Assignment 01: Designing a Smart Home Experience

mr-robot-smart-home Introduction
Over the past months, telecommunications companies (telcos) and large consumer tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon have been active in the residential space, announcing partnerships to target homeowners by offering smart home services. According to Cisco, the total addressable market for the smart home by 2019 will be of $44.5 billion globally, from which around 67% account from recurring services. To access this market, service providers are entering the space by offering home security services to homeowners and adding smart home capabilities on top by integrating third-party devices (e.g. smart thermostats, sensors, connected light bulbs).

Despite the success of products like Roomba, Nest and Amazon’s Echo, and the promise of new entries like Google HomeApple Home and Thington, homeowners still lack a cohesive smart home experience. An experience that considers the complexity and intimacy of what a home is, and allows for interactions across all the many different devices you and the other people in your home use.

For this assignment you will be designing the overall smart home experience that presupposes your choice of small devices or appliances to create a comprehensive yet simple-to-use experience for non-techie homeowners. Please consider all types of home automation including electrical, heating, lighting, sound, health and security.

1. Review of Principles (reading)
First Principles of Interaction Design,
Don Norman’s Emotional Design
Ideation and Design Chap 6 Designing for Interaction (D.Saffer)

2. Research 3 existing interfaces
Select three digital interfaces (e.g., software used for Smart Home technology like Neurio, Power Smart, etc.). Be sure to investigate a variety of interfaces including web, mobile and tangible.

(week 01 – deliverable)

3. Describe the interface
Briefly describe the application, its main purpose, and its interface (e.g.,navigation system, screen design, etc.) and how users interact with it (e.g., point-and-click, direct manipulation, keyboard, touch-screen, etc.).


Complete the following:

  • Who are the users? The success of design depends on how much you know about them
  • What is/are the user’s goal for using this application/device?
  • What are the tasks to achieving goals? Be specific. State exactly what users want to do.
  • List all aspects of the tasks. Be complete. Don’t leave anything out. What inputs will the user give to the device and what information will it give back?
  • Create a workflow diagram of the tasks

4. Critique the interface
Critique the interface using Norman’s design principles: Visibility, feedback, constraints, consistency, mapping and affordance as presented in Shneiderman and Plaisant (2005, pp.74-75). Identify positive and negative attributes, inconsistencies, etc. of the interface and what you would do to improve the system?
(Week 02 – deliverable)

5. Use IxD Approaches
Follow IxD approaches suggested by Rogers, Sharp, and Preece (2015):
• Establish Requirements
• Design alternatives
• Prototyping
• Evaluating

Dan Saffer, Designing for Interaction, 2010.
• Focus on users
• Find alternatives
• Use ideation and prototyping
• Collaborate and address constraints
• Create appropriate solutions
• Draw on a wide range of influences
• Incorporate emotion

6. Create at least two alternative prototypes
In your critique, you will identify several negative characteristics. Based on at least three of these characteristics (those that you think are in most need of being corrected), create at least two prototypes that you believe improve the design. Creating multiple prototypes, allows you to identify several solutions to the problem.

  1. Use paper-and-pencil to sketch your design/tasks. Storyboard the workflow. Ask other to review/critique the design, and work flow and then you should modify it accordingly.
  2. Draw/diagram how the task flows. This is a visual map of the work flow. If you have multiple tasks, you only need to diagram one of the tasks.
  3. Create Storyboards of the workflow. Visually depict the work flow – visually walk the user through the tasks – the screens the user will encounter. For example, if you show your storyboards to someone, he/she should be able to figure out how the interface works, how the user will accomplish the goal, and the steps involved in the process.
  4. Create wireframes of your design. The wireframes should depict the interface space.
  5. Create a prototype. To create visual compositions of your design and to show the functionally of the interface.
  6. The prototypes should illustrate your ideas and convey your design ideas as well as the user experience one has with the interface. You must effectively convey the look and feel and functionality of the interface.
    (Week 03 – deliverable – design 1)
    (Week 04 – deliverable – design 2)

7. Usability testing
Conduct 2 formal usability tests on one of your prototypes using Silverback software or a reasonable alternative. Write a summary of what you learned about your design based on testing and what you would change. Save all the recording files and turn them in on a disk. (Week 05 – deliverable)

8. Presentation
Provide a 5 minute demonstration of your designs and usability test results to the class. (Week 06 – deliverable – design 1)

FORMAT: Your description, critique and usability (items 3, 4, & 7) should be one printed page, made into a PDF file and linked to your class project page. For item 6 (Create a prototype), make links to all the files. Hand in your initial paper drawings in class or take pictures of them. We’ll have time to work on this in class.

Scope: For this assignment you are expected to work at least 51 hours
15 hrs = class time (5 classes x 3hrs)
36 hrs = homework (6 weeks x 6hrs)

Start Date: Sept 12 – Oct 24th