The Challenge: Design Operations Software for Hotel Housekeeping Teams

Hotel teams are diverse, often with staff from many countries who speak different languages and have varying familiarity with technology. At ALICE we strive to provide a platform to help transcend communications barriers and technology challenges by designing our software to be universally easy to use. After several years of supporting hoteliers with our front of house Guest Services solution, we repeatedly received the same feedback from customers: hoteliers need simple, streamlined task management technology for their housekeeping teams.

But what does software for housekeeping teams look like? The product design team at ALICE recognized that it was critical to get the answer directly from hotel housekeeping staff. 

We started with a strategic and comprehensive study.

A member of our design team traveled across the U.S., Latin America, and Europe to conduct a study in which she interviewed 100 housekeeping team members working at 40 different hotels. These staff would be the prominent users of ALICE Housekeeping, so our design team studied their various roles and associated tasks, ways they communicate, and challenges they face. The ALICE team wanted to truly understand what a typical day was for the hotel housekeeping employees. We asked what they wished for to make their job easier and investigated ways in which technology could address their pain points. And we sought to ultimately discover if the ALICE platform could be the right fit to integrate a new housekeeping product with our existing guest services solution. 

“We knew ALICE Housekeeping would have to be different from Front of House because we are designing something for a very different group of people. Through our extensive interviews and shadowing of housekeeping staff, we learned how cultural and demographic differences should be considered when creating a product that works on a global scale.” – Rafael Bucker, Director of Product Design at ALICE

Several trends came to light through these in-depth interviews: 

  • the majority of housekeeping team members are immigrants;
  • over 30 different languages may be spoken amongst one team;
  • there is a wide range of familiarity with technology within teams – some having very little.

With team members unfamiliar with the language of the country in which they live and low proficiency with smartphones, the ALICE team recognized that a software for hotel housekeeping task management must be visually universal – regardless of the user’s native language. We sought to address this challenge with simple and intuitive iconography and colors.

Icons are key to transcending language barriers.

Visual communication can be brought to life through simple iconography. So the ALICE product design team went to the drawing board to apply icons to typical housekeeping tasks. For example, housekeeping managers prioritize cleanings for room attendants based on room status: Due In, Checked Out, Stay Over, etc. And the type of cleaning to be performed is also dictated by this room status. Room attendants need to be able to easily understand this status before entering the room to be cleaned.

The team had several ideas to portray rooms status utilizing a mix of people, doors, arrows, checkmarks, stop signs, suitcases. With every idea came a long list of questions:

  • Should the door be open or closed? 
  • Should the people appear to be in motion? 
  • Are arrows more easily recognizable than people in motion?

“As we developed icon concepts, we were able to test them with actual housekeeping teams who had participated in our initial survey and interviews. We validated versions of these icons with prospective users. Throughout their feedback, our team at ALICE went through over 30 iterations of icons.” – Felipe Miranda, Senior Product Designer at ALICE

The final icons for the official launch of ALICE Housekeeping featured people entering and exiting doors along with the red color to emphasize a guest exiting the room. These icons are similar to the iconography of the product today – thanks to the strategic research and testing performed by the design team.

Housekeepers need a simple, one-handed mobile experience.

While iconography helps streamline communication, the user experience must also be optimized to allow even users with low proficiency on smartphones to efficiently navigate and utilize the software. We utilized findings from our in-person interviews and focus groups to inform specific design decisions in alignment with this priority: keep it simple.

ALICE Housekeeping product design features:

  • “Rule of thumb”: Changing the status of a room and confirming it was designed to be interacted with by holding the device with just one hand (since the other may be busy with cleaning tasks).
    • Spacing of buttons to avoid clicking the wrong thing
    • Larger buttons for easier interactions 
  • Groupings based on category of status provide: Attendants see the room order the manager has set for them, always the room the attendant needs to service next at the top, and clean rooms jump to the bottom of the list.
  • Rooms automatically listed in order of priority! Rushed rooms always jump to the top
  • Less is more: To avoid cognitive overload, only the necessary visual information needed to complete their job and update their tasks is displayed.
    • Simple navigation menu along the bottom

ALICE Housekeeping was designed methodically alongside actual housekeeping teams through a series of interviews, field studies and continued feedback. The product launched in 2019. So, how did we do? Check out The Outcome here.

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