A Minimal Viable Product for an online furniture shopping app. Virtual reality and Augmented reality are currently one of the fastest-growing technology and constantly spreading into new industries. AR and VR Furniture shopping applications are still fairly new and undeveloped for the most part but are improving rapidly. Many retailers, like IKEA, have realized the potential these technologies offer and have included them in their business models. Applications, such as Houzz or Ikea Place, promising the user high visualization of furniture pieces and provide shopping opportunities from the comfort of the users’ home.
To identify the problems, we needed to get a better understanding of existing AR furniture apps used by competitors and step into the end-users’ shoes. What problem does the product solve? What is the current experience using that product? And what could be improved to ensure a greater user experience? We were also faced with the challenge of working with rather new technology. AR and VR are still unfamiliar to many and therefore needed a Minimal Viable Product that is simple but yet powerful.
INITIAL TARGET AUDIENCE
Based on our initial target audience we defined the following problem statements:
- First-time homeowners need to be able to conceptualize their furniture because they want to know if the furniture matches their lifestyle and room size.
- Students and Newcomers need to purchase new furniture in more efficient ways because they save time and money.
- People with physical impairments need to be able to find the right products online because they are often unable to visit stores and malls and rely on online shopping tools.
We decided on the first and second target audience at an early stage of our project, as they seem to be an obvious choice for our product. We added our tertiary target audience due to the findings made during further research. This audience relies on online shopping the most, due to the lack of accessibility of many stores.
One of our main assumptions was, that saving time is most valuable to the user. Therefore we thought of creating a product, that not only helps to better visualize products at home but potentially saves time by making it possible to avoid visiting busy malls and stores completely. However, after further research, we realized that the material, quality, and comfort of the product is just as important to the user and that technology could not replace the real-life experience the user wants to make a final decision.
In order to move forward with our project, we needed more information about our user’s behavior and needs. For that reason, observational research was the best option. On top of the observational research, we also conducted secondary research and competitor research to learn more about the products from competitors within the industry.
For our observational research, we choose to visit a busy furniture store in our area. We visited an IKEA store on Monday between 6 pm and 8 pm. Our team split up and observed several customers’ behavior during that time. We looked into the average time spent, how the customer chose the product and what information they are looking at while comparing products. We also looked into their emotional behavior to identify if they seem to enjoy the experience or if they rather be somewhere else.
Our secondary research helped us to understand more about the technical aspect of our target audience. We learned what age group, within our target audience, is the most tech-savvy and more about their online shopping behavior. We also realized, that our tertiary target audience would be a rather small, yet very active user group for our product and that they are more familiar with technologies due to their strong online shopping presence.
the third research my team and I conducted, included the testing of already existing furniture shopping applications like Houzz and IKEA Place. We noticed similarities between products and common issues that take away from a positive user experience. The combined findings helped us to understand more about the current technology available, design language used by competitors and possibilities for improvements.
After combining and summarizing all of our findings, we identified the following main problems during our research:
- Finding the right furniture style
- Comparing products within large stores
- Having too much variety.
- Measuring product sizes
- Visualizing items at home
During our brainstorming session, we came up with a broad spectrum of solutions to save the user time and improve visualization of the item and their shopping experience. We even went beyond the screen and past the shopping and looking at possibilities to improve the after-sales customer service.
Some of our main ideas were:
- Providing in-store customers with VR glasses for better visualization
- Adding speech recognition to the shopping application
- Taking images of furniture pieces and getting a recommendation of furniture
- Scanning your home and upload for in-store VR conceptualization
- Coupons for using the online tools
The information collected during the research and brainstorming stage helped us to come up with new ideas and we were able to narrow down the scope of our MVP
DEFINING THE MVP SCOPE
The purpose of the MVP was to provide the user with recommendations based on their existing furniture. We defined our concept and decided to build our MVP around the idea of providing the user with product recommendations to save time searching for the right style. We realized that looking at products, that are not of interest, is very time consuming but still a big part of the online and offline shopping experience. With the defined scope, we could focus on the usability of our product and build an easy product to use that provides value to the user.
The Scope definition made it possible to redefine the features we want to include in an initial prototype. This will allow us to complete user tastings and provide us with valuable feedback about the direction we want to go to.
