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IKEA's UX Magic

1 June 2016
Maya Fleisher
ikea closet instructions

Here's a situation I'm sure you're familiar with: you are holding a load of knowledge items of a varying level importance. If you want them to be easily accessible, understandable and useful over time, the following solution is not only practical but also consists of a unique experience. This is really our challenge: how can we use all tools and means available in order to generate a positive experience as well as retain it?

Although I've been involved with Knowledge Management for nearly a decade, which included dealing extensively with user experience (since I believe the relation between the two fields is vital), I must admit that I encounter these issues in "non-work" environments, most probably viewing said issues through a more critical perspective.

So, I'd like to share with you my personal experience as a user and client of a well-known corporation (more specifically, a chain of stores) and how I believe we can learn and apply the knowledge derived from this personal experience in large organizations. I am referring to Swedish furniture phenomenon: IKEA.

At this point, you might ask: Why? What can be so special about IKEA?

Well, according to Wikipedia, IKEA is a chain with consists of 375 stores in 47 states. The chain's catalogue consists of tens of thousands Ready to Assemble (RTA) items, from bags and utensils to entire kitchens. These "stores" include several presentation room which are essentially an infinite number of shelves and many messages.

Have you ever noticed the type of messages IKEA offers? Have you paid any attention to the manner in which the stores are organized or to the way customers are guided by signs and instructions on the floors and products?

Despite the large stores and vast variety of products the network offers which result in a "easy to get lost" experience, a customer entering the store receives guidance and instruction during every stage of the purchasing process: at the entrance one is equipped with a pencil, a tape measure and a bag. Next, the customer is guided by directing signs which also refer to shortcuts and different solutions and applications of the various appliances in a "real" environment (presentation rooms) complete with explanations regarding each product as well as supplementary data regarding safety, the corporation, environmental issues, the products' designers etc. And to top it all- there are (a few) representatives posted around the store, just in case.

When the customer gets home, he is still guided by IKEA via the clear instructions which allow him/her to assemble the products independently. Their website and yearly catalogue convey the same messages.

How do they do it? It is clear to me from my personal user experience from IKEA that the customer/user is considered extensively and UX is an integral part of the company. I believe that through uniform and simple language as well as focus on users and UX IKEA indeed succeeded.

Great, you might say. What can I do with all of this information?

I'm glad you asked. A large organization (and even a medium-sized one) with a large (or fairly large) number of workers, which probably do not all share the same geographical location, usually uses as much messages as workers. Through a number of simple activities, organizations can alter their communication and message conveying experience into a totally different experience.

I recommend the following:

  • Consider and define the feelings/emotions you wish to generate. Is it a sense of seriousness? Is it an atmosphere of collective effort? Do you want them to smile?

  • Define your lingual style and maintain consistency. I recommend also referring to the micro-copy.

  • Define your design "language" which will support your messages: colors, font etc.

  • Review your worker/users' "route", i.e. the different stages a worker goes through from the moment he/she is hired. Consider a worker's schedule: where and when can we communicate with this worker, and what messages do we wish to convey?

  • Locate the exceptional locations in which the user is encountered and consider how these encounters can be utilized for further message-conveying. Pay special attention to micro-interactions.

  • Get a sense of the field, check up with workers occasionally in order to review their experience and understanding and be open to receive more ideas.


In conclusion, walking down the corridor, waiting for the elevator or a regular lunch line can be viewed as an opportunity. Grasp it and utilize it. It is one more way to keep in touch with your workers.

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