Apple’s HomeKit is a home automation platform built to connect diverse accessories to Apple devices and control using these and Siri. While it is competing with Google Home and Amazon Echo, I enjoyed using this more because of its integration into the operating system.
While I was testing different smart home solutions, I read Mac Stories’ article about the Apple’s Home App limitations. This inspired me to think how Apple can improve the app, and I chose to focus on how it organizes the accessories and layouts to see the information faster.
To validate usability problems, I chose to conduct a case study to enhance Home app for iPhone experience.
My goals for this project were to:
1. Utilize UX research methods to uncover user problems
2. Generate solutions based on the feedback
3. Prototype and test solutions with users to enhance the Apple Home experience
Research: Usability test
I chose to conduct a usability test because of my limited time and budget.
I asked five Georgia Tech students on the campus to complete specific tasks to test the core functions of the Home app.
Here are examples of how I prompted someone to complete tasks:
“You just got home and wanted to turn on the bedroom light. Show me how you can do the task.”
“You want to check the accessory status in a kitchen. Browse to the kitchen tab and turn off the kitchen light.”
Thankfully, every participant I talked with was very cooperative, and while I was very nervous to speak to a stranger, I was able to observe real problems.
While everyone was able to complete the tasks, I was able to observe a few usability issues based on their behavior and feedback.
Pain Point 1: Accessory buttons are overwhelming
While everyone was able to find a button quite quickly to trigger a specific light to be on, four users expressed their first impression as “overwhelming.”
This issue was originally pointed at MacStories’ article, and this result showed users may spend longer time finding a right button.
My solution utilizes a familiar floor plan design to re-organize accessory buttons on a Home tab.
I chose this design because participants mentioned a few times that using a floor plan would be easier for them to navigate and find an accessory buttons than a grid format.
Pain Point 2 and 3: Navigating the Rooms Tab
For this task, I realized when users face an obstacle, they naturally touch and drag the screen to discover anything new. There are two ways to navigate between rooms in the Home app, and while only one person used a specific room button, others found a swipe gesture accidentally as they tried to figure out how they could navigate.
The current design does not give any hint on how users can browse, and even when they figured out the swipe, they still didn’t know the next page until they swiped.
Many of them didn’t see the rooms button on the top because it was small.
I wanted to focus the swipe usability issue because I really enjoy swiping between rooms. I chose to indicate inactive room list on the top to hint users that they can tap and swipe to access the next room.
In addition, users can browse multiple floors within seconds instead of endless swiping.
I really enjoyed conducing usability testing and exploring design methods through the case study and I had a lot of fun to find ways to improve Apple Home app.