Acing your laundry

UXDI Project 1 — Rapid Prototyping

Fast Facts

Time: 3 Days

Role: Designer & Researcher

To kick off our UX Design Immersive class at General Assembly (Chicago), we were instructed to develop an app for a partner. Our partner provided us with a subject that they would like a solution for and from there the fun began.

I was partnered with Ace, a young, married man living in Chicago with quite a lot on his plate. Ace is studying full-time at General Assembly, working as a chef on the weekends and in addition to these commitments is passionate about a number of hobbies including crocheting, cooking and any activity that gets him outdoors (biking, skiing, hockey). One activity Ace doesn’t enjoy though is laundry. Ace “hates” doing laundry and therefore picked this as the topic he would like me to develop a solution for.

Why does laundry make Ace cringe?

To unearth why Ace has such a dislike for laundry, I started by mapping out all the aspects that factor into the experience of doing laundry.

Laundry mind map

From these subject areas, I developed a list of questions including:

· How do you feel while doing laundry?

· Can you walk me through how you currently do laundry from start to finish?

· What other people are involved in your laundry process?

· What part of doing laundry do you enjoy?

· What is your ideal laundry experience?

· When do you do laundry?

· If you could remove any part of the laundry experience, what would it be?

· What items do you use while doing laundry?

During our interview, I ask Ace these questions as well as others, following nearly all of his responses with the ever-important “why?”

Ace was very forthcoming with information during our interview and if I would do this project again, I would be sure to take greater advantage of this, as there were many moments while developing insights where I wished I could have learned a bit more about his rationale for a few responses.

Following our conversation, I reviewed my notes and jotted down quotes (pink) and comments (yellow) on a series of post it notes and began creating an affinity map, noting each finding with a green post it.

Arranging the information Ace provided during the interview
Ace’s current process of doing laundry

Reviewing the different grouping of notes I created, I started identifying patterns to draw a few major insights from.

User Insights and Design Directions

When creating my affinity map, it became apparent doing laundry efficiently is the highest priority for Ace, as much of his current approach to laundry is geared towards efficiency.

Affinity mapping

This led to the insight that:

Ace finds it extremely important to be able to do laundry efficiently

Due to this one of my guiding design directions was:

The solution must enhance the user’s laundry experience by making the process more efficient.

What also became apparent from the interview and subsequent affinity mapping was that Ace knows how to do laundry. Prior to our interview, my initial line of thought was that Ace’s frustrations were generated by confusion and misunderstanding of what he was and wasn’t suppose to be doing, but this was definitely not the case. Ace was easily able to explain how to do laundry as well as justify his current approach.

This led to the insight that:

Ace is comfortable with how to do laundry and his current approach

Leading to the design direction that:

The solution should not aim to teach Ace a new way of doing laundry.

Feeling like I had not uncovered the true source of Ace’s laundry frustration though, I created two new groupings for my observations: Positive aspects of doing laundry and negative aspects of/feelings for doing laundry.

When discussing what Ace enjoyed about laundry, he gave the following examples:

Affinity mapping

Upon review, it was quickly noticeable that being able to do other acitivities while doing laundry was a huge part of what made laundry “enjoyable,” or in Ace’s case, bareable.

Conversely though, when I assessed a grouping of Ace’s negative feelings around doing laundry, another pattern emerged.

Affinity mapping

While Ace greatly enjoys being able to do other activities while doing laundry, a large source of his frustration comes from having these activities inconveniently interrupted by the demands of his laundry.

One specific example Ace provided was that he was recently attempting to cook pad thai while doing laundry. For the recipe he was using, it was important to prepare all of the ingredients at once, unfortunately, in the middle of doing so, his laundry needed to be switched from the washer to the dryer, forcing Ace to stop his meal prep.

This led to the insight that:

Ace feels frustrated when the demands of his laundry inconveniently interrupt the other activities he is simultaneously doing.

Leading to the design direction that:

The solution should assist Ace in avoiding laundry interrupting the other activities he is simultaneously doing.

Combining these insights and design directions together, I compiled the following problem and solution statements:

Problem Statment: Ace values efficiency and tries to do more enjoyable activities while doing laundry, but feels frustrated when these activities are interrupted at inopportune times by the demand of his laundry.
Solution Statement: The solution should assist Ace in having his laundry minimally interrupt the other activities he is simultaneously doing, while also helping him to be more efficient throughout the laundry process.

Design Solution

Limiting Interruptions — With this solution statement in mind, I began to think of how to meet these needs. As Ace’s biggest frustration was coming from being interrupted by his laundry while doing other activities, I began by focusing on this.

Within the limitations of an app I was unable to develop a solution that would allow Ace to have his laundry completely run itself from start to finish. Therefore, I felt the next best solution was to give Ace as a clear idea of when these interruptions were going to occur.

To do so, I designed a laundry timer that would easily lay out for Ace when all interruptions from his laundry were going to occur. When first setting up this app, all the user would need to input is:

  • How long their dryer runs
  • How long their washer runs

This could be changed after initial input in the preferences section of the app, otherwise the user would not be asked for this information again. Instead they would see the home screen displayed below.

