Experience Stories

Manufacturing need through design


It was worth the wait.

I had seen the construction of the building for a long time. The branding exercises with the autos were refreshing. All the autos had the IKEA blue. As designers, you understand the value of fonts in design and sometime TYPE is design. But, with IKEA you know it.

Stepping into the theme park
It’s been a long time since, I stepped into a theme park – I even forgot the joy and jubiliation when entering one; the last time would have the school excursion to Dizzee world! I felt the same before entering IKEA, Hyderabad. The circular entrance was still closed and maybe they are on pilot mode still. But, you can clearly see a lot of people walking in, not the best of the entrance experience. It was more like entering a manufacturing shop.

After the security check, a poster suggested that you need the app to shop. I tried installing the app in the store believing that’s necessary to buy in IKEA. Nobody around were installing the app. and soon got distracted by the famous ‘Marius’

Marius stool – it greets you right at the start
Why the stool?
It’s affordable and you can’t add it to your bag yet.
This makes the customer find out the way to buy it. It also forces everyone to understand how to go about exploring the rest in the IKEA big store. At this point, I went to the coworker asking her how to buy the stool? Then, we got the blue trifold leaflet and the showroom map? Experience design!! More about this later

“You can take a photo of the tag. that’s the easiest” – a helpful IKEA co-worker.

Flow chart
At first it was not easy to understand how the shopping works. When did you have a guide to shopping handed over to you at the entrance? Shuffling between the shopper I am and the researcher, It was a confusing state. Again, How do I buy things here?
Yes, I didn’t read paper in my hand, who does when you are trying to buying something.
Everybody is climbing the stairs somewhere. Only when you go there , you realise its a place where you see things that are very different from what you see in you house everyday.

At this point, understand there are different tags and difficult to buy things. No ordinary shopper things about 3 different types of tags and ponders over the shopping experience – but the researcher in me, was very happy!!

Selling the idea
Elaborate room of different sizes furnished with everything a small room can potentially have. This room definitely succeeds in generating a need – and putting the notion that what you have in your house is old wood and is asking for retirement. Getting the user into a different world. Priming has been used for ages in the advertisement world, but IKEA has a new spin to it. It kindles your subconscious and successfully converts every single person who passes the myriad puzzled path into a customer or even an aspirant. There is a urge to buy something, but you can’t get anything in your hands yet. For the impatient, there is a want to move to the place where you can buy something. We ended up picking a rat here. at this point because you only allowed to see and soak into the design
“Priming is a technique whereby exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a subsequent stimulus, without conscious guidance or intention.”

At first, its a bit overwhelming to see a lot of things. Where do you need to go? I asked the coworker, she said just follow the light arrows on the floor. The ‘light arrows’ – why is it not painted on the floor earlier; may be there will be a new path to test later. Why leave a painted mark on the floor – when you can use the light to reflect the light from the top. Everything about the entire experience was thought through and once you got a bit familiar you know what to do.

Again, Marius stool
It is popularly known that the marius stool and the chicken balls are the largest sold items in the shop. So, the popular stool which greets you right in the front is also there in the furniture place. Why break the rule and show it there at the start? It might be about surfacing the relevant information and also telling the potential customer that there are things to buy which are really affordable. I got a red stool and it is INR 399 at the start. And makes you figure out how to traverse through the shop

Event at this point, I still can’t pick the stool. Its available in the self serve portal.

There are around 8-9 spaces [list it down ???] that you

Now, there is a pause. you see the restaurant , after a tired 2 hour run – you need to grab something to eat. but, its full. so we decided to move down and to the stage 2. the market place. It’s a normal store with starting with Kitchen items, the price tag and the design will make sure that you pick a lot of things here.

There are lots of things here. starting with 1,2,3,4,… [put the order here]

wander before going to the stage 2. Market place.

Self-serve experience
And then finally, the EXPERIENCE of the self-serve area, where you pick you furniture. At this point, you have to ponder over you camera images and find which ones you want to fininalize to pick. Location, Rack – yes. its really simple, there are close to 33 racks. Now you realize that its very easy and the entire journey makes clear sense.

And you wonder how can you picks something way up in the top; its easy. you don’t . everything is within your reach. rest of the place you would realize is used for storage.

Questions and answers?
What would be like if there was no – showroom and you went into the market place directly?
You will never realize what you don’t have. But, all showroom’s try to recreate this but IKEA take it to a different level.

