My closet: a UX case study
About a month ago, I noticed I wear the same 10 things over and over again.
Walking into my closet, I was overwhelmed with choices, unaware of what clothes I had, and defaulting to the comfortable.
As a UX designer, I recognised that I had a design problem on my hands. Hick’s law of UX applied to my wardrobe - i.e. the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.
I made parallels between my relationship with my closet, and users trying to navigate through a complicated, badly designed software to find what they’re looking for. I decided to tackle my closet the way I would a UX problem I’d encounter at work.
I spent the next few days doing user research. I observed the way I interacted with my closet every morning and took notes of how I put outfits together and what my goals and pain points are.
My pain points could be summarised as the following:
My closet was so badly arranged that I am unable to keep track of what I owned. George Miller asserted that the average person can only keep around 7 items in their working memory. This was definitely true in my case as I was reaching for the same pieces over and over and over again while forgetting others.
The law of proximity states that objects that are near, or proximate to each other, tend to be grouped together. The way my closet is arranged (or its lack of arrangement) has led to me grouping items together that shouldn’t have been and wearing them out into the world.
I do a lot each day, and hate having to pack multiple outfits to change into.
I’m always short on time and running late.
Once I identified the problems I’m facing, I decided to consult outside help. I hired fashion designer, closet consultant and all around wizard, Paulina Petkoski. Paulina attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, the Polimoda International Institute of Design in Florence and has worked with Mr. Calvin Klein himself.
UX experts suggest organising content in groups of 5 to 9 items at a time to easily remember a lot of information. We grouped all of my clothing by category (aka: jackets, blazers, dresses) so I could easily see everything I owned. By sectioning everything into categories, I’m able to see gaps in my closet and visualise what’s missing and what I need. This helps me figure out what I need to buy as well as how to layer clothes together.
Creating a “landing page” and then building out “sub pages”. Katrina noticed that not all of my clothes live in my closet. My shoes are kept downstairs in the garage, my belts are kept on a chair next to my bed, etc. She suggested keeping all my clothes in one place, so that I don’t have to continuously navigate to different areas. My closet serves as the landing page to my wardrobe and like all good sites, we worked hard to minimise the number of “clicks” it takes to get to important content. Using all the vertical space in my closet to display tops, bottoms and shoes all at once helps not bury any information.
Each of my outfits comprise of 3 key pieces- a top, a bottom and a pair of shoes. Using the vertical space in my closet to display all 3 concurrently has a similar effect to Typeform’s surveys. As a user, I’m able to see what part of the process I’m in and how long I have to complete it. This helps me better estimate time and keeps me motivated in curating a cohesive outfit.
Getting rid of clutter. Like a website constantly being updated, there’s a lot of irrelevant, outdated content in my closet. This clutter distracts me from what I really want to find. Katrina helped me figure out what to discard and what to keep but place in a less visible location.
When opening the door to my closet, the first thing I now see are tops that can work during different events. These tops can be dressed up or down (or both!) depending on what I’m doing that day. Seeing this content first, I’m able to plan my whole outfit around a versatile top.
Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable.
Interacting with my closet used to weigh on me a lot more that I realised. It wasn’t till this project that I realised how much time and energy my badly-designed closet sucked out of me.
Relating this back to software design, I can clearly see the effect good UX has.
When using a product, a user might not notice how difficult and complex the it actually is. Getting some distance and perspective from the process helps a designer really understand the pain points of users. Perhaps the reason why many software engineers see no user experience issues with their badly formatted, command line interfaces is that they’re so engrossed in using the product that they’ve never had an opportunity to take a step back and explore other options. The product is “functional” which is often mistaken as the whole point of software.
As a user, I feel much better getting dressed in the morning with my newly-arranged closet. I’m able to choose outfits that I can transition throughout the day, rather than pack multiple different outfits and have to worry about changing.
Emotionally, I feel more in control and at ease about getting dressed in the morning and tackling the day. I’m presented with, but not overwhelmed by content.