Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm curious why every front-loaded washing machine I've seen so far comes with a window, while other household machines, like dishwashers, don't.

From a design or UI/UX perspective, why would one want a user to be able to see their clothes while they're getting cleaned? For me, there is nothing I have to control during the process that a window would be helpful for.

share|improve this question
16  
to differentiate from the front-loading dryer right next to it –  ratchet freak Jan 15 at 14:46
6  
@ratchetfreak: my dryer happens to have a window as well... –  Marjan Venema Jan 15 at 18:59
85  
I love the mindset that goes with this question: you've looked at something since you were a kid it never questioned it, and then one day you look at it and go 'but why ???' –  PhillipW Jan 15 at 20:09
39  
Obviously because of cats and dogs. They are multiple purpose devices. Washing for humans, TV for pets. –  PlasmaHH Jan 16 at 11:03
10  
I'm protecting this question because all the new answers are all saying the same thing but none so far have really given an actual reference for their reason, it's all just opinion. This question is about WHY it is not 'speculate wildly based on no research'. –  JonW Jan 16 at 11:09
show 10 more comments

15 Answers 15

In a washing machine the objects that are being washed move around. It's a dynamic process, that is unpredictable and always unique. Watching the movement is fun, it indeed gives a sense of control to the user, even if it is not actually required. Quite a few people even find it relaxing to watch the washing machine. The window also prevents users from trying to open the door when the machine is filled with water.

In addition, it might be useful to some people to actually see what is being washed. If I come home, and see that the washing machine is packed with white fabric, I know I can wear my favorite white shirt soon.

In a dishwasher the items don't move. Making a window in the dishwasher would not expose anything interesting to watch at all. Given the working principle of a dishwasher (same water being reused as much as possible), watching his internal process might actually give you a bad appetite and convince you from hand-washing the dishes. A dish washer also does not fill the whole machine with water. It actually uses very little water. Opening the door while this machine is filled with water would not result in water pouring out of the machine.

Another argument not to have a windows in the dish washer: a benefit of having a dish washer is that you can just put any dirty dish, cup or whatever straight into the machine, thus making the kitchen look more tidy. If you would have a window in the dishwasher you would be looking at dirty dishes again for 90% of the time.

On the other hand, dish washers with a window DO exist. enter image description here

Electrolux brought this machine to the market after "market research", but it appears to have been removed from their current product range.

share|improve this answer
72  
If dishwashers had windows, there would be less people thinking it fills to the top with water when operated. –  Virtlink Jan 15 at 16:18
4  
I once was in a dishwasher demo. There the dishwashers had windows. Great delight! –  Thorsten Staerk Jan 16 at 6:49
3  
First people buying washing machines washed their clothes by hand and knew quite well what work the machine was doing and what relief it was. Same for me with dishwashers. I'd love to see the process and progress! –  uxfelix Jan 16 at 8:44
12  
@uxfelix: thruth being said, unlike washing dishes, hand washing clothes is a very long and hard work. Anyone that cannot handwash his dishes faster than a dishwasher is doing something wrong. I also hate washing dishes, so I love my dishwasher, but the washing machine does much more for me than any dishwasher ever could. –  Bart Gijssens Jan 16 at 10:45
4  
-1, completely opinion-based –  Dan Hulme Jan 16 at 11:41
show 10 more comments

In the event of a stopped dishwasher (due to electrical fault or buggy software or something) the water in the device streams out of ordinary drains inside, and the water sprayers stop adding more water. If you were to open it after it had shorted out, you aren't going to get soaked.

That's not true of a front-load washing machine. If one of these is forcibly stopped at certain points in its cycle, then it remains full of damp clothes resting in soapy water.

Opening one of these without knowing what's inside would lead to a rather unpleasant surprise.

The window helps you see what's going on inside in the one case when you do need to interact with it mid-cycle: when it's broken.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

