A Laundry notification app + Smart device + business platform
It happened again and It keeps happening. I load my clothes into my washer/dryer, closer the door for the room it's in and then go off to finish other chores or get back to designing. The next thing I know is 3 hours have passed by and my clothes have been sitting in the washer because I can't hear the buzzer go off when the door is shut. Sure I could just leave the door open but then it's loud and if I'd stepped out of the apartment I surely wouldn't hear the buzzer.
If I have an in-unit or in-building laundry machine when I do my laundry I don't know when the load has finished. If I use a public laundromat I don't know how many machines are available to use and I don't know exactly when it's done unless I sit and wait for it, wasting time I could be doing other tasks.
There are really 3 personas to consider. The user either uses an in-unit, in-building, or laundromat machines. Each persona has very different requirements but given the common thread of laundry I think a single app/platform can meet those requirements. Each persona though should have the option to use a dry cleaner as well.
- Smart Device
- Mechanical vs Digital
- Machine availability
- Load Notifications
- No Internet access
- Commercial Machines
smart Device ideation
For the In-Unit user a retroactive device would need to be attached in order to trigger the notifications.. As i begin the think about this I knew 2 different devices would be needed to meet the need or both older mechanical units to the newer digital ones.
As I've used it previously, I immediately thought of a raspberry pi to be the heart of the device. This choice was reinforced through their release of a gum-stick size version called the RPi Zero that is only $5. Additional components would include wifi and bluetooth antenna,. The mechanical version will include an accelerometer while the digital version will use a large photocell.
MECHANICAL Cycle Selector
Most mechanical units will have 2 knobs (wash + dry) following a clockwise pattern for selecting a load type and the mechanical timer.
Given that not all knobs will be created equal I had the idea of what Ice skates do. Inside of modern hockey skates is a gel insert. Over time the gel molds to your foot. The same principle would work if the device was split into 2 half radials that conjoin using magnets. On the inside radius will be a gel type material that will grip the existing knob.
Once the device is setup the user will continue to use the laundry unit as they always did. By adding no additional steps to wash your clothes I feel is a great value-add. I never want the device to add steps or make it harder to do laundry.
On the far right side of the image I began to think about what packaging would look like for this device. Each half-radial x 2 would be easily visible and afford to the user what it is. Obviously marketing data and analysis will influence how that develops over time. But I wanted to start thinking about the device experience from purchase through to use.
DIGITAL cycle selector
The device for a digital laundry unit will look similar but be made up and attached very different than the mechanical one. Since the knob simply makes a selection on the digital interface the idea is to use photocells to understand which load type has been selected automatically by reading the light emitted by the unit. Since the device will cover the existing lights there will be LED lights on the outward facing side to let the user know which cycle they've chosen.
Performance is key here as any lag b/t reading the light and display will certainly aggravate the users.
User Flow Ideation
As i mentioned earlier I have a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard wallpaper in my bedroom. This is where all my projects begin and Laundro was no different. I typically hash out the general information architecture and doodle a couple ideas for what the interface/user flow would look like.
Smart device configuration
When it comes to adding the device, I'm very torn. Multiple apps do this in very different ways. Google Chromecast makes you connect to an Ad-Hoc wifi network, Bluetooth speakers make you connect through your device settings, and Misfit Shine simply connects over bluetooth by opening their app and triggering a sync, the user doesn't have to do anything.
Connecting to the device itself should be the only permutation. Once connected the user will follow a wizard to help them configure the device.
I recently attended a panel style talk for The Webby Awards in Brooklyn with John Borthwick of Betaworks in which he spoke at great length about thin apps. Thin apps are smartphone applications that are very lightweight and most of the user interaction is primarily though actionable notifications. In a sense the only real contact with the user is all through push mechanisms.
MATERIAL DESIGN ui Framework
UI Kits are all the rage right now with Sketch becoming the predominant vector design tool. Just do a simple good search and you'll find thousands. But when you review Google's Material Design guide it's clear that it just isn't another UI kit. Especially when you consider that Material Design apps look great on iOS and Android designing one app but customizing certain aspects for each mobile OS seems more feasible.