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Project Scope

Project: UX | UI

Timeline: 6 weeks

Platform: Mobile app

Tools used: Axure | Illustrator | Sketch | Quicktime | Keynote 

The Challenge

Home technology (also known as “internet of things”) is widely unknown to many consumers out there, as many of them are not educated or interested in researching what is available on the market. For many, home technologies already exist in their dwellings, but because of routine tasks that are already in place, homeowners and renters alike have not simplified these processes because  they are willing to do things manually. A potential technology app that would streamline these routine home tasks should be intuitive and one that the users will want to use all the time.  This universal app is designed to be user-friendly and accessible to even novice tech users.

 

The UX Process

To fully understand the market, our team created a competitive analysis and of other smart home apps and products that currently exist in the market. The key takeaways we had gotten from the analysis are:

  • Scattered offerings

  • Products with a limited scope

  • A steep learning curve

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To further understand our users during our user interviews, we wanted to learn about:

  • Benefits and the disadvantages that users have with the current home technology

  • How people manage their home environment

  • And, who were our potential users and how would the adapt to new home technology

During the process we realized that our responses indicated that our initial affinity mapping was too masculine and had an early adopter impression, mostly because we only interviewed males. We conducted a second round of interviews and focused on gaining a female perspective to balance out the affinity diagram. From both the survey data and the competitive analysis, we discovered that many of our competitors' apps (like Apple apps to Amazon Alexa to Nest, owned by Google) did not have a well-rounded mobile app because they were missing several important things many of our users wanted:

  • Lack of shared controls with other family members

  • The scene is not an option for many of the apps

  • Media access is not a priority in app development which is a key for us to continue

  • Camera access also not priority as there was already a large share of the market (aka security is not a focus for many owners)

  • Remote controlled access is missing for many of the apps

  • For many users, Shades, plugs outlets, and timers are accessory components

Personas Representation

In response to our research, we formulated our personas to represent two different types of users, with Angie being the average person who understood the basics of technology to early adopters who already have these things in their home. 

  • Angie is our main target, she represented the users with basic technologies and the product developed for her would also accommodate users more similar to Glen.

  • If we were to design for Glen, we may intimidate, and lose, a large portion of potential users.

 

TRIAL AND ERRORS

In the discovery of our problem statement and design principles, we design three phases of prototypes from low to mid to high fidelity in response of the user testings that were conducted to determine which direction we wanted to go. Each phase had three specific functionalities.

The five user test results showed that Concept 2 had an efficient flow compared to the other two. People in particular responded to the simple flow and scene concept. They thought the shortcut was cumbersome to click on, and they did not like the calendar function because they associated it as a social function and not a time function.  Most of the users did not understand the flow process within the bottom navigation, including voice commands during the low fidelity type testing. however, once tested again during mid fidelity, the app became increasingly popular.

Practical multitaskers need a universal, approachable way to interact with their smart home devices because they find the learning curve for multiple platforms discouraging and miss out on useful features since they default to manual control.

Before we proceeded with the final prototype, the team decided to conduct  visual design research that each team member would partake in. During my research I looked into the existing competitive analysis focusing on the visual aspects. I found that light blue was repetitive color, so I  decided to recreate the theme with different colors using the light blue as a main color on two distinct color schemes. I used my mood board to reflect both personas Angie and Glen, which was certainly beneficial to me as I progressed through the visual section of the UI design process. 

Each concept had a purpose and/or reasoning behind it. For instance,  concept one used colors after reflecting back to our design principles closely align with the genie from “Aladdin.” It delivers a magical feel that could benefit our logo exploration. For the second concept, I took a chance with this combination as it caused a distinctive feel to it, especially using dirty green( which I later found out that color is being employed for a campaign in the UK in association with the cigarette campaign.) The final concept used the darker interface  which was distant feel of the first two.

However, we found that in our visual design testing, users responded very well to the darker look and feel. One user described it as “electric but calming.” Another felt that the dark interface was useful for them, especially when in bed not having to wake their spouse with light.


Final Thoughts

FINAL DESIGN

PROJECT CONCLUSION

Depending on how Apple releases day and night features, we would have considered incorporating these features since the dark interface design was difficult to use for some of our users. Our user testing results reported that our testers either loved it or had a negative reaction to it.  We also would have incorporated accessibility features and made sure that our app fits the specifications for iOS accessibility features.  Also, we would have done user testing in an environment that simulated at home would be ideal to see how users really interact with the products and app. This change would provide us with a lot of insight about our user flows. If we had more time, we would have talked with a subject matter expert to gain insights on design and usability and have them test our app. Whatever the results we got from home testing and subject experts, we would work with the developer to make any adjustments in our UX or UI and made  sure our app follows iOS 10 conventions before the handover process.

MY EXPERIENCE

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I look back on what I learned during my conclusion of the project, the key answer is the collaborative process of how UX and UI goes into this app. I found that without the comprehensive research and surveying that went into the user experience process would have not made the visual interface be so well designed for the potential users that we were targeting.  With this being a six week process, teamwork and using the sprint process made it very efficient to create the final results.

Finally, because of my hearing disability, my ability to read facial and body language was more of an asset to the team than taking notes and conducting interviews. I did not have a traditional role during the interview process. Instead of being the interviewer, my job was to read facial expressions and body language, which my team quickly realized was an asset to our project. With a short span of time, I also tried to incorporate accessibility features in the project and interviewed  people with hearing disabilities so they also had a voice somewhere in the app.