3  
I would challenge this: Does a dishwasher really never contains enough water to produce a spillover? Any sources? –  Marcel Böttcher Jan 16 at 14:23
19  
Dishwashers use an incredibly small amount of water. Every dishwasher I have ever owned can be opened at any point in the cycle (if you forgot a dish or accidentally loaded something that really shouldn't be machine washed) without any spillage. –  otto Jan 16 at 15:51
12  
@MarcelBöttcher It's also the manufacturer opinion (in an indirect way). Every washing machine that I have owned locked the door while operating. (Message: it's unsafe to open the door). Every dishwasher that I have owned leaved the door unlocked. (Message: it's safe to open the door) –  vals Jan 16 at 16:56
1  
My dishwasher (Electrolux ESL4115) manual says of the 'intensive' wash: 1.7kWh and 20 litres of water. That's used up in a prewash, main wash and 3 rinses. Note your usual washing up bowl is roughly 9 litres in capacity. (and the common wash I use in the dishwasher consumes 8 litres) –  gbjbaanb Jan 16 at 18:30
2  
@gbjbaanb the manual does not say that it uses all those 20 liters at the same time. I bet it uses just a few liters at any given time and replaces it a few times. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 17 at 20:03
show 1 more comment

Just looked up the answer, and quite a few places seem to have the same thought.

In front load washing machines, the window is given to see what is going on inside. In the top loader machine, you can open it at any time even when the machine is on wash mode but you cannot do so in front load machine, for the water will spill if you open the window on the washing mode. Otherwise, windows do not provide any other functional leverage to washing machines.

Quoted from http://www.why.do/why-do-washing-machines-have-windows/

Which actually does make sense. Since you can't see what's going on with your clothes from opening it, you need a window to be able to see.

As well as @Indofrasier answer, you can see if things are caught in it, if the cycle stopped for whatever reason, or if there's mechanical issues.

share|improve this answer
1  
But why would you want to see your clothes while they are being washed? And if there is a need to control the washing process, why don't dishwashers or ultrasound jewelry cleaners have windows? –  Rumi P. Jan 15 at 13:52
    
@RumiP. There's no need to control it, but you want to see when it's done, what step it's on, how long it'll be, etc. Some machines don't have timers and don't say what cycle it's on, so being able to see inside makes sense. As for the dishwasher, by that logic it could have a window too. I don't manufacture dishwashers though so you're asking the wrong guy. –  Mike Mersereau Jan 15 at 13:54
3  
@RumiP. you can open a dishwasher that is running, and not flood the floor. A washing machine has a water level the is halfway up the door. No other household machine has this issue. Also Microwaves have windows... –  James Jenkins Jan 15 at 19:20
9  
If the power goes out during a wash cycle, and you aren't home to notice, how wet will you be if the machine is still full of water when you go to put your clothes in the dryer? On a top loading machine, not wet. On a front loading machine with a window, not wet. On a front loading machine with no window? Wet. –  Adam Davis Jan 15 at 20:12
1  
Its a basic feedback indicator - at least you can see that something is happening even if you are not actually sure what the machine is doing at the time. –  PhillipW Jan 15 at 20:18
show 6 more comments

I call it a debug window, an almost life-saver in many situations:

  • The machine was not rotating the clothes (when the engine is used and has not enough power). In effect, the clothes from the top were not washed at all! Without the window you would be very suprised what has happened.
  • You've used wrong pulver, and the clothes are strongly dyeing. You can stop washing machine quickly before it's too late.
  • You've forgotten to remove some hard object from your trousers. You see it's smashing againsts inside and can damage it. You can react.
  • An extreme case: your pet is inside.
  • You are sure the machine is loaded before starting.
  • You see immediately if water is flowing into machine, even without special indicator.
  • If it's broken, you see if the water is still inside and you should bring basin before opening the door.
  • and many more

Without debugging window, it would be hard to figure out the situations above.

share|improve this answer
8  
Or, worse, your kid is inside! –  Jim Jan 16 at 8:35
9  
Sorry, son, it's three minutes until I can open the door. –  David Wallace Jan 17 at 6:49
2  
I don't know what washer you're using, but when mine is going I can't see jack all inside there. It's a big white and red blob of whirrrrr. –  corsiKa Jan 17 at 19:32
add comment

The authors of the book Warum gibt es kein Katzenfutter mit Mäusegeschmack? asked Miele and Bosch, both German manufacturers of washing machines and dish-washers. These are their answers:

  • Miele

    • Dish washers are usually used in kitchens as built-in appliance beneath the work top. To have an homogeneous/uniform front for all devices next to each other, the dishwasher is mounted with a similar decorative element.
    • Washing machines are mostly positioned (free-standing) in bathrooms or basements. They don’t need an extra decorative element
  • Bosch

