‘OUR HOUSE’ — THE APP THAT CREATES THE HOME NO ONE WANTS TO LEAVE .

Leith Brown
Sep 24, 2016 · 8 min read

We set out to explore the methods and utility of user experience design (UX) and how it might work in an every day situation for a busy London Resident and his three flatmates.

Airows: Industrial Design

It demonstrates user experience design’s unique qualities as a powerful problem solving tool, its relative simplicity and practical application. It is a single case study and we have not gone so far as to begin wire-framing and simply proceeded to paper prototyping, and testing with rapid paper prototyping.

In this project we addressed a particular situation faced when renting with flatmates in London, a typical scenario that would apply to any group of people located in any part of the world.

The question was, “How to make the space we rent and live in, more than than just a place to eat, sleep and base ourselves?”

“Can we turn those four walls into a home we enjoy spending time in and a space we can share with friends that everyone loves.”

This is what we’ve learnt and what’s been achieved so far.

OUR BRIEF

TO DESIGN A ROUGH INTERACTIVE PAPER PROTOTYPE THAT ADDRESSED A PROBLEM IN AN ALLOCATED PARTNER’S LIFE

Skills Required:

  • Discover: Research, user-interviews, 5 x W’s, the ‘how’ and the 5 x ‘whys’, online research, concept mapping, discovery of the user’s primary goal.
  • Defining the problem from the data: Concept mapping, story boarding, task analysis, establishing the primary user goal.
  • Solution: Competitor analysis, ideation, contributory design studio, paper prototyping, testing, iteration, rapid paper prototyping.
  • Work Documentation: Sketching, note-taking, photography, concept mapping, story boarding, user journey, user ‘why statement’, user flow defining primary goal, contributory user flows, contributory UI design, paper prototyping, rapid paper prototypes using Marvel, presentation using Keynote, case study using Medium.
  • Testing: Story board, user journey and primary goal, user ‘why statement’, user flows, paper prototypes, rapid paper prototypes with Marvel.
  • Presentation: Keynote.

DISCOVERY PHASE

User Research: Questionnaire

During the initial discovery phase a series of interviews were carried out with Ben, my primary user. The questions were kept quite open with an initial emphasis on establishing good rapport, and probing further to gain an understanding of his particular need. He would go on to explain the journey to accomplish this and the frustrations he experienced when trying to make it happen.

Over several followup interviews the questions were gradually refined using the ‘who, what, when, where, why ….. and how’ method, to gain an in-depth understanding of Ben’s most important need, the problem that it presented and a path to discovering an answer. The 5 x ‘whys’ drilled deeper into each subject area revealing the bottom line of his thinking, and the emotive drive that powered them.

Ben’s answers gave good insights into this particular dream, one he shared with his three flatmates. He related it as a story that was mapped out, revealing the ideal journey that he hoped would enabled this dream to become a future reality. It was a way he and his flatmates could affordably change the very ordinary space they occupied into one they could envisage as a cosy home. One they could enjoy with friends and partners. From the researcher’s point of view there was a need to understand the significant highs and lows that Ben’s journey had uncovered. In particular it was important to reveal the specific pain-points that had made this journey more time consuming and a struggle. By defining these difficulties accurately I hoped to discover possible solutions to overcome them. I was also curious to see if the interview process had, in itself, helped him identify these sufficiently clearly. Allowing the dialogue through our interviews, subsequent collaborative design and prototype testing to bring out intuitive answers that lay dormant within the questions he raised.

Concept Mapping

To gained a better understanding of the user journey and define its inherent problems I concept mapped the answers Ben gave me. A tool that helps to brainstorm presenting concepts given by the user. A concept map highlights your key concepts/topics and then branches out to sub-topics, important keywords, and cross-links that help connect ideas across your map. It’s a visual aide that both shows and explains the connection between specific concepts and ideas.

Version 2.

In Summary:

  1. As one of four friends who had each known one another since university days, they wanted to create a comfortable and inviting flat environment for their girlfriends and friends.
  2. The plan was to spend as much time as possible together, warm & snug in their home space.
  3. They knew exactly what decor they wanted to use and how they wanted to arrange it in their flat.
  4. Their deadline for creating this cosy habitation was just two months, and to finish before the winter was upon them.

Version 3.

Concept map taken from answers to the questionnaire defining the 5 x W’s and the How

WITH BEN’S HELP WE STORY-BOARDED HIS JOURNEY WITH HIS GOAL IN MIND

Story Boarding these concepts gave a pictorial representation of Ben’s journey. It gave both an informational context to his story as well as a visualisation of tasks within.

