In 2013, tapping a button on your smartphone to turn on a light bulb or thermostat felt magical. By 2017, much of this magic had receded as a slew of disparate IoT apps and connected products made the experience slow and complicated to use.

At Best Buy, we sought to rekindle the dream of a simplified solution for smart homes by reviving Best Buy's IoT connected app and defining a new product strategy.

My Role

Senior design lead for this Insignia Connect app across iOS and Android platforms. Responsible for research, IA, interaction design, visual designs and the creating a design language & pattern library.

Timeframe

January 2017 - July 2017

Previous version of the app we inherited
THE CHALLENGE

Simplify Smart Homes

As Insignia became a popular entry-level IoT option, an increase of users exacerbated fundamental usability issues in the companion mobile app - as seen in poor App Store reviews, high uninstall rates, and product return rates.

With only 6 months before new connected product lines would hit the shelves for the holiday season, my team inherited the struggling app and was tasked with improving the user experience, improving KPIs, adding support for new products, and integrating with Apple’s HomeKit framework.



DISCOVERY & RESEARCH

Emphasizing People, Not Features

With a short timeline, we needed to be lean and efficient conducting research. Fortunately, Best Buy has access to an abundant amount of IoT experts and users. I conducted a range of interviews and tests with key stakeholders, expert IoT users, and users of the existing Insignia app.

User Testing with existing iOT Users
Conducting Group Expert Interviews Stakeholder Interviews & Kick Off
Summerative Usability Testing of New Solution

Research aimed to identify the biggest unknowns that carried the largest risks. Insights gained helped guide design decisions, prioritize user needs and illustrate how people interact with connected products.

UNDERSTANDING IOT PRODUCTS

Domain Level Research

Insignia was in development of 6 new connected product lines, to be released by the holiday season. In addition to the smart light switches and Wi-Fi-enabled plugs currently supported in the app, we needed to introduce screens for connected security cameras and garage door openers.

To understand the constraints of these products and design solutions to support a simplified smart home, I conducted further research about IoT usage and trends.

FENCING IN THE PROBLEM SPACE

Prioritizing Top Needs & Opportunities

Domain level research and summative testing with real users helped to gain empathy and learn how people use connected devices in their homes. While a majority of early adopters were tech savvy, new users were skewing towards an older demographic with less technical skills. They were looking for a simple solution that provided convenience in their home.

These are the key insights that helped determine the top user needs for our product.

Security & Control

People want to feel safe and comfortable in their homes, and know that everything is okay at home when they’re away. We found that many users with connected products enjoyed the feeling of control and desired the convenience of alerts.

In the Moment Needs

When you can turn on your living room lights from your phone, you want it to feel like magic, not a complicated process. Users wanted to perform simple tasks, and were easily frustrated when the system encountered errors and delays.



Interusability & Continuity

Connected products often make up a home ecosystem, and people interact with the system using multiple devices, often on different platforms. It would be important for the UX to feel coherent across the system as a whole.

Simpler Automation

While there’s a desire to automate connect home products, we found that the process was complex and became a major barrier. A simplified scheduling process could help first time users.

MAPPING USER FLOWS

Defining the Framework

With insights from research about top user needs, I architected the user flow. Instead of designing for specific IoT devices, I created a flexible and scalable structure that optimized for a holistic household IoT ecosystem.

Mapping out the user flow helped us to stay compliant with Apple HomeKit requirements, and could be easily communicated to different audiences, like our engineering partners.

I used Jesse James Garrett's Visual Vocabulary for IA. to represent the architecture.

Macrostructures

The macrostructure provided enough detail to enable the technical and non-technical team members to understand the app structure and flow

Iterating Key Scenarios

Iterative whiteboarding helped our team understand key flows, stay in sync and meet Apple Homekit Compliance

Microstructures

Microstructures provide page-level detail for specific audiences, that where focused on specific features, such as our engeineering partners

Communicating Design

With the structure of the app and core flows defined, I began designing concepts that could reflect how people view their homes and support their unique routines.

