One of the things I love most about being a product designer at Houzz is how I’m constantly challenged by projects. Most recently I worked on View in My Room 3D (VIMR 3D), which brings augmented reality to the Houzz shopping experience, making it easy for people to find products that will work great in their homes. We had to overcome major design and technical challenges to make VIMR 3D an intuitive and easy-to-use feature for our users. Here are some takeaways from the process:

Define clear goals. This first step was critical to finding the right design solution. We had to think about what we wanted VIMR 3D to do, and what the user experience should be. We wanted to give our users the most value from our visualization tool, and take online shopping a step further by creating a rich mobile experience that is both human-centered and enjoyable.

Research. As a part of the design process at Houzz, we use research to gather insights and identify the best approach for our problem. For VIMR 3D, we started by asking basic questions such as “Why do people shop online?” “How do people shop online?” “What is the difference between online and offline shopping?” Visualization emerged as a key to decision-making for online shoppers. The ability to view products in the context of your room, scale them, move them and share them with others, creates a better shopping experience.

Test and iterate. Any designer will tell you that crafting a simple interaction is a challenging task. The new technologies and sensing abilities of devices have allowed us to present a new way of interaction through augmented reality. We thought about the movements of the finger and thumb that allow a user to interact with the app, and how these gestures have a universal quality. Through user testing, we found that in general, people will most likely try to pinch to zoom or use a single finger to drag an object around in space. We continued to iterate several different options for gestures and tested them against each other with the aim of finding the most intuitive interaction for VIMR 3D.

By defining clear goals, researching, and iterating across all stages of design and development, we were able to deliver a feature that addresses a major pain-point in online shopping, and that we’re all very proud of as a team. What really excites me though is what comes after the launch of a new feature: the immediate feedback we get from our enormous community of homeowners and home professionals. This input is what challenges us to enhance new features like VIMR 3D even further to provide the best experience for home design – and shopping.