A case study: UX in the living room
As part of my current UX course, I had to undertake a Design Thinking Project to understand how designers apply the Design Thinking Process.
For this project, we were divided into small teams and presented with a list of areas of a house. My team comprised of seven members. Members of the group were required to pick their preferred area; I chose the living room impulsively. Each member then acted as a designer for their chosen topic, while the rest were their target users.
At the outset of the project, I was thinking that it is a redesigning, rearranging or decoration work, but I was clarified that it was more about gathering user experience — comfort and challenges in a particular living space of the user’s house. Using the information gathered from the user, we were to find solutions in the form of a product or service to enhance his/her comfort level in that particular living space.
Now, I had so many questions popping into my mind like…
“So, then what is that I can do in a ‘living room’ using the UX process?”
Well, the project was to implement the process to enhance the users’ experience in that area, then…
“What if the user had no problem with his/her room and is very comfortable, then?”
Bingo! That was the challenge for us. We had to learn Design Thinking while implementing the process into a project to find out what problems a user might be facing within his comfortable environment.
The Design Thinking Process is a five-step approach to finding meaningful solutions for users' problems while using a product or service. The five steps are Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. It is a non-linear, human-centric and iterative process.
The first stage of the process is gathering information/user experience from the user through user interviews and understanding their perspective.
Major unlearning in this stage: I ≠ User
Now comes the most interesting and challenging part of the project, which is “framing questions”. What’s great about framing questions — you need to interview in such a way that it is more like a friendly chat than a Q&A session.
Plotting the interview is a critical aspect of this stage of the process and the entire project. Everything depends on the interview and its outcome. The insights we collect will be the core/crux of the entire solution finding process from the user experience.
Interviewing a minimum of four persons was mandatory, but I intended to widen my net to capture more inputs and insights by interviewing all my six team members.
Following are few guidelines which I used to frame my questions for the interview.
Keep the questions generic so that user can share their experience in their own words.
Avoid assuming user situation while asking questions.
Avoid asking questions that will prompt users to give YES/NO or single-word answers.
Avoid suggesting solutions while interviewing because that might change the direction of the interview while leaving the problem unaddressed.
Directly asking the user about their problem is futile since they are accustomed to their situation. Example: What is the problem? (Don’t ask)
Never educate/provide hints to the user to answer the questions.
You can gain insight into real experiences by asking users about their recent past.
I initiated my interview with a google form for profile scanning. Then followed it up with my own project Q&A as below.
When interviewing, I kept adding and changing the above set of questions depending on the user and their living room set-up. It was challenging to refrain from my urge to offer solutions and assume the user situation during the interviews that’s what I need to master.
Using insights from interviews, I summarized each user’s living room relationship — their comfy and not-so-comfy zones. Not-so-comfy zones are my area of solution-finding.
In this stage, we take the insights from the user interview, identify their challenges and define the problems/challenges.
Major unlearning in this stage: Focus only on the problems, don’t think about solutions yet.
After the interview, from my notes, I went into a typing frenzy listing all the problems identified by users. Then added all that was not said or identified by the user as problems. This resulted in a proper definition of the problem/ challenges in the user’s living room.
An example of problem definition,
UserA has a six-seat dining table that rarely gets used, which is just one of the problems I identified. The problem is that there is an asset which is in the living room that is underutilised and occupies space.
Why it is a problem to solve?
It is the family’s living room that doubles as a dining room and living space. When they all get together to dine, watch television, and chat, they spend quality time together. On the dining table, condiments are kept, and the space around it is used for storing toys for the children. Thus, a solution needs to be devised so that the dining table and the space it occupies can be effectively used.
Remember, there are NO trivial problems.
At this stage, we examine the problem statement and generate as many ideas as possible.
Having identified the problems, our next stage was solution generation. Our mentors gave us a technique to generate ideas, the Crazy8. The objective of this technique is to develop eight ideas in 8 minutes for one problem statement. Though I applied the technique, I could not come up with more than three ideas for certain problems.
Solutions generated for UserA problem statement (6 seat dining table),
— dispose of the existing dining table
— a shelf for kids toys in the place of the dining table
— a convertible teapoy cum dining table
— a wall-mounted foldable dining table
— portable TV stand
— a storage unit for condiments, coasters and cutlery
Remember, there are NO bad ideas.
The next step in the ideate stage is to filter the top three ideas from various ideas we generated for all the problems identified with all the users.
Here are my top three ideas for three different users.
(1)Top idea for UserA
A space-saving teapoy cum dining table with storage for condiments
Family meals are a time to spend quality time together, and this furniture will make UserA living room a more inviting place. Simple and compact, this piece of furniture fits perfectly near the sofa and can be moved when necessary.
(2)Top idea for UserB
An ottoman with storage
An ottoman with storage will be ideal for UserB, who spends most of his leisure time watching movies and series.
It can be used to hold snacks, remotes, and other accessories for quick access, as well as as a footrest. A hidden storage area and a seating area for guests
(3)Top idea for UserC
UserC house is below the terrace. The leaks in his living room during monsoons and the heat during summers make it impossible to use in these months. We can therefore fix this issue by weatherproofing and waterproofing the terrace.
Now we move to the next stage which is designing a prototype.
At this stage, we create an inexpensive working model of our ideated solution.
For this stage, I am going to take only one user (UserA) as an example and explain the process. For UserA, I found a prototype for the top idea, A space-saving teapoy cum dining table with storage for condiments, as illustrated below.
Testing is the last stage of the five-step approach. In this stage, we propose our solution and display our prototype and get feedback from our users.
I presented my solution and prototype to my team (i.e.) users and received my fair share of positive feedback. Following are the valuable feedback I received from my users.
— The height of the convertible will not be comfortable for dining when seated on the sofa.
— Questions raised on the existing dining table.
— Where would the condiments, coasters and cutlery be placed?
From the feedback and self-assessment, I learnt that there is always room for improvement, and how the process is iterative.
After the feedback, I searched online for furniture that would solve the above problems and satisfy the feedback I got from the users. I could not find one that would serve my solution, hence I sketched my solution with ideas from the internet.
My prototype has the following features:
— a hydraulic lever that raises and lowers the height
— a pull-out drawer to store condiments and coasters
— wheels to move it
— an expandable top to fit four or six people depending on the room size
The solutions that I propose for enhancing the living room experience is as follows,
1. A teapoy cum dining table convertible with height adjusting mechanism and storage (I sketched it out with ideas from the market)
2. The removal of the existing dining table.
3. The old dining table will be replaced with a shelf to store toys and books of the kids, which will increase the usable space and also improve the view on the west end of the room.
- Make sure to have a conversational style user interview.
- Ask many ‘why’ during the interview.
- Unlearn the urge to give solutions during the interview.
- Record the interview for later reference.
- Testing and Feedback is to test the solution, not the capability of the person.
The project was for us to learn the Design Thinking Process in a non-textbook manner, which is what I think I have achieved to some extent— using the Desing thinking process I have enhanced the comfort and convenience of my UserA in her living room without compromising their family quality time.
Thank you for taking the time to read my case study. Your valuable feedback will be highly appreciated.