Case study: Enhancing the experience of a Living room

The living room is the idle place where all the individual spend their time for all the common activity at their home except sleeping, but some individual also use the living room for resting and sleeping

Unboxing — The living room experience
Unboxing: The living room experience

Background

I recently participated in the UX Design Thinking challenge conducted by Growth School. We were made into a group of 10, each had their individual topics to solve. Where we had to empathize and understand the problems faced by group members as users through interviews and a simple prototype as a solution to the problem. I was assigned the topic Living Room, to solve the problems faced in the living room.

I was wondering where to start, I was looking at my living room and I told myself that there was no room for improvements. Even I thought the rest of the users wouldn’t have any problems in the living room. However, I thought to give it a try by talking to users of the assigned group to understand and visualize their living room, the journey of unboxing therapy of my design thinking process started from here.

The road mapping of my process to the solution

Empathizing with users : The kickstart

In this process knowing our users play a key role in the design thinking process, empathizing, and understanding their journey was a great experience, this is the first step which I kickstarted my process.

In this process, I directly started with primary search, rather than searching through the internet or blog, as I wanted to know more about the perspective and natural experience from real users, which gives me more weightage on the perspective of users, to empathize more about problems since the living room is commonplace where all the user spends most of the time except sleeping. Hence, I skipped the secondary research.

Home work

Before I start talking to users, I did a bit of homework by preparing a few questions for users to understand and identify problems faced in the living room. Below are the questionnaires prepared for user interviews. The interview was conducted in natural conversation; however, I made this list for my reference only.

  1. How do you feel in your living room and why do you call it a living room?
  2. How often do you spend your time in your living room?
  3. What are your favorite activities in the living room?
  4. Where is the living room positioned in your home?
  5. Which are those hours you don’t like to spend time in the living room?
  6. Is your living room has good light visibility during the daytime and does it have windows for air circulation?
  7. How is the seating arrangement in the living room?
  8. Is the switch of tv, fan, or power socket reachable to your hand or do you often struggle to reach the switch?
  9. Do you have a balcony in the living room?
  10. Do you have a TV or decorative materials in the living room?
  11. Do you watch TV and eat food in the living room?
  12. Do you have a fan or ac in the living room?
  13. Do you have privacy in the living room?
  14. Is there enough space in the living room for the arrangement of furniture or decoration?
  15. Is there any dedicated place in the living room for the storage of items like newspapers and remotes?
  16. What are the things you like in the living room and dislike in the living room?
  17. Which are materials you wish to add and currently not available in the living room?
  18. What is the one thing (Wow factor) which makes you feel happy and comfortable in the living room?

User Insights

After my home on the questionnaire, I started interacting with users.

User 1: Nihal is a 22-year-old and just graduated out of college — Mechanical engineering. He loves cooking and wants to be a chef. He has more interest in creative art and loves spending his free time playing online games.

Summary of the key insights from the user of the area:

Usage: Watching TV, family gathering, and games.

Likes: PlayStation on tv, carpet on the floor.

Dislikes: Design of the living room.

Gaps: Not able to sit on the sofa for a long period of time, ventilation.

Ideal experience: Good design of the living room, a good sofa which has a height adjustment.

Mapping of user problem (Draft):

User 2: Anwito is a 20 years old student pursuing a Bachelor of Computers. He loves to play with microcontrollers and sensors. He has an adorable addiction to electronics to build new innovative electronic products which creates a great user experience.

Summary of the key insights from the user of the area:

Usage: Watching movies, family gatherings, and eating.

Likes: Smart tv, sofa.

Dislikes: Shoe rack, power socket behind the sofa.

Gaps: Lack of privacy, natural light, and ventilation.

Ideal experience: Good sofa, a big size HD tv, a big mirror will give the room a more open feel.

Mapping of user problem (Draft):

User 3: Aseela is 32 years old, working professionally as a design lead. She likes tinkering with objects and loves recycling the waste and broken products, crafting micro toys, and decorating.

Summary of the key insights from the user of the area:

Usage: Watching tv, family gathering, relaxation, and reading books.

Likes: songs on tv, ambiance light.

Dislikes No official work, no crowded furniture.

Gaps: Lack of privacy, natural light, and ventilation.

Ideal experience: Mood light, natural plant cent, good ventilation, and natural light.

Mapping of user problem (Draft):

User 4: Chaithanya is 25 years old part-time working professionally as a web developer, she has completed her Ms in computers, she likes woolen weaving, wall painting and likes to create craft models.

Summary of the key insights from the user of the area:

Usage: Watching tv, family gathering, coffee talk, and eating.

