Observing and Interviewing People Using IFTTT

A UX project for a product I enjoy — Part 1: Problem Finding

When I first tried out IF, I instantly fell in love with its smartness and semi-geeky personality. However, as a UX designer, my first instinct was to think about how to improve the experience.

After running around cafes in Berkeley and observing real people use the app, I found that there are quite a few things IF could do better.

The design process we will follow:

User Research


To identify pain points.


Observing + Interviewing people

What: IF iOS app

How: Observing and interviewing people

Who: First-time users. Sampling from people in cafes around Berkeley

Sample Size: 12 people

Scope and Limitation

This research only focuses on first-time users.

While I would love to interview more existing users, it just happens that not many cafe sitters in Berkeley are IF fans.

Later in the process I’ll make sure I am aware of the current design tradeoffs made to optimize experience for existing users.

The Findings

Pain points in each key action.

Pain Points in each key action summarized in post-it notes.

Processing Problems and Needs

In this step, I synthesized what users said and my observations into problem and need statements. Problems are categorized based on main actions/steps.


100% users expressed negative opinions on onboarding experience.

What am I supposed to do here?
What is this? Why do I need this?” “Why are these activated?


  1. The intro tutorial isn’t effective in telling users what IF is. For example, 60% people still don’t know what a “Channel” is after the tutorial.
  2. People don’t know what to do on the first screen because it doesn’t offer enough useful information to new users. Some are confused why channels are automatically activated and what that mean.

Need: People need to see something relevant and useful immediately after logging in.

Browsing Recipes

The action users spend most time on.

What are these? That’s a lot of stuff!

Problem: The “Collection” gallery doesn’t seem to be effective in terms of helping users find useful recipes because people have already spent 2 clicks (or more) to get here and they are still not seeing things that are immediately useful/actionable.

Need: People need to get to recipes that are relevant to them quickly (this seems to be a recurring needs).

Oh I need Android? I am using an iPhone!


  1. It takes too long for users to get to recipes that are useful for them because many recipes consist of apps they don’t use. (For example, iOS users seeing Android specific recipes. Most users tap on those and get discouraged.)
  2. Some recipe descriptions are not well written for easy reading.

Need: People need to see recipes that are composed of apps they use.

Wait, so I’ve added this? I didn’t even tell it my work location…oh I need to edit it? That’s confusing.
For some recipes, users will not see any editing option before adding them. Users will have to go to “My Recipe,” tap on the recipe and edit it.

Problem: For some recipes the editing process is too tedious (this is not a problem for all recipes).

Need: People need editing options before adding recipes.

Creating A New Recipe

People find it hard to come up with recipes.

I am not seeing apps I use.

Problem: It’s hard for people to create recipes because they cannot easily find apps they already use. (Scrolling through the horizontal list only to see apps they don’t use is painful).

Need: People need to easily find apps they want to trigger/put actions on.

What? I need to type my Google info? That’s so much work!
People find this annoying.

Problem: Inputting login credentials is too tedious on a phone screen.

Need: People want to activate channels without typing.

I can’t think of what I want to do…

Problem: Not everyone thinks of things they want to automate.

Need: Users need to see useful recipes

You need programming experience to use this app, it’s complicated!

Problem: The “if this then that” logic is unfamiliar to some people.

Need: N/A

Editing Recipes

People think it’s complicated to look at.

What is “Check Now?

Problem: Most people do not understand what “Check Now” means or are confused by what it does when they press it.

I don’t know what to do with this…


  1. The layout/UI for editing screen does not well afford editing actions.
  2. The use of programming syntax could confuse some people.

Need: People need to an easier way to edit existing recipes.

Other Observations

  1. People spent most time browsing through published recipes, rather than trying to create their own.
  2. Many people said “oh I can see how this is useful if I have “this” (eg. Nest).
  3. Almost all said “Oh this is cool” when they found something potentially useful, but not all proceeded to add it.
  4. 83% people gave up during channel activation process.

Which Problem to Solve?

Looking at a list of problems like this could be daunting an I do not attempt to solve all of them. I used the following tools to help me prioritize and identify the ones that are worth solving.

User Flow Chart

Flow + Pain Points + Why + % of users

*Remember the bias in this research: All test subjects are first time users. I suspect the % of users having these problems should be a lot lower for returning users. But 100% people having onboarding problem should be a serious alert.

Understanding the Ecosystem

Thinking of the ecosystem gave me a broader perspective.

Conclusion from analysis

The usefulness of IF is highly correlated to:

  1. The number of apps in the platform people already use.
  2. How fast and easy people can find/create useful recipes.

Defining Problem

People get frustrated when they cannot easily find/add relevant recipes. It is a problem that causes poor onboarding experience, as well as perception of low utility (possibly an issue for some returning users too).

2 reasons why people cannot easily find/create useful recipes:

  1. The platform is still growing. More useful recipes will be available as more products/users join the IF platform.
  2. Too much clutter get in the way. For example Android specific recipes have no reason to show up in an iPhone. Also, people are being shown recipes made of apps they don’t use (which count as “clutter” too).

Why I Picked this Problem

This may seem like a general problem statement, but delivering useful recipes is the core value of IF. I believe going after the highest impact solvable problem is always (90% of the time) right for product development, instead of fixing stuff that may not matter in the long term.

I also suspect that this is a problem for returning users too, because IF emails people daily to get them add recipes. Obviously, the more recipes people find useful, the more likely they will stick with IF!

I will decompose the problem into manageable parts in my problem solving process.

Part 2: Three Design Recommendations for IF

**I do not work for IFTTT, this is a side project for a product I love. I am a student at UC Berkeley. I freelance UX projects for interesting people and products.