Ubilag: An Experiment in Pervasive Interaction Design @ IKEA

Man using a tabletop as a touchscreen at an IKEA

The Problem

The “Pervasive Interaction Design” class was the most fun I had in grad school.

See, there’s a default assumption in the UX community, often perniciously ingrained, that the solution to everything is going to be contained in some sort of glowing rectangle. (To be fair, this has been changing a little in recent years, though only a little.) I mean, that’s not without reason. And if we’re talking probabilities, yes, that’ll be the expected shape of the solution. But it was refreshing to leave that constraint behind for a second and think about how we would design if everything was interactive.

We chose IKEA as our “client” because within minutes of meeting up as a group we were already discussing how much we loved IKEA, despite some common pain points. So why not try to solve some of those pain points for fun and “profit?”

The Process

The domain and goal seemed rather unique to us, and we did employ some seldom-used research methods, but we found the process to be surprisingly familiar. Essentially, it was just UX design with different solution constraints.

A white board with multicolored sticky notes, forming a hierarchy of information
Feels like home, doesn’t it?

We collected information using ethnographic approaches (and some more exotic user research methods like cultural probes), brainstormed our way through a loose storyboard, usability tested prototypes, and – after an iteration or two – happened upon some creative solutions to smooth out some pain points with IKEA’s shopping process.

The Product

Our pitch was packaged them up into an “envisionment video” (probably that term was not on your jargon bingo card).

It’s no Chris Nolan film – really it feels a little like a kinder, gentler Black Mirror teaser – but it gets the concept across nicely. It’s only a few minutes long, so please take a gander if you’re curious.