News and blog posts from our students and faculty

Thermostat 6: Lessons & Reflection

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 | Posted by kurt.hanley

Since October 2013, I have been working extensively on building a thermostat interface. Taking on the venture of designing a tool that most people have come into contact with adds its challenges and benefits. This is now my 6th iteration of what I have designed and tested to be the “Ideal Thermostat”. To build the initial understanding of what was needed in the thermostat design I focused on two things. One was the lesson outline from the professor that acted as a mock up version of a client requests and the other was to a build concept map off of an existing Honeywell Thermostat. This is the list of “client requirements for the thermostat project.

  • Adjust the temperature (warmer / cooler)
  • Switch between heating and cooling
  • Turn the system off and on
  • Set / edit a 7 day schedule
  • Interrupt the schedule to adjust the temperature
  • Have a date / time function
  • Have thermostat prompt when the the user could break the system by switching A/C on in winter.

After mapping the system, see: (Cleaning Up Design Complication), one thing became a focus to me, simplicity. Looking at the rough draft of the concept map it was apparent to me how overwhelming this particular system is. Initially, I wanted to scrap everything because of how frustrating it was to achieve objectives in the Honeywell system. After initial prototypes failed miserably I began to dive deeper into what the interaction of a thermostat is with a user. I used the book Microinteractions, by Dan Saffer as a guide to build a better concept. It helped me in gaining understanding with how to look at exploring using visual clues for user goal completion. This is using recognizable images and repeatable actions to form a basis in how to use a system. What I began to learn is that I was not designing for visual aesthetics but designing for visual communication. The more effective I can show the thermostat the better the user could make the system a tool to achieve desired goals.

*Bringing users to the desired goal by eliminating multiple options and highlighting interaction through text.

The thermostat successfully incorporates all of the requirements laid out in the beginning of the course. It has been tested with users and iterated upon to this point. The Version 6 Ideal Thermostat is an intuitive design that utilizes the benefits of progressive disclosure and feedback models. This thermostat communicates to the users in a language that is understood by users. The last tests for this thermostat provided feedback that the visual artifacts are successful in conveying importance and how to use them.

*Accounting for user choice. These are multiple states that users can get based off of there decision they make. They provide visual feedback for what the prior decision was.

Overall, I enjoyed this project very much. The thermostat provided me insight on how to investigate mental maps of others. I learned how important it is to use visual artifacts as tools to complete goals or initiate the interaction. Looking back I have been able to bring this thermostat from what I now understand as a conceptual nightmare into well designed deliverable. The process has pointed out the importance to be able to understand when to stop moving the project forward.

This is my final mapping of the “Ideal Thermostat”.

Here are links to the previous posts.

No Comments »