I worked with The Home Depot on designing a research-backed solution called STEP, or Shared Tasking e-Platform. It is an app for the specialized phone used by in-store associates, designed to augment omni-channel communication and increase transparency between different stakeholders at The Home Depot:

  1. In-store employees (Orange Apron Associates)

  2. Merchandising team (MET)

  3. Corporate


August 2018 - Dec 2018 

My Role

User Researcher

UX Design Lead

Visual Design Lead


Shoutouts to my awesome team! Do check out their work if you're looking for someone with a background in

Grace Gaspardo: Linguistics and User research 

Temi Moju Igbene: Product Management 

Aparna Ramesh: Product Management and UX Research

Project Impact

Through our research (interviews and surveys) with in-store associates, supervisors and assistant store managers, we uncovered several big issues/themes around task management. These gaps had the potential to affect the efficiency of in-store tasking and in turn key store metrics(like productivity, sales targets and eventual financial implications).

Concept : Physical interactions with digital tracking of tasks around shelving

Concept : Shared tasking platform between MET, Supervisors and Associates

Concept : Smart store tracking system for shelf management and task management

The questions we asked covered the following areas

  • Positive and negative reactions

  • Perceived intent of solutions and their features

  • Aptness of solution in daily routine

A detailed report on the research rationale and evaluation is here

Whats next?

Based on learnings through the research project, design phases, and usability tests, the team recommends any team taking this project forward to research the following areas - which would have been next steps in a longer project.

Lessons Learned

Customer is not our user


The biggest take away from this stage of the project was learning that the customer is not the user and that the customer doesn’t necessarily know everything. We discovered early on that the problems as defined by HD were not the same problems we discovered from our interviews with the store employees. We spent more time on exploratory research trying to find what problem spaces actually exist for the store employees.




Given that we had limited access to people and other resources from corporate, we concentrated our efforts on collecting evidence from the store fronts directly and getting as much information from the in-store employees. There are some gaps in our knowledge because we only have context from one side of the issue.


Process of conducting interviews and surveys in person


Initially we didn't feel comfortable doing cold calls and conducting interviews, but the more we did the easier the process became and the more we felt comfortable with them. Thinking of insightful follow-up questions and asking them took a while, but in the later interviews we were able to get richer data. Our interview skills got better as we felt more comfortable conducting them. Finding participants was one aspect that was difficult. It felt harder to stop and ask an associate to complete a survey than it was to interview them. Part of it might also be the lack of interaction once they had the survey in their hands. There was not much for us to do but stand near them quietly waiting if they needed some help or clarification. We were also worried that it might look like they were just hanging around on their phones. Some of the team found ways of reducing this stress—they had a cart and tried to look like confused shoppers asking for help to casual observers, and this seemed to help.


Working with a high-power, high-achieving team


One of the biggest things we learned up to this point has been learning how to work well together as a team, leveraging each other's strengths and abilities to the team’s advantage. More frequent, shorter syncs work better than longer meetings.

© 2020 by Manasee Narvilkar