Likes: Organic decorative, cooling through the fan.

Dislikes: Dusty storage cabinet, slippery sofa.

Gaps: Lack of privacy, manual operation of tv, and ventilation.

Ideal experience: Plant and ventilation, smart tv.

Mapping of user problem (Draft):

User 5: Usha is 35 years old, she is from a commerce background and currently working as 2D/3D artist, she is a self-learner of 2D/3D tools and technology, she feels very satisfactory working for UI/UX.

Summary of the key insights from the user of the area:

Usage: Watching tv, family gathering, and eating

Likes: cooling through the fan, watching movies on tv

Dislikes: Crowded and unorganized materials

Gaps: Lack of privacy, manual operation of tv, and ventilation

Ideal experience: Plant and ventilation, natural light, decorative

Mapping of user problem (Draft):

Defining the experience: The Problem

I felt like a hiring manager for spending 9 hours on user interviews and I was able to document a 20 pages of interview notes after empathizing and understanding the user needs and experience in the living room.

Here is a list of all problems I have been able to collect while interacting with users.

Ø The living room heats up as a result of direct sunlight.

Ø Due to direct sunlight falling over the Diwan cot, it cannot be used during the day.

Ø The dark curtains could not be used because they did not fit the color pattern of the living room furniture.

Ø Watching films disturb other rooms on the same floor.

Ø Daylight reflection from the window on the TV leads to a bad experience to watch TV during daylight.

Ø The sofa does not have sufficient capacity when there are more guests

Ø The viewing angle of the television is bad from the left and right corner sofa.

Ø The power outlet on the wall near the couch is at the lower level of the floor, so not easily accessed and not often used.

Ø No balcony in the living room.

Ø Painting & wall decor cannot be accommodated because of window panels.

Ø The user feels sophisticated and cluttered, as a result of a poor design plan.

Ø storage cabinet next to the television unit seems packed.

Ø Not able to feel the comforts of the sofa for a long duration.

Ø Poor visibility and airflow due to the absence of windows.

Ø The switches and the electrical outlet are behind the sofa not easily accessible.

Ø Lack of privacy due to the adjoining apartment, road or windows and strangers can easily see the activity of the living room.

Ø The space is insufficient, the shoe shelf in the living room and door of the living room could not be opened completely.

Ø Working in the living room is distracting.

Ø The switches are a long way from the couch.

Ø Poor light and lack of ventilation.

Ø The ground is very cold during the wintertime.

Ø No dedicated location for remote controls and newspaper storage.

Ø 70% of users use a USB flash drive or an HDMI cable to watch TV movies.

Ø While watching television, the user is engaged in the use of a DTH remote control and addicted to turning on the television manually.

Ø Insufficient space due to more materials, such as the inverter.

Ø Display cabinets in the living room are still dusty.

Ø Sofa covers are slippery and need to adjust the covers frequently

Below are justifications for why these problems are important to users.

  • To have an idle room temperature and spend more time.
  • To rest in the diwan cot during the day.
  • To block the sunlight in the living room, since the room gets heated up and the room becomes hotter.
  • To experience the movie with good sound mode to enjoy the movie.
  • A user wants to want watch TV without distraction from the viewing experience.
  • To accommodate the guess to seat.
  • To have the best view of TV without any pain to the user’s neck.
  • To use the power socket for the charging of phone, while seated on the sofa.
  • To have good daylight and ventilation for a pleasant feeling.
  • The user feels the living room lack decorative materials and looks dull and plain.
  • A user wants to re-arrangement of living room with minimalist materials.
  • Requires a flexible storage cabinet.
  • The user requires a height-adjustable recliner sofa for comfortable seating.
  • more natural light enlightened users more energized, air circulations cool people by increasing evaporation.
  • Need to access the switches and power socket frequently.
  • The door and windows are always closed for privacy.
  • Users want to remove unused items from the living room and want full access to the living room door.
  • Want to use the living room as an alternative backup for working without disturbance to work.
  • want to access light switches while seated on the sofa.
  • Need artificial light arrangement and plants with good fragrance for fresh air and smell.
  • To have a heater or mate during winter to protect feet from cold.
  • Place holders for tv remotes and flexible cabinets for storage.
  • Lack of smart tv experience.
  • The user wants to use two separate remotes.
  • To have more space and make to room look more spacious.
  • To avoid dust and to cover the showcase.
  • To have the right size of sofa covers.

Refining the problem statements

I was able to list down 27 problems by interviewing 5 users, each problem statement are user-specific and after listing down all the problems together, then I was able to figure out only the most common problem among all the users, then I narrowed down the problem statements from 27 to 6 problems, Here is the topic 6 problem which I picked up to solve.

