Re-moving the Confusion of Moving // my design process

“The essence of the moving process is not in the act of moving physical belongings; but rather, it is the transference of a comforting, familiar, and intimate nature from one’s home to another.”

overview

After moving two times within the last two years — once from my home in San Jose to college at Berkeley and the next from the dorms to my current apartment— I can attest to how taxing the process can be.

Moving was not only physically exhausting, but mentally draining as well.

While moving, I tried searching for a solution to make the task-at-hand easier. However, I noticed that most of the current products only catered towards moving’s physical complications. There were barely any services or products that were centered around moving’s mental turbulence.

Even though it was relatively simple to physically move my things from one place to another, I was left frustrated and empty-handed when it came to emotional needs.

I wanted to design a simpler and more effective product that made the moving process not only easier on the body, but one that also helped to rebuild and maintain a stable, homelike state of mind throughout the whole moving process.

role & duration

product designer

research, contextual inquiry, comparative analysis, persona development, ideation, prototyping,  sketching, usability testing

Personal design project

Aug 2018 – Sep 2018

setting the scene

First things first, it was important to define “moving.”

What exactly is the moving process?

I decided to split the process into five different stages based on location and the corresponding behavior respective to the setting.

user research

contextual inquiry

I wanted my interviews to be succinct but also informative, so I came up with an interview guide that consisted of questions related to each stage.

comparative analysis

Equipped with these questions, I went out and started to interview people.

Being a college student, I was lucky enough to have made plenty of friends and acquaintances who had all recently moved. This made it easy for me to find interviewees within my target audience and, over one week’s time, I conducted a total of twelve interviews with students from varying grade levels and demographics.

Next, I looked through my findings and picked out any notable quotes and separated them based on which stage they were associated with.

I then categorized them as either a feeling, a thought, or an existing issue and came up with the chart shown below.

 

After looking through the data, a few prominent behavioral patterns began to arise.

One of the main takeaways was that these students did not have a hard time transporting items at all and that they were more likely to be concerned about the psychological complications.

We can see how the the current market’s focus on moving’s physical ailments has come at the cost of the mental well-being of the movers themselves.

Thus, I went through again and color-coded the quotes that shared similar sentiments. After doing so, it became apparent that there were three prominent “saturation points.”

The feelings, thoughts, and problems of these past movers illustrated to me that the moving process was a confusing, disorganized, and uncomfortable experience for them.

persona development

Using these findings, I came up with two user personas:

The first persona was that of a freshman who had just moved from their home country/city to college.

The second persona was that of an upperclassman who had moved from the dorms to their apartments.

My own experiences and the market research both supported one central notion:

The solution was not about finding a faster and more efficient way of transporting items from one location to another, but should be heavily focused on solving the lack of mental organization during the process as a whole.

And thus, the purpose of my design became:

To create a more visually coordinated and systematized method of moving that fostered an informedorganized, and comfortable moving experience.

ideation

brainstorming

With this objective in mind, I came up with four user needs.

These needs correlated with the three “sub-goals” that were stated within the objective and were utilized as a rubric for my ideas.

I also used color once again to illustrate the connections between the overarching patterns I discovered in my research and these user needs.

It was time to start brainstorming.

I started the ideation process by jotting down some quick ideas and sketches onto a few sticky notes.

Some of the ideas included:

  • An app that helped you sort what items you needed to bring and which items you didn’t need,
  • A space optimization app that helped to relegate items within different boxes and then generate floor-plans for each box in order to maximize space usage and efficiency when packing,
  • And a personal “moving handbook” that gave you Geo-specific advice on the location you are moving from and the location you are moving to which helped with assimilation and other aspects of moving.

After looking back through all of the solutions, I picked the three ideas that seemed the most viable to me in terms of the user needs they met and the potential they had to be impactful.

In the end, I ended up picking the “Scanning App + Signaling Device” because it met every single user need and the “needs” it did not meet were actions the user could take before the moving process.

Before I went into prototyping, I decided to do some more secondary research. It was at that point I discovered there was already an app on the market, Sortly, that fulfilled the function of the “Scanning App.”

prototyping

solution

One of the largest factors that fosters a smooth transition from one place to another is the ease of mind offered when one always knows where their belongings are and what exactly is being moved throughout the entire process. By making sure the mover always feels comfortable and organized during the journey, this level-headed mindset allows them to better hold their ground in the midst of a drastically changing environment.

After all, of what use is a fast delivery process if the mover’s world is turned upside down and their belongings scattered across a foreign landscape when everything is dropped off?

I believe the solution I chose was able to give consumers both a fast and organized delivery process that enabled them to have a fluid moving experience.

Not only did the colored bands and the complementary application make the mover more informed, more organized, and more comfortable, I believe it held the key to transforming moving itself:

Emotional and psychological guidance channeled through physical means of application.

sketching

I sketched out a rough outline of what the product would look like and highlighted its features.

I then described how these devices were meant to be used in conjunction with Sortly.

By allowing the user to have organizational tools both in the real and digital worlds, it gives them a sense of peace and security throughout the whole process.

usability

user testing

Lastly, I was able to conduct one round of user testing with a few previous interviewees and I responded to some of the feedback.

If I were to work on this product in the future, I would create another iteration of the prototype with the feedback I received. The new product would include designing a website/ordering system where the mover could input custom dimensions of their moving containers. I would also develop more sizes and shapes of the colored bands in order to fit more containers. 

Lastly, I would go out and conduct more user-testing and iterate until the product was ready for manufacturing.

reflection

Moving is not merely a physical endeavor.

It is a full-bodied experience filled with mental road-blocks and adversity. If we do not tackle these issues, a large part of the moving journey will be left forgotten and untouched. We need to begin to think about the process as a whole instead of focusing on an endpoint-centric issue. Moving is so much more than just putting things in boxes and unloading them at another place; it is an entire journey filled with hardships at each step of the way.

Although my product is a long ways from cutting edge technology, I hope it illustrates the direction that products are heading in and also gives a brief overview of my design process. By viewing the consumer journey from a birds-eye view, people are able to innovate and create with more foresight and breadth to produce revolutionary products.

This project really blew my mind with what I was able to discover about moving. When I initially started it, I thought I would end up designing a simple product that solved a simple inconvenience during the moving process, but it ended up being so much more. I hope you enjoyed this read and maybe even learned a little something about moving.

I would like to end on this note:

The next time you help someone move, remember to offer them not only a helping hand, but also an understanding and empathetic heart as they maneuver through this decidedly complex and chaotic journey.