Shower Research

i have a client who wants me to conduct some user centered research for showers. obviously, i cann’t observe users for this, so i am thinking that if they took pictures of thier showers before and after use and responded to some survey questions this might be the best that i could do. anyone have other suggestions?

Design Continuum did a fairly extensive, multi-year research project on the subject of shower design. There are a number of websites that go into greater detail. They found people who didn’t mind being videotaped in the shower and did some of their research that way. Some interesting things wee discovered this way e.g. one of the biggest problems showering was AVOIDING the water while trying to lather up.

The before and after deal probably won’t yield tons of fresh insights into user behavior (moved shampoo bottles, hair in the drain?) and the questionairre might be similarly limited as people tend not to have the full use of their mental capabilities and have showered so many times that very few “pain points” haven’t been adapted to. That said, both ideas may provide some useful data points.

thanks for the info, joe. i considered that some may not mind being taped while showering. seems to me that they would still be totally aware of the camera, unlike less private or potentially embarrassing activites and a professional model would be ‘acting/posing’ rather than showering. i will serch the web and see if i can find what’s been done.

I’d like to see what you find.

“Some interesting things wee discovered this way e.g. one of the biggest problems showering was AVOIDING the water while trying to lather up.”

Just wanted to clarify should be “were” discovered, not “wee” discovered. I don’t work for DC and by no means meant to classify the findings as wee, small or otherwise insignifigant:)

There is a book titled: The Bathroom
Authored by: Alexander Kira

This is a great research book. Kira studies both men and women’s behavioral, pyschological, and sociological responses to the “bathroom experience”. He presents extensive data on how they are similar and different, and how the experiences differ from public to private enviornments… In his research, there is a specific section/chapters dedicated to the shower.

This book might have a lot of information that you are looking; and help generate more specific research!


There are quite a lot of other surveyance strategies besides “voyeurism” :blush: Wich one of them is the most appropriate depends on the purpose of the survey. First of all, you need to define the purpose of the survey and then let us know what you want to find out exactly.

the client is a manufacturer of showers, tubs and associated fixtures. they want to expand thier product line in the luxury showers shower category. they are looking for an edge or an opportunity to meet consumer unmet wants/needs with new products. they are open to most any new concepts in this arena which goes beyond aesthetics and styling.

Assume that the answer would be the following: We the customers desire a really large, retrofit-able and luxuriously tiled floor-level-acess-shower that fits exactly into our 1.45 x 2.21 m 86° angeled corner of our bathroom. We also want self-cleaning glass doors with build-in chrome hinges and no frames. (I took these examples because these products/solutions are becoming more and more popular here in the German market.) I am quite sure, that it would be allmost impossible to find out about those unmet and unvoiced customer wants just by watching the customer having a shower. There are various Methods to find out about customers needs but most of them are difficult to learn and to use. Unfortunately I can only recommend german literature about this topic.
Where are you from? If you want some of the latest news from the sanitation business in Europe just drop me a line (personal message for members) and I will see if I can give you some hot ideas from overseas.

As a starter, You could try using the Kano method to find out what the required basic features and desirable features are for your premium customers, and make sure you’ve addressed as many of these wants as possible.
The Kano method does require a bit of effort to conduct rigorously, but can be quite powerful if you want to sift out subjective opinion.
It won’t tell you what will give customer surprise and delight, which is logical, because if customers already knew this, they wouldn’t be surprised.

There’s lots of info on the web about it.

thanks tw,i am familiar with the kano model and use its metrics in my research. exploiting compensitory behaviors with a sustainable design is my prime objective. i am almost certain that most everyone has a routine which doesn’t vary to any great degree from day to day, however, most showers are used daily by more than one person, each with thier own routine. so most showers reach a degree of comfortable compromise between users. easy enough to shot gun all the variables, the opportunity lies in finding out what needs to be addressed, so resources are not wasted elsewhere.