Story Boarding Ben’s journey helped define the various actions/tasks and highlight his prime goal

Although it is represented by a series of rough sketches, the five W’s helped to highlight the important features (Who, What, Why, When, Where ….. and How). A ‘Happy’ or ‘Ideal Path’ evolved from this and was made much clearer with testing and further iterations, revealing the cleaner digitised version seen below.

DEFINING STAGE

BENS JOURNEY — THE HAPPY PATH

This better demonstrated Ben’s frustrations and real concerns with time, budget, finding the right decor and researching the local accessibility of the products they wanted. The process proved to be very insightful for Ben who realised it might all be possible with the aid of an App.

IT ALSO GAVE HELPFUL IDEATION FOR A SOLUTION DESIGN

THE UX VISION FOR BEN

A MOBILE APP!

THIS WOULD NEATLY WRAP-UP BEN’S ONLINE SEARCH AND STILL MEET THEIR AGREED:

  1. TASTE IN DECOR
  2. THE E-COMMERCE SITES ACCESSIBILITY TO THEIR FLAT
  3. BE WITHIN THEIR BUDGET
  4. BE EFFICIENTLY SHAREABLE AMONGST THEM FOR IMMEDIATE AGREEMENT AND PURCHASE…
  5. FACILITATE THEIR TIME CONCERNS TO CREATE A COSY HOME BEFORE WINTER

DEVELOPMENT STAGE

USER FLOWS

It sounded a good idea but we needed to test its validity. To see if it would work in practice and ultimately prove its overal usability. The method was to capture the ‘primary user flow’ that characterised Ben’s intention for an App that would meet the need of all his flatmates to achieve their overarching goal. Taking a note of Ben’s journey, the story board we had developed and the task analysis results, we sketched an initial flow and added three rounds of testing, with five new subjects for each round.

Version 1

Various user flow iterations were tested and modified during the testing process.

V1. sketch before testing.

Version 2.

Version 2.

Iteration following testing, produced this more applicable user flow sketch.

After further testing with a third version we produced this final flow sketch.

Version 3.

Digitised version 3. Ben’s User Flow From Start to End Goal Defining the Important Decision Points

A critique crawl of our work was undertaken to demonstrate the various ideas and sketch iterations that had been made and developed following testing. This allowed discussion and a variation of input to add validity to what had been discovered and subsequently defined. It helped us add validity to the various problems the App needed to overcome and suggested ways we might develop solutions to meet them. It also provided much needed ideation for the next stage of user interface (UI) sketching.

‘Critique/Crawl’ to bring some clarity to our steps, gaining useful feedback

A ROUGH PAPER PROTOTYPE WAS THEN PRODUCED

FURTHER TESTING AND ITERATIONS

Rough ‘Paper Prototype’ outlining the various functionality points

The testing process brought up several challenges with scope, surface design and usability.

With further iterations we came up with a prototype that was useful and practical in a simple context. It gave us a general idea of how the app would work and look, sufficient for us to try it with rapid paper prototyping on Marvel.

WITH FURTHER TESTING A MORE WORKABLE YET BASIC PAPER PROTOTYPE WAS ITERATED

A RAPID PAPER PROTOTYPE WAS THEN PRODUCED

LINK TO MARVEL

Usability testing with Ben on Marvel

SO WHAT WILL THIS MEAN TO USER’S LIKE BEN?

Instead of trawling the internet or various furnishing stores weekend after weekend and then messaging back & forward amongst their flatmates or partners for agreement & confirmation — a complete ‘pain-in-the-butt’ for most people — Ben and those who are similarly time-poor, but with a specific budget in mind and who are determined to pursue their discerning tastes in decor will find ‘Our House’ a very helpful app to make informed and efficient purchases.

NEXT STEPS

  • Add-in further screens to make the app more responsive and comprehensive in its utility.
  • Carry out further design testing to encourage better implementation and flow between interfaces
  • Carry out further research into UI design and usability
  • Continue to progress UI development and delivery to a high fidelity prototype
  • Adapt it for android and other devices including desktop
  • Overcome integration conflicts with user hardware
  • Develop an effective marketing research capability amongst the variation of platforms
  • Make regular upgrades accessible to users.

Thank you for viewing our design and please don’t hesitate to reply with questions or further enquiries about the product.

Leith Brown UX Design Student General Assembly London.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade