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UX Case study

Redesigning the background customization process for a new gmail account.

Project overview

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Starting something new is exciting, but at the same time could be scary. Creating new accounts possibly means that we are trying something new. (Yeeey!) To make things more comfortable, or to have the feeling that in some ways we are in control, customizing the new accounts could be just that. Being familiar with the virtual space and having the feeling that we at least know something. Except….. Even when this simple task becomes a challenge. 

So here is my process - using the UX design thinking -  on how to add a picture from my own gallery to a new gmail account. 


4 weeks


Miro       Invision        Figma

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My Role




The Problem

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Already added a picture to Google Photos.

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However it doesn't show up in the ''My Photos'' section to add it as background. 

The Thought Process & Solutions

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Naturally it got me confused as to where the picture is that I have just uploaded to Google Photos, so first I rechecked if it is really there. It was.

Then I went to the ''Learn more'' section, which we all know it will probably be just a long article, maybe with a solution, maybe not. At that point looking at the long article, I decided I rather just google it. The answer was fast and simple. Photos need to be put in an album in order for ''My Photos'' to display them. 

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So then I was thinking that either every picture, that is added to Google Photos, could be shown in the ''My Photos'' section , or instead of a blank page, there should be some sort of info or notification on what to do. I kind of saw the point on not synchronising ''My Photos'' with Google Photos. Duplicating the same files could be a waste of space, so I was more inclined towards the idea of pointing the user to the already existing list and chose from there. 

From a user point of view I see however that doing the work in the background is probably a better solution. The less click the happier the user is. But since it should be only a one or two click solution (not sure yet), plus saving space- well, not using extra space, is a win for Google as well. 

The Design Process

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Competitive analysis

I gathered some of the main email providers







to see what they offer regarding this background setting. It seems like only Gmail provides the option to add a personal picture. The rest usually offers dark mode and default photos. 

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Questions and Results:

1. What email processor(s) do you use?

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Gmail - 7

Thunderbird - 1

Hotmail - 1

Outlook - 1

Icloud -1

Yahoo - 1

2. Do you use separate accounts for work and for personal reasons?

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3. Do you like to customise your email account?



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4. What features you use to personalise the account? (theme/ display/ conversation view/ etc...)

Themes - 6

Organizing mails - 2

Folders - 3

Views - 2

Rules - 2

None - 1

Colors - 2


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5. Are you satisfied with the themes given in the account?

6. How is the experience selecting a theme (default/ ''my photos'') in the account?



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7. Is there anything you would like to modify in the personalisation of the account?



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My take on this is that people in general are not too bothered to use their own photo.


In retrospect I am missing one important question that would be specific to the actual problem. Such as:

''How is the experience choosing your own picture in the ''My Photos'' section?''

With this, I could see how the users deal with the issue and probably a follow up question, such as:

''Is there anything you would like to modify in the process of adding your own picture?'' 

I could see suggestions from the user's perspective. 

Usability test


Adding a photo to a new gmail account from the Google Photos app. I used my own experience for this task. 

Affinity diagram

The Good points mainly are that customisation is available, even if it is limited.


The Pain points mainly referred to email organisation, not customisation. Except for my result in gmail, which is probably the result of the missing question in the survey. 

Customer Journey Map

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Flow Diagram


Below is the URL for the Miro board that includes the Affinity Diagram, the CJM, and the Flow diagram:

Interaction Design

I added information that the picture needs to be added to an album, also I included a link that directs the user to Google Photos. 


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After finishing and reviewing the project, I have realised I could make some improvements, such as the survey and the solution itself. 

For the survey, it seems my focus wasn't solution oriented. The results made me realise the questions were more related to the use of this function from the user's perspective and not about any possible difficulty with it. Not having this aspect impacted the whole process.

For the solution, I could have created a one click option. The users could be sent directly to Google Photos. 

Regarding the prototype, I got the same questions during feedbacks, which was, If I screenshot the screen states from gmail. This made me think if it is a good or a bad thing. The good side is that my work is apparently good ( because I created each screen in Figma ), on the other hand, did I waste too much time doing that? As in the end no one could tell the difference. My personal feel is that I'm glad I did every detail, because I became more familiar with every feature. However I also got an idea now how I might save some time in future tasks. 

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