    • Loading both devices is done in a different manner (bunch of clothes vs. separate/one-by-one) So the mounting possibilities differ.
    • The cleaning methods also differ. Washing machines use motion and friction, dish washers shower. Some customers (and their kids) often want to watch the mostly colorful washing being swirled around. Due to the showering-technique of the dish washer the front window would constantly be wet and not see-through. And therefore less interesting.
share|improve this answer
4  
While I think the answers given by Bosch and Miele probably aren't the best, this answer is one of the few here that actually does cite a reference or source. So, pedantically speaking, the little blurb about not citing any references or sources is wrong. –  Michael Burr Jan 17 at 23:20
1  
@MichaelBurr to be fair, I had a completely different text here before I found that source. –  uxfelix Jan 19 at 11:43
2  
You're right, that reference is a good one. I've removed the citation message (As mods we don't get automatically prompted when such edits are made so if it happens again once edits have been made you can flag the post with 'Other' and request a mod remove the message). –  JonW Feb 5 at 10:12
add comment

The first washing machines did not have a window. Then Louis Zimark started creating washing machines with windows which were a great success. The idea behind the window was: Zimark found out that it was much easier to put a rubber seal around a glas door than a metal door. In addition he wanted to be able to check the operation of the machine. And therefor he needed a window.

Additionally people trusted a machine more where they can see what it is doing, when the washing machines where brand new and a bit "spooky" for the people. Today there is no technical reason for the glass door but it is being kept just because of the "traditional" reasons.

(german) source: http://www.sat1.de/ratgeber/waschmaschine-mit-fenster

His patents can be found here: https://www.google.de/search?tbo=p&tbm=pts&hl=en&q=ininventor:%22Louis+Zimarik%22

share|improve this answer
    
Louis Zimariks, the inventor of the glass-doored washing machine, doesn't have a Wikipedia page? That should be rectified. –  Michael Burr Jan 17 at 23:29
    
I agree that this is a bit strange, but the patents are quite clear –  Ole Albers Jan 18 at 15:46
    
Unfortunately this does not answer the question why dishwashers have no glas doors while washing machines do. But a least your answer has a source compared to many others here. –  uxfelix Jan 19 at 11:53
3  
The fact alone that this answer covers the 'invention' of the glass door (hence the historical aspect of it) makes it a great answer. Most answers simply repeat the same aspects over and over, this actually adds something to the question. Needs a lot of upvotes! –  Bart Gijssens Feb 5 at 11:01
add comment

You can see if anything is caught in the door seal so you can stop the cycle.

You can see if the water has emptied if there has been a fault, say from an electricity cut.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

    
This makes sense, you don't want to open a machine full of water because of a sensor going bad, do you? :D –  tohecz Jan 15 at 18:14
add comment

As the son of an ad man, I'd go with "Because the window is such a wonderful selling tool for the machine."

As an engineer, I'd go with "So you know whether there's a problem with unusually high water or suds level BEFORE you open the door and make a mess."

Neither of those is as much of an issue for a top-loader.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

add comment

I think the comments in Mike's answer get the closest, but don't quite reach the reason. Most here seems to be forgetting that front-loading dryers also often have windows, so it's not solely a matter of the water.

This is something I have to deal with almost every single week:

The window lets me know beforehand when the spinning motion of the machine has accidentally piled my clothes up at the front of the machine. If I open the door without knowing the clothes were piled up, they are far more likely to fall out and onto the dirty floor. But because I can see them piled up as I approach the machine, I know they're positioned badly and I have to open the door slowly and catch them.

Dishwashers (hopefully) don't have anything flopping around where they can pile up against the door, so there's no need to see where everything is before opening the door.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

    
My washing sometimes falls out, sometimes it doesn't. I have my hand there in any case. I don't need the glas window for indication, as I noticed yesterday. –  uxfelix Jan 16 at 8:38
    
@uxfelix and how did you learn that? –  VoronoiPotato Jan 16 at 15:39
    
I just always put my hand underneath the door because every second time the washing looks like it won't fall out, it will. –  uxfelix Jan 16 at 15:50
add comment

I personally think it is for safety.

