UX Lisbon: Designing for Connected Homes

by May 17, 2013

In her Designing for Connected Homes talk at UX Lisbon Claire Rowland shared a number of design principles for effective home automation tools. Here's my notes from her talk.

  • Home automation has been around for a long time but never really taken off. You had to be both rich and technologically savvy to use the solutions that were available.
  • What has changed? We now have a metaphor for the remote control of our lives: the smartphone. We have little bits of smartness all around us and the prices of these things are continuing to go down.
  • Make it feel like home. Many software interfaces for the home focus too much on the technology powering them instead of how people think about the things in their house.
  • These systems mimic the computer: users and peripherals with permissions and modes of use. These are engineering solutions to human non-problems.
  • Real life is messy. People are generally disorganized, life is full of contradictions and exceptions, devices are shared and lent, etc.
  • We have a perfectly good better for the home, it’s the home. We don’t want to log in to our homes and and manage them we want to live our lives.
  • Making data visible has social consequences. We see things that were previously unseen because they are now being tracked. When people see this information, they may learn things that change their perspective.
  • Tension often emerges between the person who uses the energy monitor and the person using the appliances to get things done.
  • The mundane should not demand too much attention. We develop routines to get through things without much effort. This allows us to focus attention on more important things.
  • Smart devices that demand too much attention can quickly become an annoyance instead of an advantage. Smart systems shouldn’t seek attention. Don’t make people think too hard about their daily routines.
  • People have a lot of incorrect mental models about how things work: the thermostat, the burglar alarm, etc.
  • Four principles for Connected Homes: Design for homes, not domestic computers. Try not to start new arguments. Attention is precious: let the mundane remain unremarkable. Don’t assume people already know how to use the system you are replacing.
  • People don’t more control of their homes, they want more control of their lives.