Ideal Thermostat – Iteration #1
As I mentioned in my last post, we are redesigning a Honeywell Thermostat in our Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving class this quarter. This week, I referred back to the concept models I created, and built out wireframes for my ideal model interface. Wireframes are visual guides for the framework of an interface. They allow a designer to test for usability before all the color schemes and font choices are finalized.
The Honeywell thermostat interface incorporated many functions that were buried deeply into the system—you had to click through many different screens to navigate to these options. The category titles gave little indication of what settings or preferences they contained. This focus on incorporating technology must have taken priority over the main utility of a thermostat to heat or cool a home since adjusting the temperature pop-ups up an unexpected amount holding options.
Concept mapping this current state of the Honeywell thermostat and all its complexity allowed me to pinpoint the need for a simpler hero flow (meaning that there should be less obstacles to navigate through to get to your desired end goal such as turning off the system or setting a schedule). I started to consider what functions a typical user would want to perform. After many hours sketching and digitizing wireframes, I have come to this interface:
This new interface prominently displays the temperature front and center since it will be interacted with most often. In the corners, I placed a few other important functions—current temperature, heating/cooling, fan, and schedule so they are easily accessible.
Both the system mode options and fan options are accessible by touching the their icon. A toggle menu then appears around it. After 3 seconds of user inactivity, the toggle menu disappears to keep the home screen clean and tidy.
Once the wireframes were created, I needed to test the functionality with real people. Overall, the test went rather well. Through my user testing I have been able to identify some problem areas that need to be addressed.
1. One user viewed the icons I have chosen to represent the system mode (air waves) and fan as togglers between heating mode and cooling. Another user identified the schedule icon as a calculator. The simple solution would be to add text under these icons to give the user a better idea of what they do, but I am going to explore other symbol options first. I like the aesthetic of having as little text showing on the home screen, as necessary but functionality will win out if there is no workable alternative.
2. Displaying both individual days of the week buttons as well as shortcut weekdays and weekend buttons in the same organizational scheme did not seem to be as big of an issue as I expected it to be. One user did want to chose both the weekdays button and individual days though, so I will need to reassess they way those options are presented.
3. Editing the schedule is not as intuitive as I hoped although the wording of my prompt may have added to the confusion. Even with the directions above the schedule, users jumped right to touching the addition symbol beneath the schedule, thinking it would increase the temperature.
Receiving real user feedback was probably my favorite part of this process. It gives me a better idea of the usability issues that were not apparent to me because I was too close to the design. Now that I have this first round of user testing under my belt, I feel like a have a clear idea of what works in my design and what doesn’t.
On to the next iteration!