Improving the design and usability of a high-efficiency washing machine prototype based on the results obtained from the interaction with users.
The largest home appliance manufacturer in Latam had developed a new water saving technology for washing machines, but was unsure that users were going to be receptive to this new way of washing clothes, both perceptually (less water = less effectiveness) as well as in the usability of a new interface (different from existing washing machines). So they asked us for help on designing the product interface as well as the brand positioning.
The objective was to ensure user-centeredness in the washing machine interface as well as in the marketing strategy (define the target market, claims, positioning, and personality).
This two-phased Project started with conducting exploratory research on the behaviors, perceptions and meanings around water management and environmental concerns with Mexican households. The result of this research included the generation of various insights around water-saving and its relationship to washing clothes (yes, it turns out most people are not aware they spend 120 liters every time they do the laundry!). After identifying the right target, we set up functional prototypes in their homes and asked them to use the machine for a few weeks, documenting every aspect of their usage by taking photos and filling in a diary every time they used them. After 3 weeks of continuous use, we conducted ethnographic interviews with these women in order to wrap up the experiment by doing projective techniques which would reveal hidden emotions and unconscious feelings towards the product.
The result? Lots of opportunities for improving the interaction with the product, but none of them were willing to give up the prototype back to their old washing machine. So, we decided to conduct usability testing of the control panel and re-designed this interface to overcome the main difficulty users had.
Using the outcomes of this research was enough for us to craft the brand strategy and positioning of the product in a subsequent workshop session. The marketing communications came almost entirely out of end users.
The product went into production and, based on the outcomes of our involvement, our client decided to keep its marketing investment low while keeping sales above expected target. An excellent product with the right positioning and tons of benefits has a guaranteed success. And having a product that saves 80 liters of water every time users do their laundry made us very, very happy.