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This project highlights my exploration around how tado° might increase long-term engagement with additional features centered on improving indoor climate.

Scope: 6 weeks
Methods: UX research, UX design, Presentation
Role: Solo project. Conducted user interviews, designed user product journey, created wireframes and prototypes
Tools: Sketch, Principle, Invision, Adobe Illustrator, Framer, Botsify, Adobe Photoshop, Optimal Workshop

For my final project for an interactive design class, I was tasked to create additional features for an existing digital tool to engage users in a new long-term experience. The result of this solo project is a concept for an adaptable smart home assistant centered around indoor climate control. The assistant helps users manage ventilation and heating to create a more comfortable, healthier, and energy-efficient home environment.

The existing tool I selected is the intelligent home climate control manager, tado°.

Background

Smart home devices, such as tado° and EcoBee, are typically installed permanently in the home. However, they can have issues around long-term user engagement. As IoT products become more service-oriented, creating sustainable interactions with users is an ongoing challenge for designers, as revenues increasingly rely on users receiving continuous value from a service, beyond just an initial purchase.

The majority of our lives are spent indoors. Aside from temperatures, factors such as air quality, lighting, and noise levels are essential for health, comfort, and peace of mind. Still, the topic of unhealthy indoor environments is a problem that people often overlook. That brings me to ask, “How can tado° leverage this issue to create additional user touchpoints?”

 
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Preliminary Designs

To jumpstart user interview conversations and provide an initial anchor for my work, I created some preliminary designs. To guide this work, I conducted a user survey where 42 participants provided feedback around what they might expect in a digital product geared toward improving indoor climate.

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Air Quality Visualization

This project required professor approval on initial concepts before moving forward to user research. In considering how I might present my project, I decided to think of ways I might more effectively communicate my initial app concept to others. To garner my professor’s interest while remaining straightforward, I chose to visualize the app’s communication of current indoor climate status.

I moved from paper prototyping and testing small interactions to creating a functional prototype in Arduino. Representing a primary app feature, the prototype measures humidity and temperature, and changes its colors accordingly to warn when the air is getting to an unhealthy level.

  • Blue—Safe

  • Yellow—Warning

  • Red—Unsafe

With my professor’s approval, I moved forward with the project.

User Research

To kickstart my user research, I used interviews and basic prototype testing to identify opportunities for future features and services.

In-Home Interviews

To learn more about target users, I conducted 8 in-home interviews to identify opportunity areas for additional features and services. I talked with 10 interviewees in different living situations (home type, location, family size, neighborhood) to learn about the topic in detail for my project. I talked to interviewees about their comfort at home, air quality, energy-saving techniques, noise, lighting, and any smart home apps or devices they currently use.

Scenario-Based Prototype Tests

To spark conversation and test initial hypotheses that emerged from my original designs, I created three prototypes for people to interact with:

  • A simple onboarding prototype where users prioritize their needs and interests in relation to the app’s offerings

  • A basic air quality assistant chatbot

  • A simple prototype where users answer questions to receive personalized advice on how to improve sleep at night

All users expressed interest and excitement about the designs, and provided unsolicited feedback around what they would expect from an indoor climate assistant.

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Long-Term App Usage Interviews

To explore the apps that people use over long periods of time and how those apps became so integrated into their lives, I interviewed 16 people about the digital products they have been using for at least one year. I sought to answer, “Are there consistent qualities across different apps and contexts that encouraged prolonged engagement?”

I learned some common app characteristics and discovered that a “long-term use product“ does not have to be used every day. Users can have fluctuating usage patterns over time, and every product has its own unique way of continuing an ongoing relationship with the user.

“All of my music is on Spotify. I’d totally forget some classic albums I have saved there if I got rid of the app. I don’t listen to music every day, but it’s reassuring to know all of my music is always in one place.”
—Jerricka, 36

“I never open my Facebook app unless my mom or my grandma sends me something. I don’t delete it because that’s a way that they share stuff with me.”
—Bruce, 32

“Everyone’s on Instagram, so that’s the only social media I use. I’m addicted, always scrolling. I’d have 24/7 FOMO without it.”
—Katelynn, 23

Pain points

Pain points

Insights Synthesis

After the interviews, I noted and organized my observations from the interview recordings and notes by clustering the topics discussed into pain points, needs, and motivations.

I noticed that there are many different reasons why people care about improving their indoor climates, and many ways that tado° might approach these motivations. For almost every interviewee, their concerns are based on personal goals such as health improvement, improved comfort, and living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

While people might have pragmatic perspectives around improving indoor climate, potential solutions should also address users’ needs for reassurance and peace of mind.

Needs

Needs

Motivations

Motivations

Use Cases

From my conversations with users, I created some use cases to help guide my design thinking.

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Product Journey COncept

In this diagram, I applied the different stages of product adoption to tado° to identify opportunities for more long-term user engagement.

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Design

Wireframing, prototyping, and testing

I took several approaches to design smart home assistant wireframes. Through iterative user testing, I improved my concept to optimize personalization, clarify learning workflows, and be more conversational, adaptable, and dynamic.

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Final Design

I designed the final concept to be adaptable to changing user needs throughout the different product journey stages, based on my product journey concept. I connected a conversational layer to all features to enable the assistant to provide in-context user assistance to increase engagement.

Also, I used an illustrative and playful approach to the visual design to add emotion to the app. The underlying tone of the visual design is intended to communicate that home should feel cozy, comfortable, and safe.

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Over time, the assistant will get to know the user and “learn” to show relevant content and send notifications with effective and meaningful timing.

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An adaptable home screen suits users’ changing needs over time. For example, a simple status update during a busy day is sufficient. However, if there is a problem the user can quickly access detailed information to learn more.

The goal of the slider interaction is to invite the user to dive in deeper without significant friction.

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The app seeks to make mundane everyday tasks, such as regularly opening windows, and developing healthy habits easier through encouragement and tangible goals.

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The app is dynamic, with the general experience of static, mainstay features and the delight of personalized and context-sensitive information.

The assistant communicates with the user subtly, so as to not irritate users and deter them from continual engagement.

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Users can keep track of their indoor climate quality over time with clearly presented data within an explorative tool to encourage users to learn new things.

Interact with the prototype here!

Learnings

Overall, my biggest lesson from this project is to always maintain a human-centered perspective when it comes to engagement. So often, we want to “hook” users into spending as much time or effort into an app as possible. However, digital apps already occupy so much of our everyday lives. I’ve realized that we’re at a point where the quality of user touchpoints is more meaningful and supportive of long-term usage than their quantity.

The “humans, not users” mindset is becoming more and more present in design and technology conversations. Tado° can acknowledge their users’ personhood by designing convenient, unobtrusive solutions to improve their quality of life instead of following the usual trend of seeking as much user attention as possible. It’s not the number of interactions that matters, but the quality impact on users’ lives that counts.