This process helped me communicate progress and present key functionality to different audiences, as well as quickly iterate to find the most promising solution.

Story Boarding

To better understand the complexity of smart home ecosystems, we mapped out high-level scenarios that allowed us to visualize key user needs and explore concepts as a team. Involving engineers, designers and product managers helped to create a clearer picture of the problems to solve for and improved communication throughout the project.

Sketching Interfaces

After storyboarding, I sketched rough, preliminary interfaces on paper so that I could quickly test ideas. Sketching multiple concepts helped me to to form a holistic view of the system, ensuring a cohesive design.

Iterative Low Fidelity Wireframes

To validate we were meeting the user needs identified during research, I created low-fidelity flows for the core scenarios required by Apple. This helped align the team around these requirements early on, and allowed our engineers to plan and estimate the work needed to support the flows.

Prototyping & User Testing

I created interactive prototypes to better communicate requirements to engineers. This helped me understand constraints and better ways to solve the interacting design. Creating prototypes helped me work collaboratively, test continuously and iterate progressively.

Solutions

We placed a premium on solving for problems that had the greatest likelihood to provide the most value to users and positive impact to our KPIs.

Supporting "In the Moment" Needs

People most often use the Connect app when they have an immediate need, like turning off the lights at bedtime or opening the garage door. I designed an architecture that put these “in the moment” needs at the top of the hierarchy.

  • Users can classify devices during onboarding to customize their home ecosystem and easily manage multiple devices
  • Created a system of notifications to inform users of activity and build a historical timeline
  • Added timely and relevant alerts about camera triggers or outages
  • Introduced micro-interactions to represent system status delays
  • Provided top-level access to device controls, supporting the most common use case

Device Controls

Ensuring a coherent system UX was a top priority when designing the various device control screens. While each device has unique functionality, they are all part of a connected home ecosystem, and it would be important to ensure the UX felt consistent to reduce user frustration.

Smart Plug With Metering
Smart Refrigerator
Garage Door Opener
Connected Camera

Organizing Connected Ecosystems

Our research helped us understand how people wanted to group devices in their home. I used these insights to create concepts that were more aligned with how people view their home ecosystem.

  • Introduced Zones, Rooms and the ability to create custom groups. These groupings also allow for greater convenience when using voice controls: “Siri, turn off the downstairs lights.”
  • As 95% of users use the app only in their home, we de-emphasized the feature to set up multiple locations, and renamed “locations” to the more user-friendly “homes.”

Approachable Automation

Automation is the glue that ties devices together in a smart home, especially when there are multiple connected devices. However, through research and talking to customers, we found that many users were unsure how to use automated rules and felt intimidated by the process to create automations.

To address this, our goal was to make automations approachable and simplify the set up process for first-time users. We designed a solution that would:

  • Recommend and pre-populate common automations based on the user’s ecosystem.
  • Clarify automation features by using HomeKit’s familiar device types (lights, garage door, etc.)
  • Provide users the ability to put connected devices into states, such as ‘Vacation' or ‘Sleep’, that contain multiple automations powered by a single trigger.
Previous Automation

Simplified Onboarding

Using progressive disclosure to focus on the most important options during device onboarding helped to streamline the process. I included an option to add the new device to a room or group during the initial setup, so it would be easier to create automation rules later on.


MAINTAINING CONTINUITY

Establishing a Design Language

I created a modular and reusable UI system to create continuity among platforms, as well as for future updates to the app. This also served as a style guide for other designers, detailing how various patterns could be used.

Results & Outcomes

We launched an initial MVP with only some of the functionality in order to meet our first deadline—over the next year, the team will be learning from users and working towards implementation of the full experience.

App successfully passed Apple’s MFI compliance test – first ever Ayla + Homekit intergration
21 days post launch weekly app engagment grew 19%
Time on task for key scenarios, such as new device onboarding have signfincantly decreased

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