What does doing dishes have to do with building custom software?

Dishes. Quite possibly one of the more dreaded chores. And while the dislike of doing dishes has probably remained pretty consistent, the way we do dishes has been changing. 

Sometime around the 1930s dishwashing soap producers started production in the United States. Given the lack of mainstream dishwashers during that time, most people hand-washed their dishes. 

For most, the process went something like this: 

  • Fill up one side of the sink with hot water and a few drops of concentrated dish soap.
  • Add dishes to the sudsy water and let soak for a bit. 
  • Grab one dish at a time, wash with a brush or a sponge.
  • Rinse dishes
  • Dry dishes. 

Dish soap was specifically designed for this common process. The concentrated formula is designed to be dissolved in a sink full of water. Its dispenser is designed to squirt a bit of soap one time per session.   

Then, came the beautiful invention of the dishwasher. Around the 1980s dishwashers became a mainstream appliance. As more and more homes acquired dishwashers, dish soap began to be used for hard to clean items, items that aren’t dishwasher safe, or large items that don’t fit into the dishwasher. This was no longer a full sink of items, but more likely only a few items. 

The new process often goes something like this: 

  • Grab a single dish
  • Run it under the water
  • Squirt a bit of dish soap directly on the dish
  • Wash with a brush or a sponge
  • Rinse the dish under the still running water
  • Set aside to dry 

Dish soap wasn’t designed with this behavior in mind. The soap is far more concentrated than required for this process. The bottle isn’t designed for dish after dish use. They dispense far more soap than is needed for a single dish.  

The behavior of the users has changed so much, that the design of the product must evolve. 

Recently, we discovered Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray. This new product is designed for the new use case that has emerged. Now instead of squirting heavy concentrated soap on each dish, wasting a lot of soap each time, you simply spray the dish. It says it right on the bottle. Spray. Wash. Rinse. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? 

Why do we care? We aren’t sponsored by Dawn and aren’t really that interested in washing dishes, but we do care a lot about user behaviors and product design. This same lesson can be applied when building custom software.

It is so important to understand user needs before designing your product. And it can be equally important to continue to evaluate behaviors as time goes. Human behavior will continue to evolve and your software should too.

One way to stay in touch with people’s behavior is to conduct user research. During user research, it is important to focus on both observation and interviewing. UX matters has a great summary of the different types of observation that can help you glean insight into how people will or do use your product. 

Building Custom Software

Mutually Human is a custom software company with a human-centered approach to everything from the software created to the relationships build. Read more blog posts and learn about our organization. 

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