This is probably the most untrue thing that I have ever read on a Core board before. You will DEFINATELY learn alot from observing users in the shower and closely paying attention to how they interact with the shower and all of the necessary items in the shower.

I am not talking full frontal nudity here. You need build a set-up that would allow you to observe the face/shoulders of the users, and maybe the legs/feet. Obviously you want to user to feel comfortable and natural, or your data will be useless. Eliminate all posibilities that your user will be putting on a “show” or anything like that.

You will DEFINATELY learn alot from observing users in the shower and closely paying attention to how they interact with the shower and all of the necessary items in the shower.

Yes, you are right: You will learn a lot from observing users in the shower. But I doubt that you will find out about THOSE wants I mentioned above and wich I belive had the most powerful impact on sales during the last months for those companies in the sanitation business who are dealing with showers. Floor level showers for instance were usually sold to people with disabilitys. Now, I would say more than 80% of floor level showers wich are currently sold in Germany are sold to people who are young and have two strong legs. Why? Try to answer this question by watching people having a shower. Good luck! Therefore I would suggest thinking about other research methods as well. For the reason that I am not a native speaker I maybe did not make this point clear enogh.

right you are. observation is but one part of the process. i have already prototyped an adjustable mask from knee to shoulder with a small opening at the shower control which should meet the modesty requirements of most folk and give me the views i need. with the camera remote in the shower, it can be switched on and off from behind the mask. thanks for all the great feedback, you helped me think this whole thing through. as for the floor level shower, i have stubbed my toe on a shower door extrusion often enough to have a clue.

as for the floor level shower, i have stubbed my toe on a shower door extrusion often enough to have a clue

Belive it or not, but the tremendous success of floor level showers has absolutly nothing to do with stubbed toes nor with the use of a shower. Avoiding stubbed toes is not enough to give a premium customer surprise and delight or the experience of luxury. If you want to expand the luxury product shower line of your customer try to think beyond ease of use. A diamond Rolex is not a desireable product because it is more useful than other watches. The decision makers (here: mostly women) who are looking for luxury bathrooms have a less technical approach, they do not want to increase the usability of their bathrooms. For that reason you can not find many urinals or powerful “ba-woosh” SLOAN flush-o-meter valves in residential or private bathrooms.

About four years ago I saw Donna Romeo give a presentation of some work she had done while at Whirlpool. She’s now at JC Penney (last I knew, anyway) but while she was at Whirpool they were researching some new home spa type of tub, and they did interviews with people in their tub or shower.

They participants were asked them to wear bathing suits. I guess it may have been more about soaking than showering, so you didn’ thave the mechanical problem of trying to interview someone behind a shower curtain with a lot of water running while they are supposedly running their hands over their body.

I was very surprised to see a really fun and comfortable dynamic between the interviewers and the participants in the sample videos. It’d be interesting to find out more how that was accomplished specifically - I would imagine it would involve a few things
i) finding the right people - those for whom this is fun and silly and not sexually invasive or body-image-challenging
ii) set up the recruiting in the right frame of mind with the right attitude (not the way you’d approach a usability test for a new web banking app
iii) establishing a great rapport between the interviewer and the participant in the earlier parts of the interview - the parts conducted front-stage - before you ask them to engage in the bathing behavior

I would not have believed it could have been done as well as it was, if I hadn’t seen the videos, I would still not believe it.

With any such research, you can think about getting at usage, and you can think about getting at meaning. Both are important and both offer insights to the other, but you would obviously use different techniques to get at different aspects.


i agree totally, research staff are key in getting quality insight. they have to ‘read’ and connect with people very quickly, not everyone can do that.

interesting about the bathing suits, but i suppose being interviewed while bathing would take it far out of the normal everyday experience anyway.

high-stepping over the rim of a shower pan while negotiating a doorway on a damp floor can be a dicey act for most anyone. may not be a show-stopper or an ‘exciter’, but that is why research.