This project started from a request from one of my friend who just joined Facebook this summer and rent a 1B1B in Sunnyvale. She knew my work experience in interior and architecture design so she texted me to ask for my advice on layout and decoration solution for her new home. While I was picking IKEA furniture for her online, a question came to my mind: why IKEA can’t provide an easy solution for people like her?
People in lack of room layout experience are often frustrated in home decoration and furniture purchase when they move into a new place.
Redesigning IKEA Place by adding an automatic room layout tool in current main menu, they will be able to decorate their new room efficiently and enjoyably.
Think as a designer
The first thing I did is to look at the target audience of IKEA. Data source here.
This is a very important clue for me to understand my target user. Combining with some other information, I am able to have a sense of
How IKEA target audience like:
Relatively young(18-35), fast pace of life
Middle and low income
Single or just married
Rent home, small apartment
Slight life-enjoyer, aspire to quality and simplicity, function oriented
In a word, they are having high moving possibility while at an age in lack of home decoration experience.
Interview: User Goals & Pain Points
The next thing I did is to scope down who I should design for and know their pain points. Given the target user information above, I talked with four people who just finished their home decoration at the age ranging between 24-30.
People who will move into an empty house are more likely to buy a whole set of IKEA furniture
Nearly everyone struggles in room layout and find furniture from scratch
They all think their room layout is not efficient enough
“Find reference images” is a common solution
First time layout is a base and user prefer to improve over the time
“ The first struggling moment is that I saw the empty room and realize I need to design it from scratch. ”
“ I can’t figure out the measurement. Now, my room is too busy but I still want to have a place for Yoga.”
Based on the insights, I built two personas representing the group of people that I designed for - student with more function oriented goal and young adults with more customized need.
Abbey Wallace, 24, graduate student
No previous experience to layout a room
Shares apartment with 2 other girls, has a private room
Layouts out her room in a functional way
Chooses appropriate size and style of furniture within budget
Know what to buy without spending too much time and get everything in one place conveniently
Keys: functional, quick, convenient
Gary Lee, 29, Senior soft engineer
Has a few layout experience
Rents a 1B1B and lives alone
aspire to quality and simplicity
A party guy - want social space in the living room and place for his dog
Spend minimum time to have a basic furniture purchase plan and be able to adjust it easily and straightforwardly
Keys: lifestyle, reference, quick, adjustable convenience
Struggling moments: create efficient room layout; pick up proper furniture; visualization in 3D scenario beforehand (it is one of the reasons that make choose furniture hard)
Thinking with the personas, I walked through current workflow and found three loops that decrease the experience: having difficulty in create efficient and feasible room layout, find proper furniture that fit in their space. Besides, it is even more painful to imagine their room plan if they don’t have the furniture in hand and place them in the real space.
How to figure out a room layout in real life?
How might we help them layout their room and choose the furniture that fit in their room in an easy and enjoyable way?
Heavenly, IKEA Kitchen Planner, IKEA Place are some other popular home layout tools in the markets that help users to plan their room.
Heavenly offer decor advice and furniture recommendations by correspondence with one matched online interior designer. #CreateRoomLayout#PickUpProperFurniture
Pros: Trustworthy and well customized
Cons: Expensive and it only provides 2D concept collage which is hard for user to understand its real effect
2D/3D Layout Tools:
IKEA Kitchen Planner offers a free online service to layout kitchen in 2D and visualized in 3D. #PickUpProperFurniture
Pros: Accurate planning tool with IKEA available products; able to export the furniture list after layout
Cons: It is hard to use and it does not provide any layout suggestion, still not response to the pain points that people don’t know how to layout. Besides, it is only for kitchen, our target user don’t move into a barebone house.
AR Real-time Visualization:
IKEA Place and Houzz provide service that allow you to try on furniture in real world by AR tool. #PickUpProperFurniture#VisualizationIn3DScenario
Pros: Easily visualize the effect for all-level user
Cons: Lack of suggestion for layout, it is only a visualization tool
In conclusion, each of them solve only one or two struggling moments in room decoration process (create room layout/pick up proper furniture/visualization in 3D beforehand) but not combine them together. Therefore, it is still painful.
A New Workflow?
According to these, what if IKEA provide a service that cover them all in an easy way?
Think as an interior designer
An automatic room layout tool
I started to think about how this three parts can combine together. Visualization is already exist in IKEA Place. And the furniture decisions is also easy if you have the layout. So the biggest problem here is how to generate a feasible layout that meet the room condition and user’s individual expectation by computer? In order to validate this idea, I recalled my practice in architecture company and digitized the thinking process of an interior designer.
Sketch and Wireframes
Test and Design
I recruited four people whose rooms are empty when they moved in to try it out in front of me. Below are two key feedback.
“ I want a social space in my room but I don’t really care about how it looks like. I don’t know how to choose.”
Add a “I don’t care” choice and change to horizontal layout
“I think they look good, I want to complete the purchase here”.
Add a “I want this” in the cart menu
High Fidelity Mock Up
Here is the high fidelity design with the automatic layout and AR visualization feature.
Easy to access
The layout tool will have an easy entry-point from IKEA Place main menu. The hover button will give it enough exposure to the users.
Quick measurement by AR
Use current measurement and calibration feature in IKEA Place to scan the room.
Four-step quick quiz
to collect further room condition and more customized expectation: activity, atmosphere and budget.
Quick solution in AR
After the quiz, a room layout solution that fit the room condition and user’s expectation is displayed in AR.
See other options
By clicking the “See Other” button, different solution will be displayed in AR and the user can choose the one most fit as a base to improve
Manually adjust and buy
User can manually replace furniture piece. Besides, furniture list is automatically generated and user can buy it directly.
I enjoyed doing this design because the problem is really close to me and my friend circle. I showed my prototype to the four people and asked them how they thought.
Here are some interesting findings from their feedback:
People have very high expectation on IKEA so it leads to a more strict critique on its performance.
They thought the multiple plans provided here was really helpful to layout their room, especially it seemed customized solely for them
Budget is still something they highly valued even they all have good income.
The prototype still look very 2D-ish, an more AR-ish prototype is needed to get real feedback
If permitted, more usability tests should done. Also would like to talk to more stakeholders, such as engineer and IKEA staff