Case Study: Improving the experience of the dining area

Design Thinking, you say?

Poke Illustration — Astronaut
Think like an Astronaut? Source: Karthik Srinivas

So what’s the whole framework you mentioned about?

More specifically, it’s called the Design Thinking Framework (let’s call it DTF for short). It has 5 steps in it’s process which makes sure you always cater to the users needs and stray outside.

Design Thinking Framework Process
Design Thinking Framework. Image Source: Google
  • Specify the user’s needs
  • Design solutions
  • Evaluate the solution against the user’s needs
  • Design solutions, Evaluate and it goes on.

Okay, let’s get back to your project?

Yes. So we were divided into teams for this project and were told to pick up one area of a house. Why a house? Because the basics of design thinking start from here. If you can’t understand your users in their comfort zone, how can you understand hard to define problem areas? How can you solve for problems that users don’t even know exist? Picking an area of the house was the simplest way we could put ourselves as designers to test and learn. So I chose the dining room/area (which is already in the headline).

Dining Area
Dining Area? Source: Illlustrations
Question Set
Empathize by asking users
User Interviews Set 1
Two users with a stark contrast in dining area usage
User Interviews Set 2
Talking with users instead of questioning brings out a lot of stuff

What’s next?

Next we carefully study our users and define the problem areas. One can identify a lot of hidden problems if one analyses the way people work in their environment. Sometimes, the user may not even realize that there is a problem because we all get used to our environment. Here is my problem defining for my users

One Area — Varied problems

So now, we work on the problems?

Yes, but also No. Here we ideate solutions to as many problems, or even, multiple solutions to a single problem and then pick the top 3 to show with the users. Why top 3? Because it’s important we focus on one important problem area to solve and while it can be overwhelming to choose one from many, it becomes much easier if you pick your top 3 based on your priorities

Ideate your way through problems

So, What’s your top 3?

My top 3 problems based on the importance are

  1. Adaptable Decoration — If I can provide a detachable decoration solution then it can go up on the walls for existing infrastructure without changing anything that’s already built
  2. Flexible arm attachment for Mobile & Tablet viewing — It can prove to be a great accessory to eat & watch at the same time

What did you pick? Show us the design!

So I picked up the idea of a foldable dining table as it is a major issue with my users as they do not have a dedicated dining area or the dining area is too small to accommodate any kind of table. It’s also an issue while moving around if guests come up and you need to accommodate more people.

2-way foldable dining table
Some more description

So what did your users say?

This is called the testing phase. Here we show the design/prototype that we have built and take user feedback to make further changes and enhancements. This also shows the user how much the designer was able to understand him/her. Testing phase is important in any design process. Here is what my users had to say

A summary of the feedback received

Where from here?

After the feedback, I iterated on my design and decided that adding wheels in an improvement of the functional experience and makes it portable to be used anywhere in the house as per the user’s needs

Iteration based on the feedback

Great! What did you learn from the whole project?

  • Listening is the most important activity of this entire project. Without listening properly, one can never find the most crucial issues
  • Empathizing is actually quite difficult than one might think. I had to struggle a lot with this. Often times, my assumption brain came in the way.
  • Focusing on the task at hand is more important than thinking of the whole project in one go
  • Ideas are useless until executed to practicality
  • Often times, the most effective solution is the most simple one
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