Will IKEA have a online app?
They have an app that has all the products, there are plenty of delivery service out there which can deliver the flat packs. Why won’t it be an online superstore. If that happens, that we will buy only the few things that we want. Why would you get a Marius stool when you have the old stool that has been in the home of the last 20 years and still is strong.

Online order
“You will only buy what you want in Online – the scope of me buying more increases with offline shopping” Parkavi

Overall, IKEA is an Experience; It ould be interesting to find out when IKEA moved from furniture store to an experience. DId they look at data; was it a insight from a research deck or was it was a sudden random thought which culminated into what it is today – THE IKEA EXPERIENCE

There are lots of things that builds the IKEA experience, use of paper to jot down the shopping list, 1 metre measuring tape which is available at few places which you use to find if the furniture would fit you house, finding the rack in the self serve area, in case you change your mind, you can leave the stuff just before you go for billing.

And finally,
Ice cream at the end – Yes, you don’t get 10 INR yogurts anymore. But, in IKEA you do. After all the walking around, this is a welcome relief and yes, it’s full

Finally, why did I write about this? Design. Research..

Experience design
makes you wonder how many designers worked on this project. The light arrows, the Marius stool at the storuy, the ad outside showing the chicken balls outside Ikea, the light arrows that can be positioned at whim by altering the frame that reflects. The road inside that’s ideal for uber pick ups. – everything unfolded like a well written screen play.

And the, yellow bag – I missed this one, there is a place where you drop the yellow bags before the marketplace and pick up a trolley.
[Uber screenshot]

Will I use the app to make the list next time? I want to..

Somethings which needs more digging
Democratic Design

Day in a life of IKEA Co-worker

Design Tools

Adobe XD vs Invision + Sketch Combo

Adobe has a exclusive mac preview of the much awaited designing + prototyping tool, Adobe Comet (now called Adobe XD). It is light and powerful and would be all that you need to quickly design a prototype for your mobile screens. It won’t replace illustrator or photoshop. You still need illustrator to create the graphics and icons for the app.

Where do I use Adobe XD (Experience Design)
It would be really powerful for the UX designers to sell their ideas without coding. Transitions which help create hierarchy in complex enterprise solutions can be easily created under the prototype tab. The best part of the preview is the ‘Sample file’ which quickly shows you the power of XD. For someone, already familiar with Photoshop/Illustrator, this tool would be a boon.

Today, Invision, the prototyping and testing tool also has an announcement

Silver Flows allows users to define all of the logic and transitions required to create prototypes directly inside the Sketch interface

Craft for sketch and photoshop already brings powerful tools to quickly creating screens.


The combined power of Craft + Silver Flows + Sketch would definitely prove to be a strong alternative to XD. Invision still remains the best tool to crowdsource feedback on interfaces.

As of now, I would definitely give it to Adobe, considering their already successful subscription model. Adobe happens to be one for very few companies which has managed to successfully change their pricing from ‘pay once model’ to subscription.

Update: 28 July 2016

In a recent project, a web app which has a lot of list – >details, add, edit flows. I started with Experience Design. Initially, I used the experience design prototype show it to the team. But, I needed more feedback. I had to switch to invision. Invision rocks as a pure prototyping tool and can use Sketch files.

I moved from XD to Invision to create the screens

Why is Invision + Sketch is better than Experience Design

  1. When you create hotspots, It lets you templates and use it on multiple screens. It is very useful for the primary navigation.
  2. With Sketch its much easier to change the wireframes

Update: 22 Nov 2016

Invision is getting even powerful with its latest update of <inspect/>. This will reduce the need of the complex style guides. Designers can focus on creating the best experience. This requires designer to use Sketch to create the prototype and this needs to be imported

There is one feature in Invision which makes me come back to it again and again. The able to create HOTSPOT template. This is the best feature that saves a lot of time. I remember the days trying to make it happen in Axure RP.



Events notes Technology

2016.10.4 Notes and Thoughts – Pixel Launch and VR

Google’s position to do the best AI, backed up by powerful search.
Future of AI – Assistant
Personalized Google for everyone
Language ability

5 things
HDR+, Photos – 89 DXO Mark, HDR+, Stabilization ON for videos – very good, Pixel Unlimited – free full version
Storage – Unlimited native resolutions backup for Media
Communication – Duo, Allo
VR – DreamView. Others phones in market to support it

Google Home – 1 for USD 129, 3 for USD 399
Chromecast connected to it
3 Home devices working in Sync – very interesting
Connected devices – Philips Hue, Nest, others

Spots broke the various sections of the event

What would google be if they don’t have a search? Proves – Organizing world information has its powerful benefits. The question is did Sergey and Page see this future when they started Google. Makes you wonder what technology today has this far reaching potential.

