Sonos Identity Platform Redesign

Dates Worked On: Nov 2019-Sept 2020
My Role: UX Design Lead, Full-Time Employee

The Problem

Note: This project is still in progress. 

In 2019, I became the User Experience lead on a big effort to overhaul the Sonos identity platform architecture. The work is an important foundation for the company’s strategic shift in priorities in the coming years, and impacts all of our customers, and all departments that use customer data at Sonos.

Designing Platforms

As the UX Lead for the identity platform redesign, I was tasked with untangling what it means to design a platform and/or service, as opposed to designing the end product. Our job was to create a flexible toolkit that fulfilled the strategic objectives of every other department at the company. 

The priority goals of our discovery process were to: 
  • Ensure we have a clear understanding of internal stakeholder needs.
  • Align our priorities with the Sonos roadmap.
  • Anticipate changing needs in the future to build a flexible system.

Stakeholder Interviews

Because this project impacted so many teams and departments at Sonos, it was imperative that we collaborate early and often, building goodwill and enthusiasm for the work across the company. At the beginning of our design process, we did thorough stakeholder interviews spanning the internal functions that would be most impacted by the platform redesign.

I asked the Product Management and Engineering leads to join me in conducting the stakeholder interviews, to ensure we were all building empathy for our internal users. 

Defining Project Goals + Principles

After conducting stakeholder interviews, I led the core team through a sense-making and prioritization exercise to turn the data collected during stakeholder interviews into clear guiding principles. During this workshop, we also worked to prioritize the goals of the project — thereby narrowing the problem space before we dove into user research.

Program Principles
  • Design for Flexibility
  • Embrace Complexity Early
  • Be User Driven

Qualitative + Quantitative User Research

After refining the project goals & principles, we began to investigate customer behaviors, pain points and needs within the problem space.

In January 2020, we conducted in-home interviews with eight households in the Boston area. We collaborated with Essential Design, based in Downtown Boston, to develop the test plan, facilitation guide, and a card sorting exercise to explore perceptions towards specific functionality on Sonos systems.

Waiting for a research partcipant with our rockstar Senior User Researcher, Su He

Coming from startups, where I was often a UX Design & User Research team of one, it was awesome to participate in a larger scale research program, both with Sonos user researchers, and the team at Essential Design. We conducted interviews with couples, roommates, and familes, to investigate their shared relationship to technology in the home. 

Research Focus
  • Household and user composition
  • User behaviors, and preferences around technology access & control
  • Mental models of access and control
  • System installation, setup and speaker distribution
  • Perceptions of Sonos brand experience (esp. re: privacy, security, ease of use)
  • Implications for future data model

Research Synthesis

The hardest part of research is making sense of the data you’ve collected, and for such a big project, I found it was imperative to involve stakeholders and collaborators in that process as much as possible.

🙋‍♀️ Research Tip 1
Involve Stakeholders in Sensemaking
🧩 Research Tip 2
Identify Key Themes in the Research Data
🧠  Research Tip 3
Create “Insight Nuggets” That are Memorable and Referenceable 

Personas emerged for this project as a really useful tool to keep track of the different needs and behaviors of different archetypal users in the system. They allowed us to maintain empathy for the end user, and created an easy way to write user scenarios we could quickly wrap our heads around.

I created “Persona Cards,” which we grouped by need and relationship. These made it easy to pull out a card during a design discussion and make sure we were referencing back to what we understood about both internal and external user needs and behaviors.

Ideation & Concept Development

Ideation is my favorite part of the design process — we worked hard to involve the right people in brainstorms, both to get their unique perspective on the work, and to get them invested in the outcome. After leading a number of brainstorms in the office, in March 2020, we all started working remotely, and switched to Figma.

Highly recommend Figma for remote brainstorming!

Conclusion + Next Steps

After ideation & brainstorming sessions, we aligned with the Sonos mobile app team on an initial user-facing implementation of the platform changes. We’re now in the process of designing, prototyping, and testing a consumer experience that will get us to our first milestone of the platform redesign.

Working with senior software architects and technical product managers, it can be challenging to educate partners on the importance of a user-driven design process. I created the diagram below to illustrate the commonly used “three diamond” methodology. We’re currently in “Test & Iterate.” 

Look forward to sharing more details after launch!