TL;DR


Problem

Currently smart home devices are majorly used by IoT developers since they are fully aware of the functioning of the device and they use API’s to further customize device operations. However, this also means that a normal user with no IoT will have a hard time setting up these devices. This is one of the prime reason smart devices are not widely adopted yet.

Solution

The Smart Home project is aimed to reduce the barrier to entry to the smart home technologies by developing an application that uses Z-wave protocol to quickly connect with as many smart devices as possible. This application will allow quick setup of the smart devices and allow the users to control them efficiently.

Problem Domain


Scope

Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay and it is becoming ubiquitous in everyone’s daily lives to perform small but important tasks easily. With the invention in new technologies, the IoT devices are becoming small in size with more powerful features. As IoT becomes more prominent, the idea of ‘Smart Home’ is catching attention of more individuals. Companies like Phillips, Amazon, and Wink are actively involved in manufacturing self-integrated smart devices that allow the users to quickly plug-play with them and convert their homes into smart homes. However, the learning curve to install and setup these devices is steep, and this results in low adoption rate of the smart devices.

The challenge we are looking at is the steep learning curve users have to go through to install and use smart devices at their home. Currently smart home devices are majorly used by IoT developers since they are fully aware of the functioning of the device and they use API’s to further customize device operations. However, this also means that a normal user with no IoT will have a hard time setting up these devices. This is one of the prime reason smart devices are not widely adopted yet. According to the report submitted by Accenture in 2014, there would be at least 30% households in the US using smart and connected devices. However, in the recent McKinsey report, it is presented that only 20% of the households have adopted to connected devices.

My Role

I started the project as a VP of Design Strategy for the Net Impact organization at Georgia Tech. To design a solution, the first task is to research and understand the problem and our users. I was an active member of the research activities and then led the way to designing solutions for the project.

Type Group Project My Role UX Designer and UI Designer Timeline 4 months (Jan 2017 - April 2017) Tools Used Sketch, InVision, Design Sprints, UX Research Methods

What I learned


Setting up Home Automation Devices
Using Alexa to control IoT devices
Designing Pattern Libraries

Initial Survey


To better understand our target users, we decided to conduct a short survey which consisted of a few questionnaires asking for their past experience with the smart IoT devices. For example, we asked questions related to their installation, configuration and interaction processes and experiences. The survey results were collected from novice to expert users of the smart IoT devices in both local and online communities. There were a total of 103 people who have answered our survey.

Few important findings from the survey were:

  • It often takes a long time to configure the devices to the applications.
  • Since smart IoT devices are products of different companies, communication between them is challenging.

Competitive Analysis


Along the line of what people said about the smart IoT devices, we decided to look into a couple of applications which were Amazon Alexa app and Philips Hue app. The purpose of this was to discover some of these things: Pros and cons for using these mobile apps with the smart IoT devices, General user flow for installing the device and interacting with the application to control the device, etc.

Few insights from competitive analysis include:

  • Most of the applications are functional for one specific device.
  • Icons, symbols and labels differ across each applications which makes it hard for the users.
  • Based on the functionality and the motivation of the devices, the UI Design and the flow differs.

Amazon Alexa App

Philips Hue App

Task Analysis


To better understand how people actually go through the installation process and interacting with the application to control the devices, we went on doing some task analysis on people who are interested in the smart IoT devices but haven’t used Amazon Alexa (Echo) or Philips Hue before. The main purpose of doing task analysis was to find out with our own eyes what was happening during these processes to better understand their general behavior as well as getting real-time feedback (hardships, surprises etc). We created a list of things that we wanted our participant to follow through which started from unpackaging the devices, installation and interacting with them. At the end of the tasks, we asked several follow-up questions about their overall experience and potential improvements.

Few of the learnings were:

  • For Philips Hue, the participant suggested an easier way to interact with the device without having to go through so many unnecessary steps.
  • Instruction for downloading the application inside the smart IoT device packages were not clear enough to follow quickly.
  • The order for setting up the device on the application could be improved for better user experience.

Participant setting up Amazon Alexa

Participant setting up Philips Hue

Ideation


With the results from conducting various steps of research, we sat down as a team to ideate and brainstorm based on our findings. The focus was on narrowing down what problems do we need to solve and then generate ideas to solve them. Based on the insights from research we narrowed down to solve the problem of quickly setting up IoT devices to increase adoption.

Once finalized, we sketched to explore various solutions:

Wireframes


These designs were converted to quick wireframe mockups to test with users and get as much feedback as possible.

Final Designs


The designs were finalized in collaboration with the team. Since it was a team effort to design various features of the application, it was important to establish a base understanding for everyone to ensure that we use the same design language. Thus, we first worked on building the design style guide and component library that can serve as a shared knowledge among all team members.

Then we started designing various sections of the applications individually and used to meet every week to critique, discuss and improve our designs. In this process InVision board was very helpful in having a single view for all designs and maintain consistency.

Prototype