1. Natural Lighting: Most users mentioned having windows in the living area, but closed with curtains because of lack of privacy and currently using tube lights from morning tonight.

2. Ventilation: 75% of users reported a lack of air circulation in the living room, as the windows are still closed with curtains, currently using a fan and A/C.

3. Space problem: Nearly all users indicated that the lounge space was overcrowded and that there were more materials than in the available space.

4. Storage Space: There is no storage space for commonly used materials like remote controls (TV, DTH, AC), table lamps, and newspapers.

5. Lack of Privacy: Not having a personal space with family is always a frustration, 75% of users mentioned lack of privacy in the living room, since they cannot keep the door and windows open any time, due to distraction from strangers, or the living room door is facing the road, or there is adjacent house door or window right opposite to users living room door or windows, hence it's always closed which feels like dull and less energetic or sleepy in the living room.

6. Comfort and lack of entertainment: Due to the wrong arrangement of the sofa, some blind spots are formed, which is ruining the experience of watching tv in the living room, users either cannot see the tv and always get pain in the neck due to the wrong arrangement of sofas.

Ideating the solution: The unique

It’s time to give some work to brain, I started thinking out of the box and I wanted to showcase unique solutions for my top 6 problem. As a result, I contacted my group and friends and was limited to 15 minutes each to brainstorm ideas.

Every idea is good

I began to present the issue statement, objectives, and important insights from previous research and findings. We started discussion early brain dump sessions and I was able to list down some unique ideas that come out of our brain dump. Here I am showcasing all 6 unique solutions and my uniqueness of thinking power on ideas.

THINKING OUT OF THE BOX IDEAS

1. Natural Lighting: Every living room deserves to be filled with natural light, Sun Tunnel Skylight solution can be installed quickly, making it one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to transform a living room with natural light.

Adding a Sun Tunnel Skylight is a cost-effective way to add natural light to a living room that needs a brighter, more vibrant appearance.

2. Ventilation: Passive cooling solution can be adopted to overcome the problem of ventilation, where air movement is the most important element of passive cooling. It cools people and living rooms by increasing evaporation and requires both capturing the breeze and ventilators for backflow in quiet conditions.

Keep plants in a pot by the windows and door and install extraction fans on the windows.

3. Space problem: The use of minimum materials and the adoption of versatile furniture is an effective way to manage the space available in the living room, the living room appears spacious using the minimum materials.

Multi-use or convertible furniture may only be used where necessary and this special type of furniture may be hidden or folded if not used.

4. Storage Space: A sofa pouch can be used as a space reserved for remote controls and newspapers or a small table with a minimalist design can be used for remote controls, newspapers, and table lamps.

Use of minimalistic storage materials for multiple uses.

5. Lack of privacy: Mesh for windows and doors can be installed to overcome the privacy of strangers, roads, adjacent house doors,s or windows. This is a one-way grid where people from the outside can’t see through the windows or the living room door.

Privacy mesh is designed in such a way that light and air can be passed through mesh installed to windows and door of the living room, which helps in overcoming the problem of natural lighting and ventilation.

6. Comfort and lack of entertainment: Flexible TV wall stand will help enhance the TV viewing experience.

Using the flexible TV wall mount, the discomfort of watching TV from any of the corners of the living room can be solved.

Top 3 important solutions

I am still not done, I again further narrowed it down from the top 6 to 3 now, since I will be choosing the one unique idea which addresses most of the user problems. I give my reason here to choose these 3 ideas and why these ideas are the best to implement, what is the impact on the problem of the user.

1.Sun Tunnel Skylight: Natural daylight is good for health and wellbeing. However, natural light is also good for a bank account! Sun Tunnel will transform a dark or windowless living room into an area full of natural light and energy. By choosing to install a sun tunnel in the living room, users will automatically see the benefits of energy bills! The ease at which natural light will fill the living room and users won’t need to keep flicking on those lights during the day-saving money energy bills! The lounge will be a welcome addition to the natural light.

2.Passive cooling: Passive cooling is the least expensive means of ventilation for the Living room in both financial and environmental terms, the climate created by plants around the living room windows and door provides cooling breezes, maximizes the airflow through the living room, exhaust fan which circulates the air in and out of the living room and cooling is required essential component of passive design in a living room.

3.Privacy Mesh: Privacy mesh can be installed on windows and doors quickly and easily without affecting the existing structure of the living room and a long-term solution for privacy and does not require any maintenance. The added advantage of installing a privacy mesh is to overcome the problem of natural lighting and ventilation. Air and light will easily cross the grid of privacy, it is a 3 in 1 solution.

