Wicked SmartBlinds is a combination of a physical smart home device (the blinds) and a companion app that serves as both a controller for the app and a dashboard. The blinds would be designed to sense direct sunlight and inform the user through the app to close their blinds in order to reduce energy usage. The app monitors how well the blinds are blocking out light and heat and indicates how much the user is saving (in energy and money) by keeping their blinds closed during the day.
Just me! I designed and prototyped all versions of the app. I also carried out user testing and research that directed prototype decisions and changes to the user flow.
About 30% of heating energy is lost through windows in the winter. In the summer, 76% of light that hits windows enters the house and becomes excess heat. Approximately 75% of home window blinds stay in the same position every day.
Windows let in, not just light, but heat as well. This heat raises indoor temperature as well as the cost to cool a house.
Interviews and Card Sorts
I knew a concept for automated blinds was workable, but I needed to interview potential users to get external input for validation. I conducted two homeowner interviews and two card sorts while planning my project in order to evaluate how my concept might be received and what features I would need to build out.
- It's a hassle to open and close blinds based on time of day
- It's hard to tell how much blinds help manage the temperature
- It's frustrating when the blinds are shut 100% of the time
- Open blinds feel more inviting
- Money and energy are the highest priority Key Performance Indicators (KPI's)
- Aside from these stats, users want to easily control position of the blinds
Proposed User Flow
For the design of this app, I followed the "Hook" model. This triggers the user to interact with the app and is rewarded in a way that they become emotionally invested in the product.
Following the Hook model, the user flow begins with a trigger. This is an external trigger in the form of a notification that a new weekly report is ready to view.
The user then interacts with the app by entering and viewing their weekly report. Our card sort informed us that the most important information for users was how much money they saved, how much energy they saved, and how much heat was blocked out. A report would show this information at the top followed by other details and statistics.
The reward aspect comes in the form of comparison. After viewing a report, it can be compared against other users or against the users previous history.
This cycle of using the physical and digital products and then viewing and comparing one's success drives a sense of competition. This causes the user to become emotionally invested in the app in order to maximize their report statistics.
I conducted usability tests with 4 different users in person.
1. Enter the app and view the weekly report
2. Compare the report against another user
Results of User Testing
The general layout of the Reports page was good. Users found the most important information easily.
- It was difficult for users to find the Compare button
- Being able to compare reviews seemed like a minor reward for users
User Flow 2.0
Simply comparing stats and earnings against other users wasn't enough of a reward for testers. In my second version of the user flow, I built out a system that awards the user with points for how much energy they are saving with Wicked SmartBlinds. The points can then be exchanged for prestigious in-app badges to show off.
After user testing, the area in which the app was lacking the most was in the reward and investment stages of the “Hook” model. To increase long-term user engagement, I built a reward and achievement system and refined the “compare” feature.
1. Compare button added
2. Compare specification changed from dialogue box to sheet
3. Changed text attributes of button for expanding the graph to appear more like a button
The final version of the Wicked SmartBlinds prototype maintains most of the same identity from the previous version. The trigger and action steps are still the same for the user. The reward and investment steps have changed though.
Now the final step of the user flow involves exchanging in-app points for badges which decorate the users profile. These permanent badges present a better option for keeping users invested because they are a permanent reminder of the time and attention that the user has already put into the app.
There are two additional features I would like to add to future prototypes, given more time:
- The ability to set a target efficiency level for the blinds and let them manage themselves
- Extensive scheduling options based on the time, weather, and season