How can we help people take better care of robots so they last?

4 Lessons from My iRobot UX Internship

Confidential information has been redacted.

A very big thank you for everyone on the iRobot Design team. Working with robots has always been on my bucket list. I’ve learnt so much and I cannot thank you all enough.




3.5 Months

My Team

Jessie Huang
Vanessa Wigel
Amanda Holmes
Rick Hoobler

My Role

UX Research


1. People don't think about robot care.

Struggling to design for an existing mental model only to realize people don't think about robot care.

Help people form a good mental models of a task,
especially when non exist.

When I started working on the maintenance experience of the Roomba, I was obsessed with trying to get at the mental model of the user. Is it like bike maintenance, or is it like a pet's health? I did many task analysis, but it never got at how people thought about robot care. I spent a lot of time trying to wireframe the answer to "how do people think about robot care" until one of the design researchers asked me:

"What if people don't think about robot care?"

This shifted my perspective on my design process. Instead of aligning my wireframes to an existing mental model, I was actively creating a mental model with my wireframes. I was shaping how people think about their robots through my interaction designs!

2. Words create experiences

Copywriting is a brand’s personality.

As I refined my wireframes, I began to work with Marketing to ensure that I was not communicating iRobot cleans "for" you but rather "with" you via the app's copy. This help keeps the targeted market segment expectations' realistic. Additionally,  this level of detail also ensures that the copy follows iRobot’s brand values.

Various tones, voice, and perspective I tested on paper prototypes.

3. The details of the experience extends beyond the app.

It’s called expereince design,
not app design.

During my first week at iRobot, the Design team was informed prelaunch of the new i7 Roomba that many users open iRobot's packaging the wrong way. Opening the packaging the wrong way causes the brand new $900 robot to literally "fall" out of the packaging. As an intern, my task was to explore, design, and test interventions to prevent this problem. I designed 5 different prototypes and quickly mock these boxes up for testing. Some used more salient cues like diagrams, while other subtle suggest orientation via text and EULA sticker placements. All these details add up.

All the versions I’ve designed and tested. Left most is control.

4. Co-design and amplify other people's ideas.

UX insights exist beyond the Design team.

Designers are often pressured to come up with “good ideas”.  That was me during my internship. Well, at least until my manager suggested that I seek help from those outside the Design department. Slowly, I began to work with the Customer Insights team to understand the ideal frequency and difficulty of all Roomba care tasks. Learning about when things might break from call data allowed me to prevent it in the app.

Everybody is a designer.
Sometimes all they need is some help visualize.

The co-design jam with Costumer Insight.

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