Project: Locketgo – Personal Storage
Locketgo is a company that rents personal storage, initially during events (like festivals), but they recently made a move into permanent venues for a more constant stream of revenue.
The challenge of making that kind of move is the change in targeted users, which then affects a change in the behavioural patterns you need to design the experience for.
When the project went live, and lockers were available for rent, I went on-site to observe how the rental process was, to validate what went well and what did not in the design I developed, on top of observing exactly how friction points were encountered and dealt with, both by the customers and by the venue employees themselves.
Dealing with change
My work and life experience has put me in situations where I was able to live and observe the chaos that comes with integrating technology to something that had been dealt with by a human up until that point: our public transit changed from a swipe-able magnetic card we had to buy on a monthly basis via a person-operated counter to a rechargeable chip-operated card via a self-service kiosk, and I was one of the on-site tech support at the Montreal International Airport when they were adding self-service check-in kiosks.
Practicing empathy when I designed the check-out process for the locker rental, I relived those moments where I could observe confusion and the urge to be done with the process, and that was the behaviour I designed for.
I went and observed user behaviour for two events; the first time, to look for what to observe, and the second time, to observe what I noted I had to observe.
Because I don’t think we can ever be fully prepared for the exact circumstances in which our product will be used, no matter how much we think we know our users. Every person will meet a product under different circumstances, especially when it’s the first time they stumble upon it, and it’s an art to know what to look for in the way they react to it.
Chaos was extremely obvious. Frustration, too.
Underlying confusion? Sure. Maybe we should have stated that it’s not possible to pay with cash via a phone.
But we can’t design for “chaotic” and “frustrated” behaviours – it’s the friction points behind that we need to look for.
Observing through chaos
The second evening I went to observe user behaviour, I was able to do two things:
- Time how long it takes from the moment the user takes out their phone to the moment their locker door opens (with a beep)
- See where the friction point is
The friction point
Have you ever looked for change at a cash register and looked over your shoulder at the line of people waiting for you to be done?
Have you ever tried to bag up your groceries as fast as possible because that same line of people is still observing you because you’re what’s standing between them and the moment they get to take off with their own groceries?
Have you ever tried to cross a crowd perpendicularly to the direction the vast majority was moving and you artistically zig-zagged your way through to not trouble anybody on their way?
That social awkwardness was the friction point: when we feel like what we are doing takes time and places us in somebody else’s way.
When I designed the check-out process, I split the process in two steps, and that night when I observed behaviour, I noticed a pattern: when users saw there was a second step, and they analyzed how much time (more than one tap kind of long) it would take, they instinctively did two things:
- Look over their shoulder
- Take a step back
Observing this obviously did not fix anything or make the chaos go away, but it opened me up to a problem more precise than “designing for chaos” and I now have a better understanding of why users can get frustrated.
Edit: I wrote this case study in March 2020, and by the time I decided to publish it, Locketgo had gone through a change in mission as a result of Covid-19, and it is now a logistical storage company.
Date published: November 26, 2020