Tools designed for women by barbarak.com
Personally, I've always enjoyed working with tools to make, decorate or repair things. I never regarded this as very difficult, and although sometimes an experiment fails, often it works out and gives a feeling of accomplishment and being self-sufficient.
In my surroundings, I noticed a lot of people being hesitant to dive into the toolbox themselves. Because of this, they were always dependant on others for help. This inspired me to investigate the world of home improvement and DIY ("do it yourself") and how to enable inexperienced users to complete some basic DIY in their own homes in order to hang a frame or shelve.
This project was completed in 2005.
At the time, there were several new developments in power tools that were introduced to the market. E.g. displays were being added to tools, SDS drill bits entered the market, and a new brand of tools for women was launched (typically, women are among others part of the less experienced user group). These tools had a nicer, less technical look, and were sized to fit a women's hand. However, the functionalities offered were not very different from standard power tools, and also they were not making the job easier. They did not target inexperienced users.
In order to identify the needs of inexperienced users, I performed an observational study combined with an interview afterward.
For the observational research, a test setup was created and the participants were given the task to mount a shelve to a wall. They were supplied with a tool overload, as would be the case when visiting a store or toolshed.
Almost no attention was paid to the drill's settings, and most of the participants succeeded in the drilling itself in some way. Successful completion of the task however was not so easy. Issues were categorized into four groups:
Sort: which type of tools should be used for which materials (concrete, brick, wood, etc)
Size: what size of drill bit should be used with what size of screw and plug, and for which size object
Settings: when to use which settings on the drilling machine
Safety: unsecured drill bits and changing drill bits with the machine plugged in posed a safety risk for the user
Based on the interviews and observational research, a persona was created. Especially in a project where users are not very knowledgeable about a topic, but you are, it is easy to overestimate their abilities.
To stay away from this pitfall, I created a persona to help keep the users' needs and abilities in mind during the process and product design.
I decided to map out the user journey to get insight into the steps and decisions that the users need to take to hang an object. The journey map also shows the contextual factors that influence the decision-making process, such as the type of wall you're drilling into, or the weight of the object you are hanging.
What became apparent by creating the journey map, is that most decisions that need to be made require a lot of knowledge from the user. It is not offered by the tooling or any of the materials used.
The results showed that redesigning a drill on its own would not fix all the issues encountered. It's a process that requires a lot of decision-making. Experienced users have learned about the correct usage of tools and materials from experience or from others, but this knowledge is not readily available in the world for inexperienced users. In order to enable them to independently complete a DIY task, the entire process needed to be redesigned. Instead of requiring knowledge from the user, it should offer the knowledge needed to make the correct decisions.
Knowledge in the world
During the design of the process, materials, and tools used in the process of drilling, the principle was to enable the inexperienced user to make the correct decisions based on the knowledge they already had. By selecting the set of materials in the same color, the sizing would match.
Also, there should be room for the user to combine the products with any materials they might already have, e.g. they could use the screw displayed on the side to measure their own screws against.
Sizing & Sort
All throughout the packaging range, the width sizing in millimeters was removed and replaced with a size category. Products in the same size category could be used together successfully, and by providing sizing options the user would also be able to use products already available in their toolshed.
The tools were also marked with coloring to indicate their purpose - wood, brick, or universal.
Settings and safety
The drill itself was redesigned to solve the issues related to settings and safety.
Instead of manually selecting drilling speed and drill or hammer setting, the user can simply select the material they were drilling into, corresponding to the packaging range. The correct settings will be applied automatically based on the selection.
The SDS drill bit system was adopted to ensure safe and secure fastening of the drill bit. The design encourages holding it with two hands for more stability and safety during drilling.
Starting this project, I expected to (re)design a power drill. Observational research and interviews with users revealed the large amount of knowledge that is required to complete a simple drilling task. It became apparent that a drill alone would not be the solution, but that a whole series of products was needed to facilitate correct decision-making in the drilling process.
To me, this really showed the importance of observing your user perform activities in the actual context. I also learned that as an interaction designer, your starting point is often a problem rather than a product, and therefore the solution for that problem can not always be captured in one product either.