We tend to think we know our users and know what to expect of them when adding a feature or creating a new user experience. One important experience reminded us how it’s not always the case, and how sometimes the best way to learn about our users is to closely watch them use our product in their natural environment. It’s as simple as that.

My team at Soluto Tel-Aviv focuses on the first experience of our customers with the product. The product of Soluto is offered in the US to people who purchase a new smartphone, and their first experience with the product starts at the carrier store.

Our main goal was to get users to interact with our product as soon as possible, so we focused on the first value we can provide consumers – help them switch from the old phone to the new one they just purchased. When formulating a solution, one of the key ideas we came up with was to create a physical in-store stand for the customers to place their phone in. The stand would guide them through the transition from their old phone to their new one.

For about a month, we designed and developed a physical stand made from cardboard (with support from an industrial designer) as well as the actual experience that included a live chat with a tech expert to guide the customer through the transition.

You can get a peak of the final result below:

Once ready, we sent part of the team (Product manager, developer and myself in UX) to the carrier stores in the US for 2 weeks to observe and hear from users in first hand how the experience designed in Tel-Aviv was being accepted in the field.

A few days into our in-stores observations, and we were stunned: we quickly learned that many things we assumed back home was quite off.

Identifying the problems and the solutions

While observing we started to identify the key pain points in the end-to-end experience, some of which we didn’t even consider during the design stage.

Here are the problems we discovered and some of the solutions we could easily implement and test:

1.  Because the phone is the property of the carrier (Trade-In scheme), people were worried about its safety more than we thought. They were afraid to place their old phone inside the cardboard case, fearing that it would fall and break.
Solution: We tried to make changes in the case in order to make it more robust and safe for the mobile phone placed in it. The case was made of cardboard (which didn’t feel the best material from the get-go, but acted as an excellent MVP), and that could not change. After a short trip to the nearest crafts store, armed with cardboard, glue and scissors, we began remodelling the case to overcome this pain point. The users’ reaction was positive – the changes actually made a difference and they were more confident to put their phones in the case.

2. The phone and tablet position weren’t intuitive for people to type in, as people usually hold their phone with one or two hands when typing, and are not used to typing on a tablet for very long.
Solution: We tried to solve the problem with 2 tests we ran: dictation and predefined answers. Both showed improvement among the users.
We added 4 predefined answers we knew were common while in a chat session with an expert (Yes / No / Ok, I got it / I’m gonna need help with that). Those were well accepted by users.
We also researched for a suitable voice based solution to replace the typing action. Considering the noisy surrounding in the stores, we decided not to implement this solution but go with dictation instead, a simpler and more intuitive solution, which translates voice to text, and is popular in the US.

3. Although the design was pretty cool, the total package didn’t stand out in the store due to all the natural in-store distractions such as commercials, lights, sounds, etc.
Solution: Unfortunately we couldn’t tackle it at that point in time – as intervening with the store’s design was too complicated. We therefore decided to leave the stands visibility pain point unresolved.

Here is a peak to the new stand design:

Additional insights were about our on-boarding flow itself. The flow included a messaging session with a tech support expert helping users with their new phone, and guiding them through all the steps needed to move from their old phone to the new one. Here are the things we focused on there:

1. We noticed that some customers didn’t want to continue with the messaging, because they felt like it’s too much ‘work’, considering that typing was inconvenient for them. The solution we were implementing was a significant change for the customers – they were used to a situation where the store sales people were doing everything for them. The predefined answers implementation helped with this issue also.

2. Having just finished a personal experience with a store salesman, customers expected the same personal and immediate response from the messaging session expert. Waiting even a few seconds was considered too long for customers, who quickly lost their patience.
Solution: We added an indication for when an expert is typing, so the customer knows there is someone active on the other side.
Also we improved the response time, with the support of several related teams, to better draw experts’ attention to new and available conversations.

3. The experts’ guidance was not always clear enough – there are many steps involved in a device onboarding (particularly in switching from one device to another) and the customers were looking for a very detailed guidance from our experts, which was challenging to provide through a chat session.
Solution: We built some detailed step by step guides accompanied by descriptive visuals for pain points which were common amongst users (for example, how to retrieve one’s Apple account details). We tested whether customers were willing and capable to perform such actions by themselves without the guidance of a live expert. Some guidelines were shared with the users before starting a chat with the expert, and other guidelines were shared with the experts, helping them be more sympathetic to the customer’s situation, which was unique for each customer.


To sum up, our short journey of 2 weeks in the US gave us huge value in understanding users’ needs and pain points, and in solving some problems we’ve encountered using small and fast iterations to optimize the users’ adoption of our flow and their overall experience with it.

A few things that I personally took away from this experience were:

  1. When you’re working with physical objects, don’t be afraid to make changes on the field – use cheap and flexible materials and bring your tools with you.
  2. Learn your environment, where will people use your product? Are there lights? Noises? Is there Traffic? Every distraction is important to consider in the overall usability of your product.
  3. Make sure that you’re making the easiest way for people to use your flow – even typing can be exhausting. Always consider if there’s an easier solution.
  4. Get to know your customers/clients – don’t be shy and talk to them, but try not to interrupt the flow.
  5. Document anything that happens, by writing, photographing etc.
  6. Be prepared for things NOT to work as you expected, and remember that in most cases it will be for the best 🙂

This is me, Olga Velter, UX designer at Soluto, working in the back of the store on our stand 🙂