I understand the power for profiling users – whatever product/service you have.

Better Profile, better service

Its amazing how google continues to build your profile and in the future would know more about you than you could analyze. Is this a good thing?
We are trading our privacy for accessibility/comfort. I’m not able to comprehend the repercursions in the future.


Designed to Deceive – Mobile and Web Dark Patterns

Newsletters – mostly from the brands desperately trying to make a sell have started to put “Re: lorem ipsum ” in the subject of the mailers. Unconsciously, I have clicked on these Re: mails only to close them without reading – knowing that I fell for it one more time.

Is it ethnical to prey on the user’s behavior and make them do the unintended?

Dark Patterns have existed on the web for long. The most common of all is the “Defaults” that user don’t bother to change in their quest to complete the task.

When was the last time you installed a browser plugin when installing another software?




I plan to put more example from the world of mobile in the future. Godaddy, definitely tops my  list. Buying a domain isn’t just searching and paying for it. It is making a conscious decision not to buy the other offers and finding “Skip to checkout” hidden in sides and bottom. The mobile experience is definitely better than the web.

What is the most annoying pattern who have encountered on mobile?

Some from the world of twitter #darkpatterns

Spot the close button

Google has changed the ad positioning in gmail and the ads look like a email in your inbox. Does the advertiser get value from this? Shouldn’t the user make a conscious decision to click on the ad. Atleast, it says with a color tag! – subtle

How many ads are clicked by the users across the globe thinking that its a mail? I would bet its many.

Thanks to google we have a suite of productivity solutions ensuring atleast one tab in your browser that has google products open.  Even die hard Microsoft fans would agree, Google Docs rocks!!

Is this good design or the sinister side of UX practioners?



Read more:

A old article from 2011, will help you understand how it all got started.


Crows of Colombo

One day,a crow visited our house, perched on the open window watched Parkavi cook. When I went near the kitchen, it flew away quickly. Parkavi started placing some food in the window rail, which the watchful crow would devour and quickly fly away.

Few days passed and it got comfortable enough to come in arma distance and eat, always watching your move.

On days there was no food, it started cawing until one of us showed up with food in hand and placed in the usual place.

There were more with days passing; most of them would sit on the wall and take turn to come to the window and then launch on the window rail.

Its been more than 2 months now and we have more visitors. But, there is only one who calls us to get his food. And this one is different from the others

Design Resource

Product Design Report – Invision

A great compilation of stats on the role of design in business today. If you are struggling hard to get your organization however small or big to be design-driven this report can help.



GSMA mAgri Design Toolkit

The mAgri Design Toolkit is a collection of instructions, tools, and stories to help develop and scale mobile agriculture products by applying a user-centered design approach.

I started working on the mAgri project as UX Consultant for Dialog mAgri Product, Sri Lanka. The project is live in 6 countries Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Ghana and Malawi.

A lot of our learnings have been compiled in this amazing toolkit by GSMA and Frog. The toolkit from GSMA is divided into 6 useful modules – Intro to UCD, Plan, Learn, Create, Develop and Maintain,  and will come handy for  anyone who is working on a mobile product for the BoP. The case studies and tools used go beyond mobile Agriculture.

Happy learning!!



Katchatheevu – Our unplanned trip

Our destination was yazhpanam, a weekend in jaffna visiting nainatheevu, jaffna fort, nallur temple and point pedro and return back to Colombo

On the night of 19th March, we left home around 8.15 pm and rushed in a tuk tuk to board the train a minute before it left the station. It was a drizzling when the train moved and when the rain stopped the moon started to shine bright in the cloudless sky. It was nearing the full moon day. The following Monday was a Poya day(full moon day) and a public holiday in Sri Lanka. There were a dozen of college goers who started singing and drumming near the restroom till 1 AM and later did sleep take over. The train reach Jaffna in time to catch the sun rise the moment we stepped down.

