Enhancing users’ homes through a video chat platform

Creating a concept interior design advice app for MADE.com

Overview

  • Sprint duration: 2 weeks
  • Brief type: Concept
  • Deliverables: High-fidelity prototype and project presentation
  • Tools used: Miro, Trello and Figma
  • Team: 4
  • My role: Facilitator - organising the team’s schedule and ensuring we stayed on track with deliverables
  • My contribution: User interviews, augmented reality feature from mid to hi-fi, visual design and usability tests

Brief

MADE.com is a homeware brand selling through an online store. They plan to pilot a new paid service allowing customers to access remote interior design advice via a video chat platform.

The key criteria for the app include:

  • Enabling users to browse and choose designers
  • Allowing designers to recommend products
  • The service must not feel like a sales channel

Context

As this project kicked off during the UK’s 3rd lockdown, I was really excited to work on a virtual solution which could help users enhance their living spaces during this difficult time.

Outcome

We went big and ambitious with our final solution. Our research showed that users need support and reassurance when making design decisions remotely.

To help users make decisions, we included a measurement tool in our app to give users confidence that products would fit in their spaces. We also included an augmented reality product recommendations feature to inspire users and allow them to preview products before purchase.

Discover: Learning about users through research

Insights survey

To begin our discover phase, we created an insights survey to help us find out about users attitude, abilities and confidence towards home decoration.

We received 59 responses and our key finding were:

I was happy to see from these results that there was a clear appetite for this app due to users’ strong interest in interior design, their need for advice and their willingness to pay for the service.

User interviews

To build on our survey findings, we conducted 15 semi-structured interviews over Zoom. I conducted 5 and led the team in creating a script.

We asked open-ended questions to gain qualitative data about:

To organise our interview insights and spot patterns in the data we created an affinity map. At first I found this challenging and was overwhelmed by the amount of data, but my team and I worked together to sift through it.

Our key findings were:

  • Users value interior aesthetic more now due to increased time at home
  • Users want inspiration and teaching about interior design
  • Some users know their style but still welcome style advice
  • Other users don’t have much confidence when it comes to interior design
  • Users perceive interior design advice to be expensive

Competitive research

To understand the competitive landscape of the virtual interior design space, we did a feature comparison of 8 competitors.

I have focused our findings on 3 direct competitors and 1 indirect competitor:

From this we learnt that there was an opportunity to explore an augmented reality feature and measurement tool. This solution would differentiate our product from other services.

Define Phase: Defining users’ core challenges

Next, we moved to the definition stage of our design process. Here we aimed to determine who our target user was and their main concerns about home decoration.

User persona

We created a persona focusing on one of the key user segments highlighted in our research.

This is a user who is interested in home decoration but doesn’t feel confident in their own skills. Meet James. He’s a first time buyer from London.

Empathy map

To gain deeper insights into James’s key needs and goals, we created an empathy map based on observations from our research.

We kept these feelings central in our minds during our design process to ensure we created a successful solution for James.

Problem Statement

Once we were happy we had enough insights to empathise with James, we created the following problem statement. We did this to clarify his main pain points when it comes to interior design and identify a goal for the brief.

James is looking to decorate his living room. He knows his own style but is not confident enough to make his own design decisions.

He needs a way to seek advice from an expert so that he doesn’t waste time and energy making the wrong decisions.

Develop Phase: Ideating possible solutions

Moving to the develop phase, we ran a design studio over Zoom to collaboratively ideate possible solutions to James’s problem. From this we were able to define features for our app, user flows and start designing wireframes.

Design Studio

Keeping James’s problem in mind, we devised 2 How Might We (HMW) statements to focus our ideation during the session.

The HMW statements were:

  • How might we help James get good design advice via video?
  • How might we give James confidence in a virtual design service?

Feature Prioritisation

To narrow down our ideas, we did a feature prioritisation exercise to determine what features were essential, nice to have, high effort and low effort.

The solution

We then selected 4 key features which would help James make the right design decisions for his living room and ensure he gets the best results from his video call.

These features were:

  • Choice of designer allowing James to select an expert who matches his style
  • Style board (like a mood board) so designers can learn about James’s needs before the call and make recommendations
  • Augmented reality product recommendations to allow James to preview items in his living room before purchase aiding his decision making process
  • Measurement tool to give James confidence that products will fit in his space

User flow

Once we had our features, I led the team in establishing a user flow which takes James through:

  • Booking an appointment
  • Preparing for his video call (by creating a style board and measuring his room)
  • Carrying out the video call (this includes using the augmented reality feature)

Wireframes

Finally, we moved to developing wireframes. We did 3 rounds of tests and iterations moving from low to hi-fidelity. We tested a total of 14 users.

I focused on developing the video screens from mid-high fidelity and the overall visual design. I have highlighted 2 key iterations below.

Iterations

Homepage

The homepage needed to be as informative as possible as it‘s the first opportunity to introduce the service to users. We focused our sketches on ensuring we placed the designers at the heart of the product.

However after testing 4 users, we received feedback that they were confused about who the designer Sally was and they asked where they could learn about the service.

So, when we moved to mid and hi-fidelity we surfaced information about the service first. For our high-fi version, we followed this with a section introducing the designers as they remain a key feature of the product.

Video call screens

We had a lot of ideas to incorporate into our video call screens so it was important for us to test this on users.

Our mid-fidelity screens had a fixed settings menu, additional features menu and various icons on the augmented reality section.

We tested this on users and they were concerned that the settings menu took up a lot of the video call screen preventing them noticing the designer. They were also overwhelmed by the additional features menu and icons on the augmented reality screens.

So when we moved to hi-fidelity, I focused on developing a collapsible menu and merged the settings and features menu. I also streamlined the icons to make them clearer for the user.

Deliver Phase: Refining a solution that works

Prototype

We delivered our final high fidelity prototype which you can access here.

Our final design included:

  • Onboarding screens: introducing the user to the service
  • Booking process: ability to book specific designer, time and date
  • Video call checklist: including functionality to create a style board and measure the room before the call
  • Video call features: including collapsible menu, augmented reality product recommendations and product favourites

Key Learnings

My key takeaways from this project are:

  • Teamwork makes the dream work: 4 heads definitely make for more ambitious work! I felt proud that as a team we explored and delivered some fancy features for this app.
  • Less is more: When designing our video call screens we crammed in lots of features. This confused the user. I learnt that it’s better to start off with fewer features that users can understand before developing more.

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