Reimagining and designing the laundromat experience
Laundromats are frequently... less than pleasant services. My group and I set out to reimagine that experience and propose a better way for running a laundromat service.
- Chelsea Braun
- Marina Lazarevic
- Erica Queen
- Edward Roberts (me!)
- 2 Months
We aimed to change the typical laundromat experience by proposing Swift Spin. This is a laundromat that allows its members to reserve machines ahead of time. People can relax in an adjoined cafe while they wait. They even receive texts about when their laundry will finish.
Like many other projects I worked on in graduate school, the impact of this project was personal:
I realized that I would never have the right amount of user research. Designing in sprints taught me that I needed to move forward with what I had, rather than what I wanted.
Designing services is amazingly complex. Even prototyping the central customer experience required several paper prototypes, props, and involved user research.
User experiences are more than just an artificial sequence of events; they're human experiences, with all the cultural, environmental, and psychological biases that implies.
With our goal of improving the laundromat experience, we leveraged the design approach below to overcome the core challenge of reimagining a sub-par service, and creating a holistic experience.
Our first step in this project was to define the problem we wanted to tackle, and why it was worth tackling. We all had previously had poor experiences around laundromats, and so decided that was as good as any reason for an academic project.
My group and I split up to explore the different laundromats around Seattle and perform guerrilla interviews with as many laundromat patrons as we could. After visiting a few different laundromats, we had as much observations and interview notes as we had time for.
Synthesizing findings into Personas
After exploring the current laundromat experiences and needs of their patrons, we decided that personas would be the best vehicle to guide the rest of the project.
I provided the segmentation framework my group would use to create our personas, and we moved forward to develop the two personas below that would drive much of the work for the rest of the project.
Doug's goal is to get his laundry done in the most efficient way possible.
- Patron of his local laundromat — but not by choice.
- Dislikes crowds and waiting.
- Values convenience.
- Doesn’t care about amenities.
- Her hectic schedule doesn’t allow her to regularly do her laundry.
- She seeks amenities like free wifi and work desks.
- Sometimes feels like socializing with other people too.
- Enjoys a well decorated laundromat.
Brainstorming Every Possible Idea
Leveraging our personas, Doug and Jessica, I helped generate ideas for a service that would resonate to them.
First generated 33 raw ideas and organized them by affinity
Narrowed to 10 final ideas through dot voting
Using Personas to Converge on swift spin
Diverging again, I worked with my group to develop our ten ideas below into persona-driven stories.
Each group member developed 2–3 stories (a few paragraphs in length) to tell each other, specifically mentioning different service touch-points the persona cam into contact with.
Privately voting, we converged towards a final couple of ideas we then negotiated into a nascent reimagined laundromat experience.
Designing a Nascent Business
Mapping the key touch-points in the story to the business blueprint below, we were able to go through several iterations of critique to hone our theoretical service.
Theorizing a Persona's Customer Experience
Typically used as a generative artifact, we leveraged this method as a way of creating a hypothesis of how our service might be experienced from our primary persona's point of view.
Validating our Service Hypothesis
By this point, we had proposed quite a few touch-points. We laid out our behavioral prototype to use each one as part of the service prototype.
It was key to keep it low-fidelity, but still as immersive as possible. Environments give subtle affordances to people on how they should act. Putting our user interfaces and props in a featureless room would not have provided great feedback.
One of the many touch-points we had fabricated for the service prototype we were to conduct was a paper prototype of our mobile experience. While there were many other screens we needed to think about, we only tested the hero flow below.
Conducting the behavioral prototype for us was invaluable. Without it, we would not have been aware that there were some pitfalls in the experience we were proposing. Our 3 participants gave some great feedback:
People really liked being able to reserve ahead of arriving.
User Interfaces were too confusing.
Canceled reservations caused a lot of anxiety.
Having an adjoined cafe was a nice addition.
Being fined made people feel like they were negatively setup.
Iterate on the Mobile Experience
In response to our findings in the service prototype, I revised the mobile experience by making reserving a time slot more clear, as well as separating out which machine to reserve.
Revise reserving a time slot
To decrease the amount of confusion and anxiety around making a reservation, we pivoted and had people reserve an appointment a few days in advance.
separate reserving a machine
Again to decrease the amount of confusion, I designed the interface to reflect the actual layout of the laundromat so people would know where to go once they arrived.
As with any design project, everything is never truly done. If we were to continue forward with this project, we would iterate far more on the design assumptions we were making until we thought our service was solid enough to be deployed.
For instance, We would iterate on the user interfaces more to make them even more polished and great for Swift Spin customers to use.
We also would want to develop a higher fidelity service prototype to test those new user interfaces, as well as use a better space that would be better for a laundromat atmosphere.
Lastly, even though it would be a reach goal, developing a business model for Swift Spin to prove that it could be financially viable would make the proposal all the better.