A stress-free laundromat experience.
Swift Spin is a reimagined laundromat experience. Members can reserve high-tech, all-in-one machines ahead of time. Inside, they can relax at the adjoined cafe or run some errands while they wait for a notification saying that laundry is ready to be picked up.
- Type: Graduate School Project for Designing Information Experiences course
- Duration: 8 weeks
- Teammates: Erica Queen, Chelsea Braun & Edward Roberts
- Deliverables: 3 digital prototypes (mobile app, kiosk, machine interface), a video prototype, a 3D model envisioning the space layout & final presentation
Can we improve the laundromat experience by making it more reliable, convenient and comfortable?
We followed an iterative design process with the goal of creating an experience that could be prototyped, evaluated and presented. We chose to situate the experience within the context of a fictitious laundromat company. We designed at the user, service, information and organizational level, creating a holistic end-to-end customer experience.
All team members contributed to the different process phases, but my focus was in these areas:
I went on a field study to a neighborhood laundromat in Seattle to gather observations about the physical space, interview patrons and a couple of management personnel about their experiences.
Ideation & Storytelling
I facilitated ideation sessions which helped the team generate over 30 ideas for improving the laundromat experience. I wrote detailed stories for two of our top six ideas from the primary persona’s perspective.
I collaborated with another teammate to design the digital interaction experience, including the design for a mobile app, in-store kiosk and the machine interface. I focused on the latter two while my partner focused on the mobile app.
I participated in a customer journey mapping exercise which helped the team identify possible breakdowns in the experience as well as plan for an experience prototype.
I participated in executing an experience prototype by facilitating, note-taking and role-playing as two employees.
I wrote the script for, directed and edited a 2-minute video prototype of our Swift Spin laundromat concept.
Introducing Swift Spin
Reliable, Efficient & Membership-Driven
My teammate Chelsea created the model below to envision Swift Spin’s physical space.
Who doesn’t like a free latte or membership trial? Signing up results in a pleasant surprise. A Swift Spin membership is meant to instill loyalty and provide customers with a reason to return.
We opted for 100-minute time slots that can be reserved up to a few days in advance.
Convenience Through Flexibility
Bring your own detergent or buy it right then and there. Either way, our machine interface accommodates customers’ unique preferences.
The team visited four laundromats in Seattle to observe underlying behavioral patterns and interview patrons about their needs and pain points. We interviewed four customers, two onsite workers and two management personnel in order to understand the different stakeholder perspectives.
Our key research findings:
Completing laundry is the primary goal
Patrons’ primary goal is get their laundry done as quickly as possible so that they can return to their other responsibilities and plans.
Convenience and proximity are key
Patrons choose their laundromat primarily based on proximity to their homes and whether functional machines are available.
Smartphones keep patrons occupied
Free wifi was available at some locations. Interviewees complained that there was little to do while waiting and that if they lived closer they would return home.
Physical space is lackluster
The laundromats we visited were not welcoming and felt dingy and outdated.
After research we developed two personas to represent our target audience and inform our design strategy moving forward. We initially focused on the goals of our primary persona, Doug, while also brainstorming ideas that could work for our secondary persona, Jessica.
Primary: Doug Kerkowski
- Goal: to get laundry done as fast as possible, doesn’t care about bells and whistles
- The lack of a better laundromat nearby has forced him to use his regular laundromat out of necessity
- Dislikes a crowded laundromat and waiting around with nothing to do
Secondary: Jessica Garcia
- Goal: to make the most out of doing laundry
- Seeks out convenient laundromats that offer amenities like free wifi, work desks or entertainment
- Is open to socializing with other patrons
The needs, goals and motivations of Doug helped us develop empathy and drove much of our decision-making throughout the project. In particular, they helped us prioritize which features and aspects to include in the service.
The group storytelling exercise was among my favorite methods employed in this project. It assisted us in narrowing down to one final idea.
To do this, we divided the top 10 ideas among us and wrote experience stories from Doug’s perspective, focusing on envisioning the end-to-end experience that the ideas would foster. We then verbally presented the stories and took notes while listening.
Defining Key Touchpoints
To dig deeper into the customer experience, we used our personas and key scenario to construct a customer journey map. In terms of action steps, we mapped the hypothetical journey Doug would take while using our service. We layered on thoughts and feelings based on findings from our research.
The journey map revealed assumptions we needed to challenge. For example, our early idea involved a 15-minute window to reserve a machine via the app. The journey map quickly uncovered a potential breakdown: what happens if there’s traffic and Doug misses his reservation window? We set out to examine this and other possible breakdowns in our experience prototype.
There were several important aspects and touchpoints involved with our service:
Reserving ahead of time is done via the mobile app or onsite kiosks. These are also the channels for membership signup.
A seamless, all-in-one experience removes the need to switch machines. Detergent can be purchased from machines if products are forgotten at home.
