Bettina Streit


10 Theses on User Experience in the Smart Home

The smart home has arrived and with it the next challenge for UX experts. However, by no means everything that is feasible also meets user requirements. This became clear when evaluating the requirements of numerous contextual interviews with potential smart home users and end users who have already installed various smart home components and sensors in their own four walls.

The results allow the following statements:

1. Light on!

Nobody will do without the simple switch on the wall in the future. As a user interface, the push button remains the first choice for controlling light in the home, because it can be used so intuitively that even dyed-in-the-wool smartphone fans will not have to search for their cell phone, start the app and activate the light switch control.

2. Mobile scenarios are quite overrated!

Controlling devices in the house via smartphone is a thing of the past. Things look different outside the home: In the interviews, users expressed the wish to be notified if a dangerous situation arises in the house during their absence. They were also open-minded about remotely starting the washing machine and activating the heating before coming home. It remains to be seen whether the user will actually want to control these devices remotely.

3. Nobody needs always the same, firmly defined light scenarios!

The super switch, with which the TV can be switched on, the light dimmed and the blinds lowered at the same time, is not required. Such "multi" scenarios only cover very specific situations and are therefore inflexible. Not every household member wants to watch TV with dimmed lights and closed blinds.

4. Automation makes fear!

Most people find automation rather threatening.
Automation means making assumptions about normal processes without being sure whether these assumptions will prove themselves in practice. This is why automation is always experimental and it is especially important that everyone in the household can make adjustments at any time. A successful UX ensures simple manual intervention in automated processes so that the technology is learned and confidence is built.

5. Use creates application ideas!

With the use of smart home technologies, requirements will change as technology fires the imagination of users. A prerequisite for this is that the smart home system can be configured easily, intuitively and flexibly.

6. The "all off" switch!

The top feature for a really smart home is the "all off" switch. Everyone feels the need to put their home into a sleep mode at the touch of a button when they leave, whether to save energy or for safety reasons.

7. Monitoring is hardly of interest!

Only a few people want to monitor their energy consumption. The majority assume that they cannot change their behavior and therefore consider permanent consumption monitoring to be useless. Moreover, an individual consumption curve without reference consumption says nothing. However, if appliances suddenly consume less or more, i.e. if anomalies occur, an automatic information system does make sense for the smart home owner.

8. Searching is annoying!

Smart Home users would like to switch something on or off, move it up or down, exactly where it is sitting or standing. In other words, they would like to have a control element (button, remote control) always at hand, no matter where they are. Buttons are usually installed statically, therefore inflexible. Remote controls are also not the optimum, because you have to search for them. Maybe a "Waerable" would be the best solution.

9. Creating atmosphere is in the foreground!

It is extremely important to the user to create an individual atmosphere in which they feel comfortable in many situations. Light, temperature, air quality and music are the most important parameters besides security.

10. Positive user experience is mandatory!

Every configuration must be simple, intuitive and enjoyable. Smart home owners are far from taking advantage of the range of features already available because they shy away from complicated setup.

Bettina Streit

Managing Director & Usability Engineer


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