Children Health

IKEA: Design a better children’s bookshelf | by Bill Dinh | Oct, 2021

Problem: Design a better children’s bookshelf.

Let’s break this answer down into three parts:
1. What’s IKEA’s mission?
2. Who are we building for?
3. What are we building?

IKEA sells easy on the eyes, affordable home furnishings.

Their mission: to create a better everyday life for the many people.

More specifically, IKEA wants to: “offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low, that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Now that we know our goal, let’s figure out for whom we are building.

We’re asked to design a better children’s bookshelf. Paired with IKEA’s mission, the problem refines to:

Build a better children’s bookshelf that’s well-designed, functional, and affordable.

Children will be using our bookshelves but we really have to appeal to their parents because they’ll be paying cash-money for it, and will likely consider how much space it takes up (size) and how well it fits into their home (design). I judge parents will have more say than their children on which bookshelf to buy.

So the problem refines to:

Build a better bookshelf for parents of children that’s well-designed, functional, and affordable.

Now that we know for whom we’re building, let’s figure out what to build.

A bookshelf’s function is to organize books and other things around the home. A children’s bookshelf function is the same but for children.

Why exactly do parents buy children sized bookshelves?

Here’s a good place to stop and talk to our users.


Thinking of this answer alone is good.
Thinking of this answer based on real parent’s feedback is better.

We can ask parents shopping at and stores:
1. Why are you looking to buy a children’s bookshelf?
2. What factors matter most to you?
Selection, Style, Size, Price, Functionality, Safety
3. What’s the most difficult part of buying from IKEA? Distance from home, Difficult to fit boxes into car, Out of Stock, Self-Assembly

There’s a ton of questions throughout the customer journey we can learn from, like, 1 month after purchase and upon all returns, but I think this is a good start.

Let’s say our parents tell us that safety is a BIG concern. What can we do (or build) to make sure our products are safer and that we clearly communicate that to parents.

We can prioritize these potential features by asking:

  1. By how much does this feature improve safety?
  2. How difficult is it to implement and deploy?

My raw impression would be to choose #4. Deep dive into how past accidents happened with statistics.

I like to deep dive into data before investing time/enegry into building something. With data, there’s stronger signal.

To design a better children’s bookshelf may be less about children wants and more about their parents wants.

If parents want safer children’s bookshelves then let’s make them safer!

PS. After writing this, I realized that IKEA doesn’t build children bookshelves tall. Hence, less chance for fall over. Automatically IKEA solved this by building short, but the ideas here still work for adult sized bookshelves and families.

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