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.
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.
January 2017 - July 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The macrostructure provided enough detail to enable the technical and non-technical team members to understand the app structure and flow
Iterative whiteboarding helped our team understand key flows, stay in sync and meet Apple Homekit Compliance
Microstructures provide page-level detail for specific audiences, that where focused on specific features, such as our engeineering partners
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The majority of customer complaints of the existing app were about the log in process, which was cumbersome and a barrier to continued usage. To address this frustration, we streamlined the login process so people could quickly launch the app and control their devices.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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