TS RERA No.P02400003403.

User Research as a starting point in Eco Habitat Design

July 1, 2022

At Studio Organo, our starting point for eco habitat design is our end users. As architects with decades of collective experiences, we’ve noticed patterns on how Indian families use and occupy space. So, our eco-habitats are designed with the user groups in mind, where they are placed right in the centre; and with homes, neighbourhoods, community amenities and apt lifestyle services are designed around them. Do have a quick look at our award-winning project to get an overview about our eco habitat design. This video will give you a context to the article below. 

Insert video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH9skygSFcU

Key step in our product design process

As a first step, we conduct user research in the initial part of our product design process. Our research methods follow a simple but systematic investigation of user groups to gather insights that inform both the design process as well as the final product, which in our case is our eco habitat communities.

When we conduct the research, we engage and observe users at their homes as well as through surveys and interviews. We conduct 1) field studies at user homes (where we visit the family homes, and with their permission, observe/learn/understand how they consume square footage, store items and objects, use space, map circulation paths and obstacles, and discard waste), 2) focus group discussions, 3) detailed user interviews by designers, 4) attitudinal research, and 5) quantitative research with respect to daily routines, weekly habits, spacial requirements, support systems and other tangible requirements like power, water and food consumptions. As we design eco habitats that aim to be self-reliant in terms of energy, water and food, these research findings are important in the product design.

When we conduct our research, we ensure that we map both individual user persona as well as family personas. This way, we develop a deeper and empathic understanding of their family structure, routines, needs, behaviours, aspirations, and pain points in relation to their home, communities/neighbourhoods and services.

Embedding user understanding through design in built environments

We conduct the research in 3 stages: during design ideation, design development and on-site construction

Stage 1: At the pre-design (design ideation) stage where we are ideating solutions, we interview a sample group of who we think are families facing specific pain points in their current lifestyles. We notice where the home or the neighbourhood is not a perfect fit for the family, because it often appears like they are trying to fit their lifestyle into spaces that are not fully accommodating it. This is usually qualitative research and the information gathered during this stage is then analysed, the problem statement is articulated, and the broad design brief written. The brief is used to develop the architectural concept design and for testing financial feasibility. Once the design and financial feasibility are established, then we proceed with 2nd stage of user research.

Stage 2: During design development, we invite a sample set of families, who fit our family personas as well as those who participated in stage 1, to be part of this user research, be it via interviews, meetings, zoom calls, or surveys. We showcase the concept design and get their critical feedback in terms of use, size, aesthetics and experience. We keep the conversation a little open to allow the family or couple to respond naturally and without inhibitions. We gather both qualitative data, like preferences, opinions, style ideas, etc and quantitative data such as room dimensions, storage requirements, activities they pursue and the hours they spend on it, etc.

With that, we go back to the drawing table. The information at this stage may validate the design assumptions or may need us to refine the design of the home or community. An important thing to note here is that what we think the users need may not be the same as what the user thinks they want. So, there is some level of decision-making that we do, born out of user research but also out of our previous experience as architects, that influences the design outcomes and make them pragmatic solutions. This is also because we believe architecture is a blend of art and science of space, use and expression; and how we design space, by nature, does have some level of inherent subjectivity in articulation.

Stage 3: Finally, we repeat user research once more, when the homes are sold and under construction. Here we meet with the families who have bought their homes in our communities. We have a design discussion, where we walk them through their home and see if there are simple design opportunities that will make the typical home design fit better to the family. This helps us to establish a better home and user fit.

Sometimes, families have specific additional requirements or style preferences, which are outside the scope of the sales and purchase agreement. In which case, they request for personalization of their homes, and hire our interior designers, to customize the home. So, this brings our product design process to full circle, and where home and user fit is completely personal to that particular family.

Way forward in our product design process

While we follow this process in our product designs, could I say we have figured it all out? I'm afraid not. There is still a lot more work to be done, especially in our industry. At Studio Organo, we are invested in having data-informed design solutions, and to develop our in-house capabilities in that direction. Because ultimately, user research is the key differentiator between designing homes and communities based on guestimates or market conditions, versus actually developing a housing solution that addresses and solves end users’ pain points.

Keen to collaborate with us?

I hope this overview on how our 3-stage user research informs our product design process and influences the final design outcomes has been helpful.

If you would like to participate in our surveys and interviews, we would love to hear from you. Please hop into our website (https://www.organo.co.in/), read up on what we do (https://www.organo.co.in/blog), and let us know your interest via an email to studio@organo.co.in (subject line: User Research Participant). Where our user personas meet your family personas, we will connect with you. Your inputs will help us design better homes, eco habitats and services.

Also, if you are a user experience researcher, with a background in architecture, and are based out of Hyderabad India, please reach out to us via email. Let us explore how to collaborate in conducting user research or refining our research methodology. Email to studio@organo.co.in (subject line: Architect + User Researcher)

About Author

I’m Meena Murugappan. 

Home and neighbourhood design has been close to heart throughout my career. I'm always fascinated with how home & neighbourhood designs change over time and the needs of end users evolve or morph due to urbanization, changing daily routines, and technology. My focus is specifically on end user behaviours, home design & sustainable communities in emerging markets like India.

With 21 years of international and local experience in architectural design, real estate development and business design & operations across Middle East and South Asia, I’m passionate about collaborating with co-dreamers, designing & building with co-creators, and working towards mainstreaming unique first-to-market sustainable solutions.

I’m Director, Product Strategy & Innovation at Organo Eco-Habitats Pvt Ltd, one of India’s leading group of companies focused on sustainable living.

About Studio Organo

We are a cross-functional and research-focused team of architects, engineers, and technical experts, who ideate, refine and detail eco habitat products, components, and solutions. Our core intent is to co-create and manifest apt rurban lifestyles across all eco-habitat components to celebrate the living for respective user groups. From earth-friendly neighborhoods to home interiors, we’ve got it all covered.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/studioorgano/
Website :https://www.organo.co.in/studio-organo

If you’d like to know about our design explorations, please email us at studio@organo.co.in