses


Recruited 5 participants in-person guerilla style from different food and beverage businesses

Shadowed participants for about an hour as they performed key tasks and asking clarifying questions

Uncovering user needs, social, technical, and physical aspects of a work environment


From our observations, we uncovered five key insights:


Sellers want to customize tools based on their respective business needs

Sellers don't have the bandwidth to attend to their business outside core competency

Sellers use third party software to supplement

Sellers gravitate towards familiar tools

Sellers want to grow but do not have resources

With these five key insights in mind we went to affinity mapping.

Synthesis of Data


Affinity Mapping


1. Sellers use many different tools to manage the different aspects of their business. Tools do not belong to the same suite so sellers switch context. This takes up both time and mental resources by entering a different environment.

2. Sellers would like to customize their set of tools based on business needs. Food and beverage businesses vary, and each venue has their own unique needs and wants to manage their work.

3. Sellers want to focus on serving their food and customer experience. Therefore, the might not have time to work on growing their business or focusing on other goals.


How might we consolidate sellers' extending tools so that they can save time managing their business while focusing on reaching customers at touchpoints?



Basic Design Ideas


This Square extension features the customization of food and beverage businesses based on the different types of dining venue: food trucks, catering services, a dine in restaurant, and custom.

Each dining venue has a set of
tools that helps Square merchants manage and schedule events, observe income and locations.


An integrated social media tool that lets merchants post to various social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

This tool also gives insights based on the social media's metrics, such as likes, views, and more.


An addition to the standard Square dashboard that uses machine learning and business data to recommend a personalized set of Square apps that are integrated.

Recommendations are based on apps used by similar businesses. Square merchants can set their own goals and are recommended tools they can use to achieve them.


We shared our ideas with Square merchants in various feedback sessions, where we discovered some primary findings and narrowed down our ideas into one for wireframing.

  • The venue personalization tool needed to be more personal, in its current iteration it would be like consulting with a robot and too automated.

  • The app recommendation tool would be convenient and suggest apps that are used by other businesses, so merchants would be more likely to use it.

  • While the social media marketing tool would save time, it could end up sounding robotic or corny - someone would still need to engage with customers if they had any specific questions or comments that needed to be answered.

Given this feedback from our informal interview sessions, we decided to pursue the Square app recommendation tool. I was tasked to create interactive wireframes and consider our next round of testing.



Square App Recommendation Tool


Taking into account the user feedback from Square merchants, I was then able to develop a rough wireframe detailing a Square App Recommendation Tool. This tool implemented the following features which were then revised and evaluated.


On the Square Dashboard, the top banner is now used to promote and encourage Square merchants to use this new app recommendation tool. 

The banner entices users with promises of setting and achieving business goals and directly links to the Square Route homepage.

Our feedback showed that this banner should only pop up occasionally, as participants approximated they would use the recommendation tool biannually.




Merchants can confirm their business's statistics and were automatically recommended suggested integrated Square apps, including setting up their business goals with their account data. 

From our user feedback, recommendations needed to be more personal. To address this, recommendations would then be based on personal input profile and set business goals. 


Information about the apps recommended would be displayed, such as rating, price, screenshots, and a brief description of features. Only one suggestion could be focused on at a time.

Feedback suggested that apps could take up less space in order to allow for better comparison, such as lower prices or higher ratings for different types of businesses.


Once the app is downloaded, an icon appears on the side.

User testing with restaurants expressed the need for an authority figure to install apps - so that not all employees are able to download them.

Participants found it difficult to see where the integrated app appeared, which warranted the addition of a notification bubble to match users' expectations of notification signifiers.



Heuristic Evaluation


Determine if the interface works with usability heuristics

Understand the severity of each heuristic mistake based on the issue


We showed a paper prototype to experts in usability and mobile apps and instructed them to perform 4 benchmark tasks:

  1. Access Square Route on the Dashboard.

  2. Update business profile by changing employee number.

  3. Review recommended apps and learn more about them.

  4. Install the Mailchimp App.

Afterwards, experts assign ratings according to Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics and complete a System Usability Scale (SUS) questionnaire.

Our feedback was then added to the final iteration.



After consulting with the team from our heuristic evaluation with experts, we corroborated the scores from our usability testing and comments. Our researchers then distilled the data into insights that led to my redesign of the final evolution of our project. Some revisions included a more unified Square design with icons, buttons, and text to clarify tasks, utilizing user input and setting business goals, as well as authorizing and managing downloads of Square integrated apps. 


The Square Dashboard needed more detail for users to determine what it was used for. From our research, users did not understand its purpose with a brief description. To address this, I added a Learn More button that lead to a more thorough explanation of Square Route.


For a more personal experience, we added several categories for business owners to address. The categories we used included Payment Platforms, where Square merchants can input the type of business that they run, from an online store to a brick or mortar location, Number of Employees, Annual Revenue, and inputting their Top Business Goals. They then hit the Get App Recommendations button to receive their list of apps catered to their business.


From our testing, we improved the recommendation results. From our testing, users were unclear why they received said recommendations, so the final design included reasoning as to why apps were recommended.



From Square Route, I learned to apply research methods and user input to design for users. This experience was an empowering process for Square merchants, as we were able to not only conduct research through surveys, but also bring merchants in to Square headquarters for feedback sessions and participatory design. It was incredible seeing how merchants reacted to discovering new ways to achieve their business goals.

In conclusion, this project was an incredible experience to work on, and I would like to thank Square for working with us in the Georgia Tech MS-HCI program.

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