Total Environment (TE) is an award-winning design-led architectural firm. Their commitment to the craft of constructions and attention to details is legendary. Their classification system of construction materials is more detailed than industry standards. They allow their customers to customise their home using their product called ‘eDesign.’ eDesign enforced good design rules, so you can never choose a lousy design.
TE, as a brand isn’t just about construction; it is about delivering ‘priceless’ experiences. This taps into people’s desires for excitement and freedom. At the same time, TE focuses on craft and simplicity, which connects to people’s innate need for personal space and comfort.
They approached Thoughtworks to design a web app primarily focused on iPad “e-Design” allows users to customise their home in real-time 3D where users can choose from 9.4 million design options while 1000+ rules are running in the background. It was one of the most challenging and most extended projects of my career. Clients were architects with a very detailed eye for the experience.
I was part of this project right from the first sales meeting until delivery. We, a team of 2 designers, led experience design from sales to vision to execution. We collaborated with a product manager, business analyst, tech leads and QA's.
Pen & paper, illustrator, sketch
Users aren't able to finish home customisation faster.
Homebuyers - people who buy TE homes. Users will customise their home by using eDesign.
The majority of the users are the people who hold the highest social status, E.g. C-level executives, country heads, founders, musicians etc.
HNI (53%) High net-worth individuals who want to own lifestyle product
Investors (24%) User’s who want to invest in the property and put it on rent
Art enthusiasts (17%) Users who are artistic and appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship
Aspirational (6%) Users who want to own and maintain a high lifestyle product (home).
During the user's data which was provided by sales and CEM's, We captured these facts about users, which helped me to understand user types.
To start, We did a workshop with Total Environment’s founders, CIO, Technical team, Sales & Marketing, customisation experience managers and architects to understand complete eco-system, blockers, challenges and pain points.
Based on the workshop, we captured these goals for all stakeholders, which became a direction for the project.
“Finish customisation faster”
“Personalised experience for buyers"
“We want to deliver faster”
We were capturing all the necessary details to start the mood board for this product. We defined these principles to set the direction for the visuals.
Stress Free / Minimal and aesthetic / Easy for eyes / Extension of brand.
Sunil Shrivastav sketched out wireframes for each page, just to get the basic idea of how the pages will look.
Since TE's majority of the users are the people who hold the highest social status, so it was quite hard to get their time. Most of the time, we used to rely on sales or CEM's. We used to go to the sales office and wait for people to turn up or wait for CEM's meetings with users. This is a challenge as when We need to test with users we don't have them. If we wait, we lose time as the tech was happening parallelly.
We found another way to do quick test contents/designs. We took the guerrilla testing approach - started showing designs to others to get a fresh perspective. Is it easy enough for first-timers?
Early adopters testing - We named them because they were seeing/using this product the first time.
Testing with stakeholders
During our first design showcase, We showed wireframes on the projector, and soon we realised that stakeholders had a hard time understanding the flow and designs. Especially connections because for few people on-screen it's hard to connect the dots between screens. We observed how architects worked and realised, architects generally play a lot with papers when they work on designs and when they present. I took that as a learning experience and changed the way of showing flows and designs.
We moved from digital to paper for design showcases so that architects can feel homely.
Visual designs were shown only on iPad because we observed that the projector doesn't justify the quality/perfection and also we wanted to give them the real feel of how the product is going to look and work on iPad.
For design showcases, my friend Sunil and I used to ride 580kms with a box of printed wireframes to showcase. We named that box 'Box of hope'. Yes, we both love riding motorcycles, so we thought, let's mix fun with work.
Another not so fun fact is, I met with a serious accident while returning home after the project and was bed ridden for 7 months.
It’s hard to quantify how much we did learn by working on this project with such a talented team, but I can easily point out how the redesign impacted users and how it reflected in business. After eight months of going live, Total Environment shared data with us to celebrate success.
Good design is about making a connection. - Total Environment founder