We reached the hotel after walking along the railway track and were informed that we have to wait till 10 AM to get the room. We had a tea and a slice of cake and left our bags in the hotel, heading to the bus station to catch 776 bus to Kirikaduvan and take a ferry to Nainatheevu – a 20 min ferry ride.

We reach the jetty around 9.30 AM and saw a huge line waiting and there was a also smaller line on the left. The name board called out ‘Katchatheevu’ .It was the 3 day festival in St Antonie’s shrine, which happens once a year. There was to be a boat at 10 AM and the ride to the island would be 3-4 hours. Excited, we got our token 113, which didn’t count much when we stood in the queue. It was a strange queue, with two columns of people sitting on parallel concrete benches. Time and again you had someone walking in between to stand in the front on a pretence of enquiring about the boat. No boat came in the next 4 hours. The young started standing on the bench to look, on the left of Nainatheevu, for boats that would take them to their destination.

We met Kumar here, who was standing in front of us with his young brother in law. He told us it was not a day trip and the boat from Katchatheevu will start after the morning prayers in the shrine. Everyone around us have planned for this trip, for some it was the second time, with food, blankets and water bottles. On a normal day, we would have quit and gone back to hotel. But katchatheevu was special. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to set foot on the island. Finally, a Vada Tharagai II came to the jetty around 1 PM, but soon the message spread that it was for the officials and the media personnel. There was another boat on the right at that time and we didn’t know whether it was also going to Katchatheevu. Everybody was eager and sweaty and wanted to desperately be on a boat. The guards started sending a few in the front, and most of them were the ones who had sneaked in earlier. While the few who had respected the queue stood watching them go out, feeling annoyed. We were also moving slowly forward and were the last and the guard finally asked as to board the boat. At the end,  we had also sneaked ahead of the old family who had token 112 and were trailing behind. It wasn’t fair. We didn’t see them later.

We rushed to the boat , but the door were closed. But, a friendly guard open it on hearing that we were waiting for 4 hours with 113.  It was here we met Kumar again, while we were standing in the queue he left to meet his friends and we didn’t see him again. He offered us his seat, we took turns and reach the island around 4 PM, having had no breakfast or lunch. Our first meal for the day was halwa, followed by groundnuts. There was a path cleared between bushes with shops on both sides leading to the Shrine. Both Indian and Sri Lankan currency would buy you goods. We had made it.

On arrival, we were given a token that was to be produced to get the free food that was arranged by the Sri Lankan Navy. Around 7 PM, a short stroll back towards the shop brought us to the food distribution point. It was rice, dal, bean and some soya curry. It was surreal. Now, it was time to occupy a small space were you would sleep the night. You needed something to mark your area,  you need a sheet to spread in the ground. Having brought nothing other than the cameras, I bought a 4 metre long bed sheet which we put in the floor and also covered us. The clouds were threatening at times, but it didn’t rain.

Well past midnight, we got up and visited the shrine. It was barely 10 meters from our resting place but required careful steps. The entire area was full of people occupying even the smallest of space. There were few devotee praying close to St Anotonie. It is a very small Shrine with 3 idols of the saint and Jesus.

In the dark, we walked back to the entrance to check the first boat that would take us to Jaffna mainland and to the hotel. There were no boats leaving until the morning prayer is completed. I resumed my sleep near the entrance with Parkavi keeping guard. Before the sunrise, a dozen people came to the entrance. They had hired their own boat and it was waiting to take them to delft. We were again lucky and joined them.

The boat took them to delft and we were supposed to find another boat to Kurikadduvan. But, the friendly boat owner took us all the way till kurikadduvan with a soda and biscuits for the journey. The guards on knowing that we are returning from Katchatheevu were surprised and asked “VIP”? We probably were the first to mark our return on the register where we got the token 113.

It was the best trip ever!!




Design Tools UX

Adobe Project Comet

Like me, If you had started creating WFs (Wire frames) in Photoshop and then moved on to Visio and eventually end up hating it. Then excited by Axure with powerful interaction capabilities and realising it curtails your creativity. Adobe Comet would be something you would look forward to.


We have all been there. Product managers wanting clickable prototypes for even the most trivial experiences for their product presentation and you trying hard to do get it right just for the day’s dance. Comet looks promising for both the real work and the dance.

I’m waiting for this tool. It is very cool how the screen interactions are connected through wires and are visible on the screen. I can really see how many hours it would save when trying to design complex enterprise solutions which have many different alternate paths.

