Sensi is a Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat from White-Rodgers, a division of Emerson Electric. I was hired to establish a User Experience practice in June 2015 and my initial focus was managing the transition from agency to in-house, while ideating and developing feature enhancements for both iOS and Android. Below you’ll see some before and after states, interface sketches, and artifacts from my 3 years of working on and leading the user experience efforts on the Sensi Thermostat team.

Project Brief

  • Tasked with creating a cohesive omnichannel experience across web and mobile for a connected home product.
  • The product must be easy for a DIY (Do It Yourself) user to complete in a reasonable amount of time (30 minutes or less from start-to-finish).
  • The product must provide self-service to cut down on phone calls to our U.S.-based support team.
  • Design an experience that will eventually intake other smart home products and product line extensions.
  • Ensure users can seamlessly connect and integrate Sensi to smart home platforms, including, but not limited to: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT.

Team Role

As the User Experience Leader for Emerson, I was responsible for establishing the design language and design system for the Sensi experience. This included typography, color (and WCAG 2.1 AA compliance), interaction design, and general structural hierarchy of the application.

In addition, I was responsible for leading and managing a team of User Experience researchers and Interface Designers across several product line extensions, while ensuing visual and interaction design consistency.

Key Learnings

Sensi Design Pattern Library
My team established a comprehensive pattern library for web and mobile usage to establish interface and usability consistency across multiple platforms (hardware + software).

Given the breadth, depth, and scope of this project, it’s difficult to surface three-plus years of content. I’ve highlighted some of the successes, failures, and lessons learned along the way below in a quasi-Agile Standup-style format.

What went well

  • Collaboration between Product Management and Engineering teams (Hardware / Firmware / Mobile / Cloud).
  • Embedding Interface Designers and Experience Designers on mobile and API teams removed a lot of ambiguity and provided the development teams with just-in-time answers to questions around the interface or interaction models.
  • Executive leadership began to frame conversations around the user before the end of the project. This was a tremendous win.

What could have been done better

  • It was important to get early directional feedback from users, but often, I found myself and my team unable to make space for research due to time constraints and last-minute requests from leadership.
  • The project was launched on time, which is always good, but it often required some long hours and weekend work. I hate making my team work extended hours, and there was a rather large ask that they did.
  • I found that we frequently had to recalibrate expectations. This could have been solved through a project charter with clearly-defined RACI instead of unwritten understanding. While not detrimental to the project success, it could have streamlined a lot of early discussions.

Lessons learned

  • Designing an omnichannel experience is very hard, but rewarding work. Validation in the form of a JD Power & Associates Award is incredibly satisfying.
  • Personally, I need to be more direct at communicating to stakeholders that the activities we’re undertaking in the field with users should not be trumped by organizational politics or rapid changes in prioritization/direction. I realize that in a perfect world, this is a simple conversation; however, Fortune 500 companies are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

Process and Artifacts

Due to the long-standing nature of the project, and, due to the NDA I signed, I am unable to show a lot of the detailed process or procedure. (It should go without saying, but it’s never a good idea to leak trade secrets in a portfolio piece.)

Below, you’ll see some process artifacts that are approved to share due to the public access of the application through the Apple App Store and Google Play stores.