Since things move around there. What if some object accidently gets in there? A cat or a toddler? Or if something is left inside your clothes? Your cell phone. You would obviously catch a glimpse of it and turn the machine off.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

2  
Same with a red sock among the whites. –  Cees Timmerman Jan 16 at 11:48
    
The same could be said of a dishwasher (which dangerous due to the high water temperature) - a cat or toddler could have snuck inside while your back was turned. I doubt you'd notice a cell phone in the washer before it's too late to save it from the water unless you are very lucky and it falls against the glass door. –  Johnny Jan 16 at 20:55
1  
@Johnny Cellphones don't usually hang out on dishes, though. They prefer soft pockets. –  Cees Timmerman Feb 6 at 15:14
add comment

I bet it's combination of two things:

  1. Front load washing machines were one of the few devices that both fill water higher than the door and people kept trying to open mid-cycle.
  2. Some company tried adding a window to increase sales and it stuck.
share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

add comment

A few years ago, I lived in a room that shared common areas with many other housemates. Included in these common areas was a Maytag Neptune washer. This was the first front-loading washer that I have ever seen WITHOUT a window. It threw me for a loop. The basket does have a slight tilt to it (maybe 15-30 degrees upward, compared to most which are straight), but any decent load would tumble out of the basket when the door was opened. Without the window, I feared my laundry would leap out of the basket and on to the floor.

Sidenotes:

  • The controls were mounted above and to the rear of the washer unit (like most top-loaders).
  • The behavior of this washer was like most other front loaders, as in, the door locked, and fill was minimal.
  • The detergent compartment was on the top of the washer, accessible by lifting a door.
  • This was the only washer I've seen with a lit basket. Most dryers do this, but I've never seen a washer have a light.
  • This was one of the first residential washers that was a front-loader.
  • It took me a few months to realize why the model was called Neptune.
share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

    
Neptune because, due to the lack of a window, it caused the user to spill water all over the place sometimes? –  dotancohen Jan 16 at 10:42
2  
This isn't really an answer, it's just an anecdote about one situation you once had. –  JonW Jan 16 at 11:17
    
Why is it called Neptune, aside from the obvious Roman god of the sea mythological reference? –  Johnny Jan 16 at 20:59
add comment

Oduvan's answer is on the right track.

In the past, with earlier simpler washing machine models, you added starch or fabric softener at certain times during the wash cycle. The machines did not have special cups or dispense at right time; they did not have timed cycles that paused or beeped. They were a simple tub that filled with water and whatever you added to it. The window was necessary so that you could see what cycle it was at to add starch or softener.

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

1  
Unlikely. In the past, washing machines did not have windows, the only exception being large commercial laundries. Also in the past, there was no fabric softener (I still don't understand why there is fabric softener now! I don't think it does anything). –  Feral Oink Jan 16 at 10:39
    
I think this nails it: generally designs of devices evolved historically for a reason and then tend to persist even when the original reason for the design has changed (cf the Scroll Lock key on a computer keyboard). The Wikipedia history backs up the comment about the need for manual intervention on older machines en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washing_machine –  PhillipW Jan 16 at 16:03
    
1947 Bendix Delux Washing machine with front window...showing the front window has been around for a while: esporta.ca/evolution-of-washing-technology –  PhillipW Jan 16 at 16:07
    
My parents had the simplest washer possible -- an old wringer washer. It didn't have cycles at all - you filled it with a hose from the sink, turned on the agitator manually and let the clothes agitate as long as you wanted, then manually sent them through the wringer before rinsing. No window at all, but one isn't needed since the user created the cycles, not the machine. Theirs didn't even have a pump, so it drained from the bottom into a floor drain. It wasn't our regular washer, but it was rescued from the grandparents and mom used it when the regular washer was broken. –  Johnny Jan 16 at 21:07
add comment

Old machines had a door at the top, it was virtually useless to have a window there since you can always open it. On the newer machines you can't actually know if you can open the door w/o a window since there still may be water inside despite of what you might assume from the machine's indicators.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

1  
I wish i had many votes for you. The reason is seeing water and the efficiency of horizontal vs vertical centrifugal force due to the weight of the product. –  Abektes Feb 13 at 18:02
add comment

The window is there to demo the unit in the store and improve sales over units that don't have a window. Stores would place material inside and leave it running in a high traffic area to get the product more attention. Most high end washers have a demo mode that cycles threw the different wash modes in a short repeating sequence.

Top loading washers don't have a window because you can't see inside when you walk past a demo unit.

The trend for front windows is the result of competition among brands seeking prime space in retail stores. As more brands offer easier models to demo fewer where selected by retailers to run in demo mode.

Front loading washers use to be a premium home appliance, but they've become much more affordable as governments enforce water conservation laws for washing machines.

To differentiate front loaders from low-end and high-end brands. Manufactures have to introduce new gimmicks that make the appliance demo better in the stores. As a result, we now see touch controls, fancy dials, touch screens and other such gimmicks.

It's all about sales...

share|improve this answer

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

add comment

protected by JonW Jan 16 at 11:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.