More read
Onboarding experience This is a great article on how to go about with the onboarding experience and would be a relevant read for anyone working on new products.


Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak)

15.30 We started our journey hopping on to the bus to Hatton. From Hatton, our plan was to take a bus to Maskeliya and then to Nallathaniya, to the base of the trail. The friendly conductor said he would point us to the Maskeliya bus once we reach Hatton.

20.30 Reached Hatton The conductor recommended us to take a tuk tuk or a cab directly to Nallathaniya as it would be difficult to find transport to Nallathaniya from Maskeliya even if we manage to make it there. After some haggling, we managed to get a cab for LKR 3300 definitely more than the norm.

Having finished the dinner near bus station and started towards the base in the van. The very confident driver didn’t take his foot off the pedal even around corners all the way to Nallathani (Dalhousie). The cab driver had advised us not to venture out at 0200 hrs warning about the leopards he had seen on the road and the possibility of down pour.

22.30 – We reached our stay and slept after agreeing that we would get up around 02.30 and see if fellow hikers are around. If yes, we would start otherwise, we might have to settle for a early morning hike.


02:30 We got up sleepy and not wanting to start yet. But the moonlit sky and the bright stars looked promising and in a couple of minutes, we saw a group of four walking past followed by a couple with a small bag and a headlamp. It took us another 30 mins to pack our bags and start.

[Photo: Entrance in night and the gate]

With the forest around casting dark shadows on the path, the torch was on most of the way. The moon still shone bright lighting up the clear patches. We realized soon there was a well laid concrete path with few puddles directly leading us to the top.

We passed a buddhist monk sitting with a register near the small iron bridge over the ravine. He greeted us friendly and assured us that we just have to follow the path.

Crossing the bridge, the path forked ahead and we got back to the monk for the right direction. He recommended us to take the left.  It might probably have been a little shorter than the right. On our return, we would come from the right enjoying the best view of all.

We ended up walking along the unlit lamp posts that might have put the torches off if we had started after 24th December. The season starts on the Poya day and ends on the vesak in May.  Had it not been for the unlit trail we would have been ever mentally tired of the long hike. It is always better not to know the length of the journey.

There were few tea shops along the trail. We reached the first after an hour of excited walking. We started our first meal swallowing small bananas. The shop was probably the mid point in our journey. A group of four who joined us took the remaining banana bunch and left before us. We still had a two hour hike remaining to catch the sun rise and the real ascend would begin shortly.

With a little sugar in the body and water to quench our thirst we resumed. Even with the drop in temperature, the sweat inside made it difficult to continue wearing the jacket.

Along the way friendly monks from Cambodia greeted, helping their older members of family ascend the holy mountain. One monk advised us not to sit down as it would make it not help the leg muscles to continue. We followed his advice and continued for another hour climbing up the stairs occasionally feeling thankful to walk over the patches of flat land on the long trail.

The peak was finally visible and the orange sky towards the east was telling us the we need to hurry to catch the sun rise from the top. We were 20 minutes away. We all made it to the top with fellow travellers lined up with their to frame the sunrise. It wasn’t a easy hike and it started to feel cold again.

The sun hid himself behind the beautiful clouds that day.

The prayers had started inside the temple. There was a small palanquin being lifted inside the temple and the worshippers hymned a familiar tune and circled around the ‘Sri Pada’ bare footed.

After spending an hour clicking at all sides. We started our descend hoping that it is always easier getting down.

We didn’t notice her when we were climbing in the dark. As we came down, We met a happy 80 year old lady slowing making to the top.Gran

The sun still wasn’t out and it was comfortable for us to slowly got down after a tea and some pol roti. As the day started getting brighter you start seeing regular hikers without any gear, slowly moving up the hill in a strange climbing pattern. With their 20-30 kg load on head they take each step sideways climbing diagonally. While it definitely increase the time of ascend it reduces the tool on the knees. They are not slow in their descend, trotting easily in their simple bathroom slippers.

After passing ‘buddhist temple’ on our left, the path forked on the right steeply disappearing upwards and a gradual slope straight ahead. We took went straight ahead after guiding fellow hikers coming from the right towards the peak. We were rewarded. It was not just the walk through the tea plantation, seeing the streams circling the range but also the flat path was easy on the tired legs.

We were still not close to the end. It took another 20 mins to reach the hotel passing through the preparation for the season starting on 24 of december – the full moon day.