Home screen — Screen 2 — Screen 3 — Screen 4

How it works:

  1. After clicking Timer the user is brought to a screen where they input how many loads of laundry they are doing and how many washers and dryers are available. The user can choose to lock in these numbers if they consistently do the same number of loads and use the same number of washer and dryers.
  2. After pressing submit, the user is given the approximate total time it will take them to do their laundry. Additionally, they are prompted to enter the time when they believe they will be starting their laundry. This automatically generates a schedule showing all of the times that laundry will have to be switched from the washer to the dryer or collected. As efficency is important to Ace, the first time given is only 40 minutes after the start time since items will only be in the washer, while the remaining times are all set 10 minutes longer apart to account for the fact that he will have items in the washer and dryer, which takes 50 minutes to run.
  3. Once the user presses start, they can close the app and will be given a 5 minute reminder before they need to tend to his or her laundry.

Unfortunately we all know that set schedules do not always go as planned, so I designed the app to account for this. If the user is late in switching over their laundry the times continue to update, while the missed time remains as originally set.

The user should have switched their laundry at 4:10p but doesn’t do so until 4:13p. The original 4:10p time remains so the user knows they missed the switch time, but the future laundry change times auto update to remain accurate

Once the user has switched their laundry over, they simply have to press done alongside the time, and it’s removed from the screen. Having to manually confirm each load of laundry completed allows for a second function to be added to this app, which solves an issue Ace and I discussed concerning having the necessary supplies for laundry.

Securing supplies — During my interview with Ace he mentioned that since he does such a large quantity of laundry at once, he frequently runs out of supplies (detergent, softener, etc.) in the middle of doing multiple loads. When adding the aspect to the Timer that requires the user to check off each load of laundry they’ve done, I realized this had potential to also help solve Ace’s supplies issue. Therefore, a Supplies section of the app was also added.

Supplies function

Upon initial sign in, the user would enter the products that they use to do laundry that are measured in loads. Unfortunately for accuracy, the user would likely need to wait until a new bottle or box of the product was purchased to enter it, so they know the exact number of loads remaining, instead of having to guess. The user can update which items appear in their Supplies screen at anytime through the preferences button.

Within the app, every time a load of laundry is marked as completed on the Timer portion of the app, a load would be removed from the appropriate supplies. The user also has the option to manually adjust their supplies, incase they decide for example to not use fabric softener on a load, but have set this to be automatically deducted with each load.

By doing this, Ace will be able to reference his phone while he is at the store, to see if he needs to buy any supplies. This will be easy for him to do, as the most depleted supplies will always be listed at the top of the screen. Additionally, Ace can purchase the necessary supplies quickly by using the retailer button (Amazon) on the screen.

This function helps to insure that Ace is able to do laundry efficiently, by having all necessary supplies on hand.

Design Reiterations

Activity browsing — While designing the app, I thought Ace would enjoy if their was a function that suggested possible activities which could be completed within one wash cycle or activities that had natural breaks occurring in unison with when Ace would need to tend to his laundry. For example, this could have included a pad thai recipe where the prep time took one laundry cycle and the cooking time took another laundry cycle.

First attempt at a home screen, featuring a browse option to find activities that would fit well with the user’s laundry schedule
Possible ways to search and select activities to do while the user does their laundry

I thought about this function of the app a lot, in fact, I spent way too much time thinking about this instead of speaking to my client Ace.

Upon showing this idea to Ace, he explained he wouldn’t use this function since he already knows the activities he want to do while he’s taking care of laundry and that having to search for activities to do simultaneously would only make laundry more laborious.

I was particularly excited about this aspect of the app, so this feedback was a little hard to swallow, but the truth is the function should have never been included in the first place. Upon reflection, not once did Ace ever mention in our interview that he didn’t know what activities he wanted to do while doing laundry, instead he shared quite a few activities he already does, so it should have been clear to me that discovering activities to do simultaneously with laundry wouldn’t improve his experience.

Design Reiteration: After discussing the activity browsing function with Ace, I decided to remove it completely from the app.

Supplies screen — When designing the screen for the Supplies function, I originally made it so that only the supplies and how much was left of each was displayed on the first screen. Then in order to manually update, purchase online or indicate that you bought a new bottle, you would need to click on the item and would be brought to a second screen.

I had designed it this way so that the user wouldn’t accidentally adjust the load number or purchase and item. However, when I showed this to Ace he provided feedback that he likes to have as much functionality as possible on one screen which required a redesign.

Design Reiteration: Redesign the supplies section of app so all possible actions take place on one screen instead of being spread across two.

Supplies screen that required an additional click to get to the ordering/load adjustment screen
Supplies screen redesign

Notes-When designing the Supplies section of the app, I at one point include a drop down notes option, where I thought Ace could make jot down other laundry supplies he needs to buy that aren’t controlled by the number of loads of laundry he has done. For example if he was running low on stain remover, he could write it on the notes section so all his laundry shopping needs are stored in one place within the app.

When I discussed this with Ace he felt confident he wouldn’t use this, but instead requested that the notes function be moved to the Timer. The reason for doing this is that one of Ace’s stresses while doing laundry is worrying that he’s going to ruin his wife’s clothing. Therefore, he wrote down a laundry care guide that he uses when doing laundry. However, he said if he had the ability to write these notes in the Timer section (which he will have open while doing the laundry) it would be more efficient.

Design Reiteration: Move the notes section from Supplies function to the Timer function.

Notes section added to the Timer function

Final thoughts

The client (Ace) likes his apps like he likes his laundry — efficient.

Check out my interactive prototype on POP:

POP — Prototyping on Paper
 POP turns hand-drawn wireframes to interactive prototypes. Sketch the app on paper; take pictures and add hotspots to…

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