How I used UX to help solve my husband’s shoe rack problem

photography of assorted-color shoes lot on box
Image from Jakob Owens at Unsplash

It’s been a year since we moved into a bigger apartment and we’ve been having a problem with our shoe rack. It’s a proper functional shoe rack, selected by my husband, but he just wouldn’t put his shoes inside until prompted.

Now, I’ve recently transitioned into UX and have been trying to apply their principles wherever I can. I did the same here and decided to help solve his problem. This is what happened.

The story

So this is what would happen everyday:

Husband comes home –> takes his shoes off –> places it next to the shoe rack –> I find out and we fight about it –> I nag him to put his shoes back inside –> the same thing repeats next day –> and next –> and next.

I just couldn’t understand what the problem was and why he couldn’t or wouldn’t put his shoes inside. Ironically, this shoe rack was picked by him and he didn’t want another one because he had liked it so much.

So what was the problem then?? Why wasn’t he using it? This is when UX came to help.

UX to the rescue

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Source here

Research (observing my dear user)

For a week, I observed what my husband was doing and I noticed he wouldn’t want to bend anymore. Did he want a taller shoe rack I wondered?
“Let’s not assume and jump to conclusions,” I told myself and continued to watch him.

I then told him to physically go through the process of putting his shoes inside, and speak out aloud what he was feeling during those steps, so this way I could try to identify where the friction began.

Physically observing him go through the steps of placing shoes in shoe rack

I also asked him questions along the lines of:

  • What is the problem with the shoe rack?
  • Why do you not want to use this anymore?
  • You used to like it before, where are you feeling is the friction?
  • If we had to get a new one, what kind of a shoe rack would you want?
  • What do you want to get our of a shoe rack?

His feedback

“I have three main shoes. One of them doesn’t fit inside anymore coz of the height of the rows inside the shoe rack. It’s restricting it.”

“It has all the shoes that I don’t wear, which is adding clutter. But I don’t know where else to keep it.”

“It’s collecting dust all the time, it’s not airy, and my white sneakers will get spoilt.”

“I’m unable to clean it coz I can’t see.”

“I just want a place for my 3 shoes, where there is a spot for each shoe and I know exactly which shoe goes where and I don’t have to think about it.”

“I don’t know what’s happening with the shoes. I can’t see the shoes properly once they are inside.”

Conclusion: My overall findings

I gathered:

  • He uses three shoes mainly. Rest are all extras which were taking up space inside the shoe rack. The shoe rack was being used as storage rather than being usable on a daily basis.
  • While he wanted the shoe rack to be airy, he wanted its design to be a closed cabinet style–which is what we already had.
  • He mentioned few times he’s unable to see inside.

So back to: how can we make him see his shoes inside the shoe rack?

Solution

Two simple tweaks! 🙂 We made two changes.

Change 1: We first started with removing all the shoes that he rarely wore and moved them to where he stores his other rarely-used-items. He was happy with that. ‘Oh, I didn’t think of that,’ was the response. That made me smile.

Change 2: We removed one shelf from the shoe rack.

Before…

In this image, you will notice, the shoe rack has 4 rows (2 dedicated to me, the other 2 to him). This is where he expressed low visibility and the constraint in putting taller shoes. While discussing ideas, we thought of removing one of the planks to see if that helps? And it did.

After…

We merged the last two rows by removing one plank. This created space in the shelves and suddenly I heard my husband say, this is great. There is more height and illusion of space. I can now ‘see’ my shoes properly.

Testing its usability

So far he’s loving the solution. He’s feeling happy and using the shoe rack a lot more than before. The shoes are inside all the time now and I’ve silently observed that he’s bending again to place the shoes back in!

My learning

As for me, I’m just happy to see I could help solve his pain point and witness first hand a UX principle, that often simple tweaks are the ones that go a long way in solving a user’s problem.

sneakers lot
Image by Hermes Rivera from Unsplash

© 2019 Deepti Mansukhani