Case Study: Do You Hate Doing Laundry?
Then Meet Lyla, Your Smart Laundry Assistant
How many times have you started a load of laundry, walked away, and then forgotten when the cycle is finished? I know I have, and I know that nobody likes smelly, wrinkly, or moldy clothes.
The following is a UX case study of how I discovered a business opportunity by identifying and solving a user pain point when doing laundry.
Busy adults who try to multitask while doing laundry forget when a cycle is complete, resulting in a loss of time and smelly, wrinkly clothes.
1. Purchase a Wifi enabled smart laundry machine.
Problem: If you go to the laundry mat or your washing machine already works, then its not worth the price.
2. Purchase the SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor
Problems: For this solution to work, you need the following:
- SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor: $39.99
- SmartThings Hub: $99.99
- SmartThings Mobile app: 2.5 star rating
Unreliable app, and still too expensive.
3. Use a timer app on your phone
Problem: According to a survey I conducted with 200+ responses, 82% of adults agree that using a timer is a good idea, but only 15% remember to set a timer.
How do you remember to set a reminder to remind yourself? You don’t. You forget.
My survey showed that busy adults who forget their laundry would be willing to pay for a simple, reliable, and inexpensive solution that lets them know when their laundry cycle is finished.
Enter The Competition
I partnered with one of my colleagues, Alise, and together we innovated a solution with a business model plan.
We had a time constraint of 3 months before pitching our solution to a panel of judges.
My primary role was to conduct user research, design the UI and UX for our solution, and test its usability.
My Design Approach
My UX process takes a center-balanced approach between business, technology, and design in order to innovate solutions that solve user pain points.
My UX Process
There is no “one solution fits all.” Whether I have two hours, two weeks, or two months to deliver a solution, my process adapts. I use other processes as guidelines (research, analyze, design, prototype, test, etc…), but my ultimate process is adapt and iterate.
What Does It Mean To Adapt and Iterate?
- Adapting means using the right tools, at the right time, to solve the right problems.
- Iterating means learning from my peers and users, and improving on my current design.
My UX Design Tool Box:
The following are design tools I use, or am learning to use. I select tools from this tool set depending on the project, and iterate through them until my solution solves my users’ and business’ needs.
Using my social network and personal contacts, I was able to quickly recruit users that match my target audience (busy adults who do laundry).
I started out by interviewing users and posting online surveys.
After interviewing mothers who do several loads of laundry each week, I identified them as our primary user group. This narrowed our target audience from adults generally to mothers of several children who do laundry frequently (sorry college student peers).
I focused on one primary persona based off my research. Using personas allows me to acquire user empathy and make targeted design decisions.
User stories were gathered from my interviews, and they helped me focus on solving actual user needs, and not just building a product.
- “I keep forgetting to set a timer when I do my laundry. I want a timer that sets itself, so I quit forgetting.”
- “I want a way to know when my laundry cycle is done so doing laundry doesn’t take me all day.”
- “I hate it when I forget about my laundry, and then my clothes are smelly and I have to wash them again.”
Sketching allows me to rapidly iterate through ideas and solutions.
A Potential Solution
What if you had a ball you threw in with your laundry, and it could notify you on your phone when your laundry is ready?
It sounded crazy. But why not try it?
“Hand off to the developers” is not a final event, but a process of communication from project inception.
Alise and I both know how to code and understand technology, so we considered technical constraints and possibilities every step of the process and discussed questions including:
- Is this feasible to build?
- How do we handle error states such as no wifi connection?
- How can we use analytics and machine learning to enhance the user experience?
Visual Layout: Wireframes
What should the app interaction look like? Wireframes helped me to focus on navigation, structure, and allocation of space. Using Sketch, I created frames.
Interaction: Low-Fidelity Prototype
Using InVision, I stitched my frames together to create a low-fidelity prototype. This allowed me to focus on interaction, flow, and navigation.
Using my low-fidelity prototype, I did user testing with the goal of answering these questions:
- Do users accurately understand the overall concept?
- Does the on-boarding answer the user’s primary questions about how to use the product?
