This is not a typical portfolio item

In the past several months, I’ve been using my design and product management skills for something totally different. Building a house!  This process reflects so much about me that I thought it’s worth sharing it here.

01. Architecture is 100% UCD (user centered design).

A couple of years ago, I received applications from two architects for a UX job. At that point, I didn’t know how much overlap there might be between the two fields. But here is what I learned a year after.
Just like UX design, building a custom house starts with understanding its end-user, identifying the functions it has to perform and meticulously following many human factors (less on the cognition side) and established design principals to ensure great experience for its future inhabitants.

usercentered

You go through the ideation phase, low fidelity design, evaluation & build up the details from there.

For me, having some drawing skills and human factor education was the start of the trouble. While I was trying to respect my architect, I found no harm in actively participating in the initial design studies!

concepturalSketches

Early design explorations - South elevation & section

Boostani & Glaudemans Architects

02. Feedback loop & design iterations.

Designing a house is constant work around the limitations and a ton of creative efforts to create an optimal solution within those constraints. You as the owner continuously review and re-evaluate your assumptions. Once you have a full drawing set, you submit it to the city for review. And the city opens the discussion to a broader audience and invite all your future neighbors to comment on the your design. You go through many iterations and changes until you have a design.

designItteration

03. Using sketch app to do elevation study

I call elevation study the high fidelity design in the architectural world. It’s where you define all the details that go into your living space.

I’m probably the first and only person on the planet who used Sketch to design a massive amount of architectural details. I think I’m introducing a whole new untapped market for Sketch  😉

Elevation Study

with Sketch app

04. Electrical or let’s call it interaction design

Deciding what button to do what?! This is where I found myself so at home and I totally took it to the next level… Smartthings hub, connected sensors and switches are all the new goodies you can play with at your home even if you are not building a new one.

05. Problem solving, creative thinking & innovation

A GOOD product manager does all the above on a very frequent basis. Building a house could be a playground for unconventional thinking and finding better ways of doing things. You normally feel resistance at work or life when you challenge the conventions. But I was lucky with my contractors and my project became a lab for trying all sort of new things. These are a few things we are doing differently here:

 

innovation

06. Asana for Construction Management

Construction shares the same core elements of software projects: cost, time, and quality. But the work culture and approaches are totally different than what we are used to in the tech universe. I knew I was pushing it when I made all the construction managers to sign up for asana. But given the level of financial commitment I had and seeing a few deadlines passing by, I had no choice but introducing some elements of my PM training to the process. I think there is also a market need for a dead-simple timeline management for a non-tech workers. But in the absence of that, I had to use something that was simple enough and that definitely wasn’t Jira 😉

My efforts in numbers

230+
Tasks documented & tracked
900+
hours of research and management
128
Materials & vendors selected
project

Again, why those architects wanted to become UXers?

Because:

  • They know how to think like a UXer
  • Construction is a lot of work and responsibility (they can be sued for their work up to 10 years after the work is done)
  • And they don’t get paid all that much

But for me, the process was a lot of fun. To want, to imagine, to sweat, and to build something that personally and professionally represents me more deeply than a lot of my other works.