We were asked to survey users of stacked washer-dryer units to learn about their likes and dislikes. We agreed, with the proviso that we do some site visits first.
Stacked washer/dryer combos are designed to save space. The bottom of the unit is the washer. It is called a top-loader, and you know why. The dryer above it is a side loader – you couldn’t reach a top loader up that high. Also, dryers in general are side loaders because the drum orbits on a lateral axis, tumbling the clothes as it dries them. Typical washers oscillate around a vertical axis.
To transfer just-washed laundry to the dryer, we observed the laundry-doer must:
- open both doors,
- bend over,
- reach down into the washer,
- grab a handful of damp laundry,
- and stand up to transfer this handful to the dryer.
In many cases, while the laundry-doer was bending over retrieving just-washed laundry, the dryer door would not stay to the side, but would swing to be in just the right place for laundry-doers to hit their heads, their necks, or their backs on the dryer door when they stood up.
On two occasions, we observed a simple modification that prevented this from happening. Small magnets had been placed by the user to hold the door wide open, flush with the front of the dryer, out of the way.
The problem was widespread; the solution was simple and inexpensive. It might be just adding a magnet, or door-grasping hardware, or velcro (probably a bad choice around lint). But laundry-doers need some way of securing the door in a fully-opened position, so it is laundry-doer friendly.
This is one of many examples of why we value going on-site to see how people use products in their natural environments.
Observation of actual use in the home trumps recall in a focus group facility every time.