- Does this solution solve an existing pain point, and are they willing to pay for it?
What I Learned
Users loved the idea, understood the concept, and were willing to pay for it, but they hated the name.
An Embarrassing Mistake
I originally named our solution “Cycle Droid”, because it was a “droid” that detects when your laundry “cycle” finishes. As a Star Wars fan, I thought the name was cool, but I made the worst designer mistake: designing for myself, and not the user.
It was an embarrassing mistake, but I adapted and learned from it (thank goodness I discovered this during the early stages of my process).
We realized we needed a more personal name, and after brainstorming we switched the name to “Lylo”. The complaints disappeared during testing.
Considering our target audience are mothers and the rising popularity of female AI names (Siri, Alexa, and Cortana), we finally changed the name to “Lyla”.
Users loved the new name.
We also gained some key insights into the on-boarding flow, making the wording clearer, and we discovered the need for an easy to access FAQ section in the app.
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate…
Re-occurring problems identified during testing informed the design. I did multiple iterations, cycling through design and testing, until the prototype matched my users’ expectations.
High Fidelity Prototype
The wireframes were useful in exploring part of our solution, but we needed both physical and digital prototypes to test the entire user interaction.
Part 1: Physical Prototypes
Building the physical prototype was a fun challenge. We started out by buying a ball, and Alise did an incredible job painting it to look like Lyla.
We also needed a portable laundry machine prototype, so I built a mini one out of cardboard, plastic, duct tape, white spray paint, and magnets.
Our physical prototypes were far from perfect, but they were quick to build and sufficient to communicate our solution to users and stake holders.
Part 2: Digital Prototype
Using my wireframes, I did several iterations through the visual design to make it look realistic and aesthetically attractive.
I then stitched the mockups together using InVision to create a high-fidelity digital prototype.
⭐ See the digital prototype made with InVision here ⭐
More Usability Testing
Using both our physical and digital prototypes, we tested the entire user journey including purchasing Lyla, downloading the app, using Lyla with a laundry machine, and getting a notification when the wash cycle finished.
There’s so much I learned from testing. I learned how to word the instructions from the point when Lyla is pulled out of the box. I better understood users’ questions and concerns regarding whether Lyla was waterproof and heatproof. I gained insights on how to guide users through each step of their journey.
Re-occurring problems identified during testing informed the design. I did multiple iterations, cycling through design and testing, until the prototypes matched my users’ expectations and needs.
Pitch To Stakeholders
Alise and I had 6 minutes to pitch Lyla to a panel of venture capitalists at a student competition. We rehearsed several times, practiced alternating parts, and made our presentation exciting, engaging, and fun.
“I like the product. Possibly love it. It actually seems very useful.”
— Sid Krommenhoek, VC
“Lyla seems pretty cool. Are you actually going to build this?”
— Craig Earnshaw, VC
In addition, Lyla won the “People’s Choice Award.”
What I Learned
- Lyla is a fun, innovative solution, and an overwhelming amount of users are willing to pay for this solution.
- We focused too much on delighting users with our design and not enough on the business model plan.
- The gross margin of manufacturing and selling Lyla units appears profitable, but only barely.
- The overall concept and solution are valid, but the specific physical design was flawed from a business perspective.
Time To Pivot
A different hardware solution such as a sensor that attaches to the outside of a laundry machine would be much cheaper to manufacture.
This outside sensor wouldn’t be as exciting as a waterproof ball that goes inside the washing machine, but it would enable us to meet our business needs, while solving our users’ pain point.
A Work In Progress
I am coding the front end of the mobile app, while experimenting with different sensors and hardware. Changing the physical design, however, will require additional user testing and iteration.
Expect updates on this project in the future.
Thank you for your time reviewing this case study.
I’m learning a lot and having fun. :)
Sincerely, Mitch Clements
P.S If you enjoyed reading this, then discover how my first app I published reached 10,000+ users and ranked #2 in Google Play’s Life Style category.
When I’m not designing, coding, or innovating, you will find me hanging in a hammock, driving around in my jeep, listening to a Coldplay song, hunting for a geocache, or playing expert pro drums on Rock Band.