A human onsite for a friendly atmosphere and competent, efficient resolution of problems.
Efficient & Comfortable Space
We’d parter with a cafe in order to provide easy access to food and drink, as well as increased comfort for patrons who are waiting around. Both the laundromat and cafe would provide fast wifi.
Apart from the cafe, we would partner with an an agency to help operate our digital channels, as well as companies like Tide to provide detergent and other products.
The mobile app and kiosk had considerable overlap in features, whereas the machine interface served a different purpose. Like we did many times throughout this project, we had to prioritize tasks based on time.
We decided to employ Google’s Material Design to help guide decision-making related to visual details and ensure a level of consistency across channels. We blended Material Design with our own brand vision to develop the unique look of Swift Spin.
A Customer-Focused Brand
I worked with my teammate Erica to develop a brand identity. We began by aligning our persona’s motivational goals to various aspects of the service we would be providing:
Ultimately, the experience wasn’t about laundry. It was about helping people regain their time through providing a reliable way to complete a chore. We collectively brainstormed the name Swift Spin, and decided our brand would represent convenience, freedom and a tech-savvy approach to doing laundry.
From these pillars we chose typography and color that would be used in our digital prototypes.
Designing the Organization
Analyzing our design from an organizational perspective surfaced different questions:
- What matters to the business?
- How will it differentiate itself?
- How will it make money?
Creating a lean canvas helped us think through the various aspects of an organization. We revised the canvas several times throughout the project, particularly as we made key decisions about our offerings.
Simulating the Experience
To evaluate the service, we conducted an experience prototype by transforming our studio at UW into a low-fidelity laundromat. We took turns facilitating the study, documenting, handling the paper prototype interactions for the digital UIs and roleplaying as Frank and Freda, the laundromat attendant and barista, respectively. It was a fun Saturday to say the least!
- Test assumptions: Could the reservation system and notifications result in frustration?
- Test breakdowns: What happens when things go wrong?
- Gauge interest in the cafe: Is it superfluous? Is it desired? We “sent” participants a notification about a free latte to prompt them to explore the cafe (or ignore it.)
We found that the notifications may not be perceived as helpful.
“Too much urgency. I feel stressed before I even get in there.”
– Participant three
We learned something new about what customers might like.
“Definitely the folding, folding is nice. I hate folding, the gift thing to the nearby coffee, it was a cool way to integrate. Everything being connected and synced up was nice.”
– Participant two
We spotted oversights.
“Not sure at what point the purchase or transaction is made.”
– Participant two
We discovered clarity issues in the information experience.
“I was looking around for the detergent first, I didn’t quite realize that I had to press ‘this’ button to start the machine.”
– Participant one
And even received a little praise.
“The ability to reserve a machine is awesome! A friendlier place is nice. Comfy seating is great.”
– Participant one
We created a video to demonstrate the end-to-end experience we designed. Because this video would be played in front of an audience of peers and instructors, we focused on communicating the core, high-level idea through relatable storytelling and a bit of humor.
I wrote the script, directed and edited the video in just a couple of days. My teammates filmed, acted, provided feedback and created the original storyboard for the video.
Overall, we received positive feedback on the video prototype. Our professor, TA and peers commented that it had an effective tone and gave them a real sense of the experience we were creating. We also got some kudos for the music and demonstration of key touchpoints.
One area where we could have improved was the timing of the onscreen interactions. They went by too quickly for some and as a result didn’t communicate the digital interactions as clearly as they could have.
This project came to a close with the final presentation and video screening, but if we were to continue further I would conduct in-depth competitive analysis to better understand the market and learn from others’ experiences. The general idea of a more comfortable and technologically-driven laundromat is certainly not new.
I’d also consider further refinement of the core touchpoints of the service and engage with potential users to better understand how to prioritize them.
Thinking beyond the immediate scope of this assignment, I see an opportunity to consider societal and environmental impact. The first areas I’d look into are waste and resource management.
What I Learned
Service is about people
I viewed this from an anthropological lens and aimed to deliver courtesy, communication and understanding to our customers. Especially with the digital channels, we iterated to reduce the formal tone of our early messaging and notifications in favor of a more helpful, encouraging one. It was useful to step away from the monetary transactions of the experience and consider other forms of currency such as time and attention.
SD & CXD Reveal Dependencies
Designing so many layers of experience exposed how much complexity is involved in executing an idea at the broadest level. On the other hand, starting broad was a prerequisite to accessing the details. It was difficult to evaluate aspects of the mobile experience without considering how the in-store experience could impact it. In other words, designing a holistic customer experience exposes the dependencies among the components of an organization.
Teams Make Magic
A multidisciplinary team committed to great results made this project manageable and successful. Four different brains and perspectives helped keep us on track or shake things up, depending on what we needed at any given time. We received praise from our professor about how polished our final project was given the short duration, and I believe this was the result of effective teamwork.