Lenovo Legion: Listening to gamers, not the stereotype
Dilip Bhatia in conversation with Ray Chen, hardware UX specialist for gaming + VR at Lenovo.
Since establishing our gaming brand, Lenovo Legion, in 2017, our business has been on a mission to provide the best possible gaming products and experiences for its customers. In line with this journey, Lenovo's gaming devices have undergone an exciting rebrand and redesign.
As Lenovo's Chief Customer Experience Officer, I'm a big advocate of listening to "the voice of the customer" as we consider, design, and redesign our products.
We do this listening in many ways, conversations, research, feedback groups, and on the Lenovo Legion front, this work has uncovered some eye-opening, exciting, and I've got to say, game-changing results!
To give you a look into this process, I recently sat down with Ray Chen, a user experience (UX) expert at Lenovo, to talk about this research and the design implications of its findings.
Dilip Bhatia: Hi Ray, thanks for your time. Let's start by talking about what you do at Lenovo?
Ray Chen: Sure thing. I work as a UX specialist in the hardware side of our business. Last year, I was responsible for leading the user experience research behind the redesign of the Lenovo Legion brand, including the research that would later inform the redesign of gaming products itself.
DB: Great, thanks. Okay, let's jump straight into that research. Can you tell me more about the process here? How did Lenovo engage with customers to redesign the brand and product range?
RC: From the start, Lenovo Legion was designed with the gaming community; even the name itself was crowdsourced. Before that, gaming devices were part of our larger consumer PC sub-brand, and we quickly recognised the gaming category deserved its own dedicated sub-brand.
DB: So this 'gamers-first' mentality is almost baked into Lenovo Legion's DNA from its inception.
RC: That's right. So, when we look to the new evolution of the product itself, it was important to again involve the gaming community.
DB: Can you take us through this research process? How do you go about getting an accurate picture of gaming customers, and their various habits and preferences?
RC: The main thing is to embark on a careful, multifaceted, worldwide approach that helps us see both the detail and the bigger picture. We held a design-specific workshop where we studied trends and brought in previous user research from which two distinct design language concepts were born: we called them 'Ultimate Utilitarian' and 'Magical Minimalism'. The former emphasises strength, durability and power, while the latter sought to bring a new design language to the gaming space... call it a more modern simplicity without as many 'sci-fi' elements that are traditionally associated with gaming hardware, Lenovo's included!
DB: So, you wanted to take these directions and get feedback from customers?
RC: Exactly. And not just feedback on the new design directions, but broader feedback on how customers see gaming more generally, and how it fits into their lives.
First, we conducted a series of focus groups to help evaluate our design concepts, getting feedback from 122 gamers in the US, China and Germany. Then we conducted online research with 600 global participants, focusing on the design of current gaming brands in the market, along with information on general gaming habits.
And finally, there was an in-depth ethnographic study involving in-home visits, holding two-hour interviews with 24 gamers in three different US cities. We did these interviews during their normal gaming hours, so with some participants, we were talking to them past midnight.
That was a lot of fun, and a real eye-opener, as we sought to understand pain-points, lifestyle considerations, and how gaming fits into their worlds. We wanted to design our new Lenovo Legion products with these key factors in mind. We even made an interesting internal video documentary covering the highlights of these interviews to inspire our teams.
DB: That's an impressive process. What did you discover? Were there any 'aha' moments that came out of the UX research?
RC: Yes, most definitely. I'd say the biggest revelation was in understanding our gaming customers. The clich'e of your typical gamer is to picture a teenager or 20-something gamer holed up in their room or their parents' basement gaming until 3am! Now, while gamers may sometimes keep unusual hours, the reality is very different.
DB: How so?
RC: Most gamers use their laptops or desktops for a lot more than just gaming; that includes work, study, video editing, Web browsing, watching movies and TV series, the list goes on.
Most of all, our research told us there is no 'typical' gamer; gamers are everyday people like airline workers, lawyers, retail managers or assistants, IT professionals, etc. I think society, and Lenovo too, is chipping away at the stereotype about what gamers are. The average gamer is nearly equally male to female (60/40) and many young professionals, typically millennials, grew up gaming their entire lives.
Our customers are not looking for something super flashy on the exterior; they often want something that looks like a modern PC or laptop, but with the interior power to play high-end games. That's why our new designs are really all about striking a balance between work and play.
DB: That's a great point. It really hit me when I read in the research that gamers using laptops don't exactly want to pull out their big, bulky machine in a university library or coffee shop that screams: "Hey, I'm a gamer!" Would you say that's why the sleeker, more sophisticated design direction won out overall?
RC: Yes, that was definitely a factor. In the end, what you see in the new range is a balance between utilitarian and modern, minimalist features. Our focus came back with a fairly convincing result: 'Magical Minimalism' won. That said, the latest generation of Lenovo Legion laptops are sleeker in design for the reasons I just mentioned, whereas the towers and desktops retain the utilitarian elements that customers value most. That's the reason you see the integrated top handles on them, as we learned that many users like to carry them around to visit friends or play in competitions.
DB: Can you tell me about a couple of other details that stand out with relation to improving the user experience?
RC: Yes, we invented a dual-channel cooling system with additional side vents and multi-length, multi-rotational fan blades on the new Lenovo Legion laptops to achieve better ventilation. The software allows the user to use an 'extreme cooling' feature, which over-pumps the system for better performance. What else? On the desktops, we've also included a quick-open function so that gamers can easily access the components with the press of a button. We know gamers love to be able to upgrade their RAM or GPUs, for example, and that's why this is important, and our laptops allow for upgradeability too.
DB: Have we fixed any pain-points?
RC: Absolutely. One of the primary things that comes to mind is port management. Our users told us that many gaming desktops have too many of the ports at the back of the towers, which is not great for a lot of the peripherals. So we've maximised the number of ports up front, including HDMI ports for headsets and VR headsets.
DB: What stands out for me in this redesign is that Lenovo is following through on our commitment to listening to and learning from our customers. We may not have all the answers initially, but we're always working with users and our customers to incorporate their feedback into our designs and user experience.
RC: Totally agree; as far as I'm concerned, we're co-creating gaming products with the gaming community, and we wouldn't want it any other way.
DB: Spot on, Ray. Well, that seems like a great note to wrap up on. Thanks for your time today and for sharing these insights with our readers.
RC: Any time Dilip.