Okapi Reusables
Bringing okapi to the u-district
Okapi deals page.
In collaboration with Okapi Reusables for the 2023 HCDE Design for Passion project, my team worked to research and redesign Okapi’s borrowing systems to improve the user experience of Boba customers in the U-District.
10 weeks
June-Aug 2023
UX Research
UX Design
Team Management
Anagha Y
Srushti S
Okapi Reusables manages a circular cup borrowing system aimed at reducing plastic waste in takeout containers. Users can borrow reusable cups and later return them to any Okapi location.

Okapi currently services the Portland and San Francisco metro areas, focusing on primarily coffee shops. In addition to these two markets, Okapi is looking to expand into Seattle’s University (U)-District, particularly with its many boba shops.
Picture of Okapi glass cups with boba in them
"How can we improve Okapi’s system to improve the user experience of cup borrowing for boba in the U-District?"
  • What is the current boba experience like for customers?
  • Which aspects are the most important?
  • How does Okapi's system prevent/alter this?
  • What are users’ current thoughts on Okapi?
  • What would make users more likely to join Okapi?
We began by sending out user surveys to student forums and groups*. Our goal was to examine what the current boba experience was like, and which aspects mattered to people the most. We then selected voluntary participants from the survey to conduct user interviews, where we explored their thoughts and concerns regarding Okapi’s system.
Okapi interview screenshotOkapi interview screenshot
Okapi’s onboarding is complicated.
From our interviews, we found the users had several reservations about Okapi’s signup process. New users were required to download the app and pay a membership fee before borrowing, which created adoption barriers.
Quote: "It feels like a lot of burden is being put on the customer to download the app and pay the fee beforehand."Quote: "I would like to know the impact that I am making. I think that would definitely incentivize me to try it."
Users wanted to see their impact.
We found in our interviews that they would be more incentivized to use Okapi if they knew what effect they were making. Such information might even increase investment.
Deals/rewards are big incentives.
Not only did we find that exclusive discounts and rewards were widely used, we also found that they greatly enticed when and where people would buy boba.
Stat: 91.4% of participants use/have used cafe rewards
In addition to these findings, we also met with the Okapi founders to understand any of their concerns. Through this, we found that Okapi’s system was susceptible to theft as users would scan return codes without returning cups.
To address the findings from our user research, we proposed a redesign of Okapi's borrowing system:
  • Discard the subscription fee to make for a more accessible entry
  • Enable cup borrowing without the use of an app
  • Add statistics and rewards within the app to engage users
  • Implement cup identification to track inventory and prevent theft
To allow users to borrow cups without an app, we designed a web view that users could access by scanning a café QR code. We added a section to enter cup numbers, which would allow cafes and Okapi to better track cups.
Web app screenshot of ordering of payment and cup info prompt
Webapp screenshot of order confirmation
In addition to the webapp, we designed updates to the main app. Within Okapi's mobile app, we added sections for statistics and deals, which would promote engagement and increased borrowing.
App screenshot of deals page
App screenshot of deals screen
We improved additional features of the app, for example improving the map feature for better searching. We also updated the borrowing feature to include cup inventory, matching that of the webapp.
We presented our final recommendations and designs to Okapi and our Design for Passion Cohort. We also discussed our research findings and results with Okapi so that they could best implement our ideas into their final goals.  
Picture of me presenting my project to the Design for Passion cohort.
Despite the Design for Passion program only lasting 10 weeks, I gained valuable experience working with a client. With the completion of our project, I had three main takeaways:
Time management is crucial for remote work.
Due to the project taking place in a remote environment, this left my team across three different time zones. With there being over a 12-hour difference, it was crucial that we used our meeting times efficiently and planned work schedules effectively.
Client involvement should not be overlooked.
Towards the beginning of our project, we did not frequently meet with our client. Due to our team's time difference, we opted to communicate via email to give progress updates. However, this meant that we limited ourselves with deeper discussion. We aimed to fix this in the later half of the project, scheduling more meetings which greatly helped refine our project goal and vision.
Quality user research takes time.
If I were to redo this project with a longer time frame, I would want to spend more time with user research. I found the limited information from our survey and interview studies to be greatly beneficial, and would have liked to explore further through other studies. Learning more about other demographics and markets would have been particularly interesting, and would have been something I would like to explore given more time.