Prototyping the solution: The Modelling

In this stage I am representing my model on solution to that one best idea, I have used my drawing skills to present my model of solution to user.

Prototyping the solution

My proposal Privacy Mesh: Final Solution

After empathizing with all the user problems, I found the most common problem which users are currently facing is not being able to sit in the living room with family/friends/alone with the door and windows of the living room open. Users are left with the impression that opening the door and windows will lead to a lack of privacy.

Strangers, adjacent flat people, people on the street can directly see the activities in the living room. The solution for privacy for the user without changing the structure or design of the living room is to set up a privacy mesh with a one-way view.

People from outside cannot see the living room activities, even though the doors and windows are open, only users from inside the living room can see what is happening outside and also can see daily light and fresh air passing through the privacy mesh.

I have used a simple drawing to present my prototyping of Privacy Mesh — Mesh can be installed on the door panels and window panels, it consumes very minimal space and is one of the best long-term solutions for privacy, it requires zero maintenance, and also very economical. The door and windows can be kept open once the privacy mesh is installed, Users can also see daylight passing through the mesh, which gives good visibility of daylight and the user can also breathe the natural and fresh air, as the air flows easily through the mesh. The door and windows can be kept open once the privacy mesh is installed, Users can also see daylight passing through the mesh, which gives good visibility of daylight and the user can also breathe the natural and fresh air, as the air flows easily through the mesh. Mesh is a solution, addressing 3 user problems that are lack of natural light, ventilation, and privacy.

Testing: The feedback

During the test phase, I was required to test my prototype will all my user and to get feed back on the prototype and to iterate them base on the feed .

How did I test my prototype with users?

I went on a call with my group user and presented my prototype. Asked them to rate my idea on 1 is to 5, 5 being is highest and 1 being the lowest.

User feedback: 5 stars

User 1

My Privacy and ventilation problem is solved by the prototype, as I could keep my door and windows open and breath fresh air with privacy. I would give a 4.5 out of 5

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

User 2
Seems like even though there was no widow in the living room, privacy mesh will help me to keep me private in my living room. Hence my privacy and natural lightting issue been solved. I would give a 4.8 out of 5

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

User 3

Natural light in my living room gives me welcoming experience, privacy mesh helped me overcome 2 issues, natural light and privacy, as i never used to keep my doors open, now using this soultion, I can keep door open all time. I would give a 4.5 out of 5

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

User 4
Privacy mesh, helped to spend more time in living room with family with no worries of being stargers seeing the acitivity in the living room, since i can keep my doors and windows open and also got fresh air and natural light through mesh. That’s why my lack of privacy and natural light has been solved
. I would give a 5 out of 5

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

User 5
Privacy mesh is one of the best soultion, since we used to keep our door and windows covered with curtains, we have lack of light and freash air, even we wanted privacy. Now we the people from outside cannot see inside the living room and we get privacy, lighting and air, its 3 in 1 soultion and ecenomical.I would give a 4.9 out of 5

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Key learning from this design thinking process

  1. Self-realization in order not to go directly into solution mode
  2. Learn how to extract more problem statements and better understand user commitment to the given topic and not drift into other problems that are out of reach.
  3. Unlocked my brain and the power of thought, to stop the imagery of the problem statement from my own perspective.
  4. How to reduce many problems in a few and make a decision to choose a major problem that can be resolved efficiently.
  5. To understand “design solutions made for users, not for self”, the perspective to form a solution in a design language and to have easy and economical solutions which can be used by many users.
  6. To get away from the bias of not moving in the right direction and maintaining the simple solution.

I am excited to do the following in future projects

  • Empathize the most profound understanding of users’ needs and bring ideas to life.
  • To redefine the wording of the problem in a simpler form.
  • To create a lot of ideas during the ideation stage, moving away from my mind to having one solution for an idea.
  • To create the simplest form of solution and present a model or prototype across the outline on paper rather than spending more time on the digital prototype.
  • To have an open mindset to accept the feedback from users during the testing phase and iterative solutions as per user feedback and return to previous stages to make further iterations, alterations, and refinements.
  • To use commonsense on the solutions.

To summarize :

I went through so many emotion during the process, from full confidence to getting lost on an island(clueless), to swim through the ocean to reach the destination(solution), during this process I was thinking out of the box, was able to get on table 6 different unique solutions for the common living experience problems.

During this process, I did not notice but the fact is that I also created a commercial impact since all my solutions will stimulate the manufacturing of the solution (products).

Thank you for reading my detailed case study, please do like and share your feedback.

Designer