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How UX helped me buy new appliances

Helen Former UX Consultant 2nd Jun, 2016

Just like websites and apps, an appliance is something you use, experience and interact with every day to make your life a little easier.

Over the years, you’ve seen appliances evolve from the regular vacuum cleaner, to a handheld portable size to an automatic robotic vacuum cleaner – to additional features like interchangeable heads or a retractable cord. All these functions come from real life cleaning experiences to advance the way it is today.

When you come across new appliances in an unfamiliar environment, whether it be at your workplace or a friend’s home, you expect appliances to work a certain way – just like websites and apps – from figuring out how to turn them on to making sure you are handling them the safest way possible.

Choosing new appliances for my place was reflected on my past user experience. It’s about learning from those experiences with products or services and how future experiences can be improved to make your life a little easier and more enjoyable.

The project

Objective:

To buy new appliances to suit my home and lifestyle

Requirements:

  • Fridge
  • Washing machine
  • Microwave

Limitations/restrictions:

  • Space within the apartment (technical)
  • Preferred stainless steel (design)
  • Mid-range brand (nice to have)
  • 3 weeks from picking up the keys for the apartment (timeframe)

Approach, execution and results

The fridge

Purpose: For survival and to keep your food long lasting.

Experience and learnings: For the last 20+ years I've lived with and used a top-mount fridge (not by choice). I spent most of my time accessing the fridge compartment and did a lot of crouching and bending to find things. It especially made it difficult when cleaning the shelves or packing groceries.

Restrictions: Needs to fit within a cabinet space of width 80cm, height of 175cm and be suitable for 2-3 people. This cabinet restriction puts additional limitations on the type of fridge that could be purchased, so a side-by-side or French door fridge is now out of the question.

Solution: 440L Fisher & Paykel stainless steel bottom-mount fridge. This was to reduce bending over, as the fridge compartment would be accessed the most compared to the freezer compartment. This filled the cabinet space and fitted the colour, brand and budget. It made my mornings easier when grabbing the milk for coffee, as it’s something I do every morning half asleep.

Bonuses: Glass shelves so it is easy to clean and additional compartments for organising.

The washing machine

Purpose: To have clean clothes and bedding.

Experience and learnings: For the last 20+ years I've used a top-load washing machine. Though this reduces strain on anyone’s back, I did find my clothes were starting to be worn down and damaged from the agitator, which forced me to wash less or re-purchase some of my favourite items.

Restrictions: Fit within a 70cm width x 70 cm depth, suitable for 2-4 people, have a quick-cycle setting for small loads.

Solution: A Bosch front-load washer/dryer. The washing machine was going to be used less frequently (compared to the fridge), so I was willing to crouch during loading and unloading in order for my clothes to be longer lasting. As this was going to sit in the bathroom, I also wasn't fussed on the colour of the machine.

Bonuses: Saves more water and energy compared to a top-load washing machine. The additional dryer function saves time when you don’t have time to dry clothes naturally. It also saves physical space as you don’t have to purchase a separate dryer.

The microwave

Purpose: To cook/reheat food.

Past experience and learnings: I've used a variety of microwaves with full control panels from physical buttons, electronic to dials. From experience there were pre-set menus I've never touched before or it took some time to figure out where the start button was – this would be more of a UI (user interaction) issue. Another experience I had with microwaves is sometimes they didn’t heat my food properly and I would be spending time reheating again.

Restrictions: There were no restrictions on bench-top space but the plate diameter had to be over 30cm, to make sure my current plates could fit.

Solution: A SMEG stainless steel convection microwave. This appliance is a microwave, oven and grill in one. The decision to go for a 3-in-1 machine was for long term use, to cook smaller portions of food and the possibility of downgrading in the future to a kitchenette. The wattage on the machine was also higher, so food was heated properly in less time.

Bonuses: The grill feature saves me from buying another small appliance like a sandwich press/grill, saving physical space and less usage on the 60L wall oven. Also, since owning this appliance I haven’t needed to refer to the manual to understand the settings/buttons on the control panel.

UX and UI help in the everyday

From everyday interactions with appliances, you can see how they impact your behaviour, patterns, what you are willing to live with in order to gain a benefit and whether they make your life more difficult or easier. Reflecting on these everyday interactions shows us how appliances incorporate many UX and UI components just as much as websites and apps.


About The Author

Helen Former UX Consultant

Helen has strong background knowledge and expertise in managing web content production. From working in e-commerce to Interactive Producer at a digital agency, Helen has honed multiple capabilities spanning content, design and project management, as well as development using platforms such as .NetStoreFront, Hybris, CQ5, Magento, Kentico and mobile applications. Advocating for the user in the creation of digital experiences motivated Helen to move into the experience research space. She is also an amateur photographer outside of the office.

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