THE ART OF SKETCHING
Once we had a better understanding of our concept for the MVP and a refined scope definition, we started sketching the initial prototype. We include a hamburger menu button to allow the user to select more options like choosing a different category, start a new scan or log in. We included thumbnail images of more recommendations that allow the user to switch between an item efficiently. We also thought of letting the user save items to a list and save the list for future visits, a detail page for more information about a chosen item and a checkout page for the user to complete orders. The main goal was to reduce the number of items the user had to view before finding the right furniture piece.
After bringing the concept to life on paper, we started building a paper prototype to help us visualize and test the task flow before going digital. The feedback we received on the paper prototype ensured us that we are heading in the right direction and also gave us the opportunity to make some small interface design changes early on.
PERSONA AND PROFILE
For clarification and deeper understanding of who our potential user is, we used our research results to create a Profile and Persona for each target audience. This type of information gave us more insights about the important facts we needed to know about the user and helped us to build a more valuable product for our audience.
The main points, we were able to clarify, are:
- The range of possible users who are going to use advanced technology Apps.
- Our users’ interest from their consuming behavior.
- To estimate the size of our target group would be through the secondary research overall population in Canada.
- To reframe our problem statement and user needs.
NEW TARGET AUDIENCE
Primary target audience:
Working mothers need to compare the quality of the furniture because they want to know if their decision is suited for their children’s safety and lifestyle.
Secondary target audience:
Students and newcomers need to purchase new furniture in more efficient ways because they tend to be on a firm schedule and budget.
Tertiary target audience:
People with physical impairments need to be able to experience great online shopping because they are often unable to visit stores and malls, and rely heavily on online shopping tools
WIREFRAMES AND FIRST USER TESTINGS
With the feedback collected on the paper prototypes and sketches, we were able to move on to the low fidelity wire-framing, focused mostly on the capability of selecting different recommendations.
Because of the advanced technology necessary for our product, we keep the initial prototype basic. The lack of functionality, however, turned out to be challenging for testing purposes and made the user tests rather complicated. Nevertheless, with the help of in-depth explanations and a solid scenario, our test participants were able to complete their given tasks and provided us with important feedback. This allowed us to get more insights about our design and task flow which gave us more direction for further development.
The participants were asked to complete the following tasks.
- View recommended items
- Change to another recommended item
- Save an item to your list
- View saved items
- View product details
- Continue the checkout
USER TEST RESULTS
It was interesting to learn, that what we thought is clear and obvious turned out to be quite the opposite of the majority of our participants. In addition, some icons and features led to confusion rather than clarity.
To find out how to continue with our MVP project, we use a value/implementation matrix to identify and focus on the most important problems. We divided the issues found by its value to the user and its cost of implementation. This lets us realize that most of the issues were of great value for the end-user yet quick and easy to implement. Only a few of the problems found were time and cost-intensive to implement. And of less value to the user and therefore pushed back to the later release for our MVP.
With all the information collected from research and user tests, we were able to continue with our developing stage and move onto the high fidelity prototype. The high fidelity prototype focuses on the user flow and intuitive design layout based on the user test result.
The final prototype includes a simplified onboarding sequence that will help to explain to the user each step of the process. We focused on the essential for our first release to reduce the time spent on unnecessary tasks. We also focused on presenting suggestions that help customers to find their product more effectively.
High fidelity wireframe
Initially, we provided the user with two different screens for product details and more recommendations. In the final version, however, we combine those features to avoid unnecessary steps for the user. We added an additional customization button to the main screen so that the user is able to change the item’s properties efficiently without switching between screens. We change the “my list” icon to a more intuitive icon. We also removed the bottom tap bar to keep the user’s attention on the main functionality of the app. As soon as the user lands on the my-list page the icon will change to plain text to clarify the next steps necessary. Assuming the user has not created an account yet.
Designing a product that could provide value to our audience has been challenging as well as interesting. It required us to be flexible and to have a solid understanding of the users’ needs for our design. We learned the most from the user testings and the information gathered during our research stage.
During this project, we were faced with the challenge of creating a powerful and easy to use product, that provides the user with a more efficient way to shop online for furniture. The more information we had collected from each stage of this project the more ideas and solutions were analyzed. It was important to keep the end goal in mind as we moved through the different stages to not get away from the initial product concept. Cutting down the functionality for our first release enabled us to focus our attention on what is the most important aspect of our concept, product recommendations. We decided that once the users were familiar with our product and functionality, we would be able to extend the project and introduce more advanced technologies like VR and MR. This would enable a whole new experience and could improve the visualization to its fullest potential