Throughout the process of this project, we found that the term smart home could mean many different things to many different people. Some believe that having Netflix on their TV is a sophisticated smart home interaction while some dream of fully-automated houses catering to their every need. Regardless of your view, the smart home space has become increasingly difficult to ignore. Yet despite this, there are relatively few applications that have achieved widespread adoption. The question then becomes -

How can we bridge the gap between the product and the consumer?
Selection of BUNDL screens

00 —Proposal

Simplicity and unobtrusiveness were key factors in the development of Bundl. As the amount of available smart home devices grow, management of these devices becomes more and more complex. The potential users that we spoke to were not concerned with the value of total control. The value users found was in the peace of mind they would have knowing these devices were actively monitoring their home and ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Because of this, we focused our efforts into providing a streamlined experience that made certain assumptions about what would be optimal for the user based on their interactions with the platform. The user is also given contextual information on their utility use to demonstrate that they can make a tangible change when using Bundl.

Bundl was designed to be a more passive experience because our research told us that the best way to engage users in this space was not to force them to use yet another app frequently. Our approach was to give the user enough information to allow them to change their user behavior patterns at home and receive tangible benefits from it.

More details on the design process can be found below.

01 —What's out there?

The brief given by DESIGNATION involved the creation of an application that connects a variety of smart home devices together into a single platform. While the smart home market is quickly emerging, the devices remain fragmented and there is no single unifying platform that defines the space. Before we began to explore potential solutions, the problem needed to be fully understood. This was done through initial domain research and informational user interviews.

Through domain research, we quickly found that existing products and platforms can be split into two major categories:

  • A.Complex products that required a certain level of tech-savviness in order to make the most of them.
  • B.Single purpose products that are limited in scope.

This initial research showed that there was a gap in the market for a product that allowed for sophisticated interactions but maintained a simplicity in its interface. This became an important consideration for our group as we continued to develop our solution.

02 —Who's out there?

In order to determine how existing users used smart home technology or if they used it at all, we conducted a total of 12 informational interviews. During this exploration, emphasis was placed on the types of technology that the user owned and the decision making process that went into that purchase. We were also interested in their knowledge of the smart home space and their immediate understanding of the term smart home.

We followed this line of questioning to gain a deeper understanding of how people used technology to change their everyday behavior at home. We also looked for insights into the average user's understanding of the smart home space in order to determine the issues that were important to them. Information from these interviews were condensed into singular pieces of information - concerns, behavior patterns, previous experiences with technology, future goals and frustrations. This information was then sorted into logical groups in the process of affinity mapping.

This allowed us to quickly sort through the information and to identify the important patterns that might have been otherwise unseen. After several rounds of affinity mapping, we determined that three main patterns emerged:

  • A.Users that claim to be tech-savvy found smart home devices to be gimmicky and could not find an appropriate use case for them.
  • B.Renters place less emphasis on investing in their non-permanent homes while homeowners place security over other factors including costs.
  • C.Users value simple interactions.

This information affirmed our earlier assumptions that there was a gap in the market for users who valued the ability to have sophisticated interactions on an interface that allowed for simplicity. This became an important consideration for our group as we continued to develop our solution.

03 —Finding Our User

As the information became more condensed, we began to paint a clearer picture of the primary user that we would be designing for. It was also important at this stage, to eliminate certain personas based on the data gathered. We often found ourselves leaning towards certain user models but could not fully commit to it because of the lack of data at hand. After eliminating several options based on the data we gathered and the patterns that emerged during the interviews we determined that the primary persona would have 3 key traits:

  • A.The user is tech savvy.
  • B.The user does not spend much time at home.
  • C.The user values simple interactions.

The majority of the people we spoke to would consider themselves to be interested in tech and the products that surround it. Despite this, they do not value tech for the sake of using it - the product needed to be practical and not take up too much of their time. Because the potential users we spoke to placed an emphasis on their professional lives, they spent little time at home and would not find much value in using products that required too much attention. This information gave us the insights needed to be more specific about the personality of our primary user and how they might use our product. The result of this was our primary person of John - the busy professional.

John - The Busy Professional
Bundl User Persona

The problem for John was clear - he placed a great emphasis on his professional work life which left him with very little free time and will not waste his time with products that don't solve a particular problem for him. A hypothetical scenario was created for John in order to craft more detail into his personality and to allow us to imagine how he would react to a specific situation involving a smart home device.

BUNDL Customer Journey Map

04 —Narrowing Our Focus

After gathering a signification amount of data on our ideal user, we now felt prepared to define what the specific question at hand was.

How can we make a product that provides the busy professional with a quick and simple way to make use of his smart home devices so he can spend his time on the more important things in life?

At this point, it was important for us to lay out a set of guidelines that we can use as a measure for our decisions moving forward. Our design principles would act as a foundation as we continued to make quick decisions about our product. Ultimately, this boiled down to four key points.

  • UtilitarianOur ideal user believes that devices are tools, not toys and values products that solve a tangible problem.
  • Intrude only when importantThe user values free time and does not want to be interrupted unnecessarily.
  • Accessible on the goOur data suggests that the app would likely be used most when away from home on a mobile platform and therefore should be design in a way that would facilitate this.
  • Anticipate, don't askIn order to reduce the mental load on a busy user, the app should make certain inferences on optimal settings.

With the development of our design principles, a shift occured in our design process - we were now ready to focus on practical design, using the insights we gathered from our research phase to make informed decisions.

BUNDL Customer Journey Map