Going to a laundromat is stressful. Laundromats are often weird, creepy places. Before you get there, you don’t know if the machines will be full or broken. And if you forget something, you waste the most precious commodity of all - time.
How might we improve the laundromat experience for people who regularly use laundromats out of necessity?
Our challenge was to design and test a product or service that solves an information experience problem. We decided on the laundromat experience because it’s a necessary service that remains largely ignored and persistently unpleasant.
Edward Roberts, Marina Lazarevic, Chelsea Braun
- Primary research: field observations and guerrilla interviews
- Synthesis: research insights, brainstorming, customer journey mapping, lean canvas
- Prototyping: room-scale low-fidelity experience prototype
- Evaluation: prototype test script and conducted test sessions
- Design: Led branding efforts, shot concept video, designed 2 slideshow presentations
Customer journey map, lean canvas, customer personas, experience prototype, design implications, high-fidelity mobile UI and kiosk UI designs, interactive UI prototypes, concept video, 3D walkthrough video, final presentation.
A laundromat you want to experience
Swift Spin is a membership-driven service with perks.
Our machines are...
Smart - They connect to our mobile app and allow you to pay with PayPal right at the machine.
Efficient - They wash AND dry to save you time.
Considerate - They send you a text message when your laundry is done!
Now you can do your laundry and reclaim your time.
Walk through our vision for Swift Spin!
We began our research by splitting into two teams to conduct primary research. We went to and observed 4 different laundromats in Seattle. We also interviewed 4 customers, 2 management personnel, and 2 workers.
We wanted to understand...
- What is the laundromat experience like?
- What do patrons need to know before, during, and after their trip to a laundromat?
- What opportunities exist to improve the laundromat experience?
After primary research, our group got together again to analyze the data and form insights. These insights helped us better understand the key needs of the laundromat patrons we interviewed.
Insights & Personas
We mapped our research findings onto a table so that we could find commonalities and differences between the interviews. This revealed two types of customers who used laundromats out of necessity: regular patrons who had no option for personal laundry and occasional patrons who needed access on a situational basis. From here we created composites of the customers and formed both a primary and secondary persona.
Main insight: Convenience and amenities only matter if the patron’s needs for functioning and available machines are met.
38 years old, male. Occupation: Bartender
Goal: Get laundry done in the most efficient way possible.
- The lack of a better laundromat nearby has forced him to use his regular laundromat out of necessity.
- He has come to dislike a lot of other people in the laundromat with him. It makes the space feel crowded.
- He really dislikes waiting when he could be doing something else.
- He doesn’t care about bells and whistles. He just wants to get out of the laundromat as quick as possible.
29 years old, female. Occupation: Photojournalist
Goal: Wants to make the most out of doing laundry.
- Jessica is committed to her career as a photojournalist, but because of that, her hectic schedule doesn’t allow her to regularly do her laundry.
- She seeks out convenient laundromats that also offer amenities like free wifi and work desks.
- Sometimes though, she will feel up to socializing with the other people at the laundromat too.
- Good art and music helps set the mood too, a well decorated laundromat is always more enjoyable to be in.
With our personas in mind, we generated 33 ideas for improving the laundromat experience. We used dot voting to narrow down to our top 10 ideas.
We used storytelling to flesh out our top 10 ideas and ensure we had a deeper understanding of our primary persona. After reading the stories out loud, we then privately voted on our top five. This process made it clear that 2 of those ideas were particularly powerful.
We each wrote 1-2 scenarios of the top 5 ideas. It was clear that membership-driven service best fit our primary persona, but elements from other ideas also were important. The Lean Canvas helped solidify our idea and create a value proposition.
After creating our lean canvas, we mapped out the customer journey map. Since the service is conceptual, we made a lot of assumptions about the journey and the customer’s emotional reaction throughout.
Customer Journey Map
Room-scale Experience Prototype
We created an experience prototype to test our assumptions about the customer journey. The MHCI+D studio was transformed into a low-fidelity laundromat and cafe by adding signage and rearranging the furniture.
We also utilized additional spaces to stage parts of the journey outside the laundromat, such as unexpected traffic and the need to run errands. The other end of the hallway was used as the participant’s “apartment.” The first floor was designated our traffic detour, and a “bank” was located on the 2nd floor.
Mobile App, Machine, and Kiosk Wireframes
We also wanted to test the usability of the mobile app, machine, and kiosk interfaces. To do so, we created wireframes for each touchpoint. Below are wireflows of making and claiming machine reservations.
We tested our experience prototype with 3 participants: two of them closely matched our primary persona and one closely matched our secondary persona.
We ran the participants through a version of our customer journey that specifically tested pain points related to the reservation system and notifications. We assumed that these parts of the experience might be problematic and wanted to see if our assumptions were correct.
We wanted to know...
- How will people react if their reservation expires? What will they do next?
- How do people feel about the cafe?
- Will people use all of the channels we provide?
- How usable is the machine UI for new people?
- It’s problematic if people leave their clothes for too long. Is a late fee the best solution to this problem?
After the test was finished, we followed up with a semi-structured interview and welcomed their feedback on improvements.
Iterations Between Participants
Between each participant we identified high and low points which drove design iterations during our experience prototype.
Our findings show that overall, the machine reservation system and the cafe were experiences well worth the investment. However more work was needed to fix the pain points of the cancelled reservation and the late fee.