The Philips GC1440 Iron Refinement

Industry-Sponsored Project with Chimei Corporation
#Lean Product Development
#Product & User Research
#Usability Testing
Project Overview

// For this project, we cooperated with Chimei, one of the biggest performance materials companies in Taiwan, to refine the Philips GC1440 Steam Iron by implementing the Lean Product Development method throughout the product research and design process.
// Through our product research, we found that the development of irons have been quite mature to the extent that no significant functionality improvements were made past these years, yet we noticed that a lot of our users still see ironing as a challenging and intimidating task. Thus for this project, we focused on how to make the process of ironing easier for our target users, and mainly worked on enhancing product usabilities and exploring suitable forms.

Team : Michelle Cheng, Chi-Shin Lin, Hao-Wei Hsu
Methods : Lean Product Development / Contextual Inquiry / Jobs-to-be-Done / Competitor Analysis / Causal Mapping / Prototyping / Usability (A/B) Testing
Tools : Microsoft Excel / Solidworks / Keyshot / 3D Printing
Role : Contributed to user research, ideation development, prototyping, usability testing, and 3D modeling&printing.

────────────   The Research Process   ────────────

Discover & Defining
customer unmet needs

Target Customers
To start off, we must have a clear portrait of our potential customers. The high-level characteristics of our target customers were initially provided by Chimei, which served as a general guidance of how we should define their demographics after conducting some background research on the GC1440 model. The demographics of our target customers are shown on the right:

Contextual Inquiry (Gathering Problems)To understand what the target customers are expecting from the product, we visited 18 target users based on our demographics filtering and asked them to demonstrate how they would use the iron while we observe their behaviors. During the process, we asked the users to "think aloud" so that their thought process could be captured as well. In order to dive deeper into their usual habits the reasonings behind their behaviors, an interview session was followed after. After that, we marked the uncertainties and problems that the users had encountered as key events, and then later on translated each of them into customer values that interprets their actual needs.

Jobs-to-be-Done (Quantifying User Needs)

After obtaining a list of customer values, we're interested in what are the most important needs from our customers. Thus, we we implemented the Jobs-to-be-Done framework by Ulwick, which analyzes customers' willingness to pay for the product if certain goals (jobs to be done) are achieved. We designed surveys for our target audiences to rate the customers values based on their importance and satisfaction, then applied an opportunity score (OPP) for each outcome to evaluate the customer values that are most important yet unsatisfied. The higher the OPP score, the more likely that customers are willing to pay for the product if the customer value is satisfied.

We then plot the scores into an Opportunity Landscape so that we can visualize and divide the data points into three main areas: Underserved, Appropriately Served, and Overserved. As shown in the scatter plot below, there were up to 8 customer values that were within the underserved zone, which are customer values we will be focusing on improving for the product. The other data points that fall in the appropriately served zone are customer values that wouldn't make any big differences in our customers' decisions given that most of them are seen as relatively less important.

To make things clearer, we classified the 8 customer unmet values into three main categories: the intuitiveness of the product interface, ease of use, and product safety. At this point, we discovered that customers desired more improvements on product usability and product safety rather than the actual functionalities of the product.

Competitor Analysis
Defining Marketing Positions

In order to define our marketing position, we conducted both objective and subjective competitor analysis. The former aims to compare GC1440 with other similar products within the market based on product functionalities and features in order to ensure they're at least above average performance. The latter helps us evaluate our marketing position based on the jobs-to-be-done that we've previously obtained.

Objective Competitor Analysis
As we were doing our background research on steam irons in the market, we found that the development of irons are mostly mature to an extent that their functionalities and features stayed pretty much the same throughout recents years. We

Subjective Competitor Analysis
On the other hand, the results from our subjective analysis showed that the GC1440 model still had some room for improvement compared to our competitors. As we can see from the bar plots below, three of the eight job-to-be-done's are obviously below the mean and median satisfaction score.

To conclude, most of the objective functionalities of the GC1440 iron are above average performance, which also explains the reason why our outcomes from our jobs-to-be-done analysis weren't strongly related to any product functions. As expected, some of the jobs-to-be-done had lower satisfaction scores than the average performance, meaning that we should probably learn from our competitors or make improvements to at least reach the average. The other jobs-to-be-done's that fall around the same score as our competitors are key opportunities that may drive marketing differentiation from our competitors, as our target customers viewed these pain points as "important yet unsatisfied".

Product Goals
Concluding Our Research

Based on Jobs-to-be-Done:
Tier 1

•  noticeable On/Off Switch
•  lower the risk of burning users' clothes
•  make users feel safe when settling the iron aside

Tier 2
•  make the process of filling water easy and intuitive
•  improve intuitiveness of the interface (buttons/dials/heating signal)
•  improve smoothness when gliding through clothe edges and collars

Based on Overall Marketing Results:
•  make the whole ironing process more simple and user-friendly
•  simple, easy to approach, and less clunky/professional in terms of product form

Defining Strategies
Planning Next Steps

Original Product Model Breakdown
At this point, we have a clear goal and idea of what marketing differentiations we could make among the product market. However, we needed to dive back deeper into understanding our original product in order to define our design objectives before we head into the design phase. Thus for the first step, we did a detailed product breakdown of the GC1440 iron by 3D-modeling the entire product structure and components in Solidworks. By learning the assembly of the iron, we're able to make sure that we understand how an iron really works and what each component play as a role for the product.

Causal Mapping (Clarifying Factors)Next, we aimed to map the causal relationship between the job-to-be-done's to clarify the key factors that caused the product to end up with current performances. Some of the factors required further research and experiments for us to determine design priorities. This included asking professionals about materials of soleplates, conducting weight/dimension experiments, and more, which helped us understand constraints and eliminate factors that should not be taken into consideration as we hypothesized.

Setting Objectives & StrategiesAfter obtaining the main factors, we were able to know what actual problems we should solve. Our objectives were clearer for us to start developing our ideas, and some problems require us to conduct experiments to gain a deeper understanding.

Idea Development
Concept Sketches

Experiments & Usability A/B Testings
Experimenting, Prototyping, and tons of Iteration...

Experimenting Temperature, Moisture, and Fabrics
We tested the relationship between heat temperature and different textures of fabric under dry and moisturized conditions. Unexpectedly, we found that burning cloth is impossible to happen, no matter how long we placed the iron on the fabrics. Furthermore, it turned out that moist significantly affects the efficiency of de-wrinkling clothes, yet on the other hand, the effects of heat temperature on fabrics were very subtle, which lead us questioning whether it's necessary to allow users to adjust the heat temperature. We've always assumed that the more features, the better. However, if adjusting the temperature makes almost no difference under moisturized conditions, why keep this function that causes so much uncertainty to users? Therefore, we end up maintaining the moist function and removed the heat adjustment dial.

Comparing Soleplates
We cut out different shapes of soleplates to test each of their smoothness by asking users to glide them over the same clothes through the same route. We found that shape didn't really affect smoothness, however, the curvature of the borders turn out as a significant factor.

Testing Interface
In order to tested how users feel with different kinds of signals, positions / types of buttons, icons, etc. with an overall experience of ironing, we made a low-fidelity prototype of an iron with replaceable interface modules.

Testing Ways of Setting the Iron Down
We made low-fidelity prototypes of different bases and asked how the users feel when setting the iron down compared to standing the iron up.  As a result, it turned out obvious that having a base aside made users much more comfortable during the process.

────────────   The Final Working Prototype   ────────────

Back to TopBack to Home