Refined comps from the design exercise

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.

Related Portfolio Items

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

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.


Due to the long-standing nature of the project, and, due to the NDA I signed, I am unable to show a lot of 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 iOS and Google Play stores.

Above: It was important to establish a baseline prior to beginning any redesign work so we could identify areas of opportunity. The first activity was an in-depth study of the current state of the mobile application with a scenario-based evaluation. The feedback was captured and coded, then posted in a public area for stakeholders to see.

Above: Adding a new feature to the existing installation flow required some mapping prior to screen design. Because this was the first touch a customer had with our application, we wanted to ensure it was as easy as possible for a DIY homeowner to install and operate our product (as one would expect from a User Experience project). The cross-functional group of stakeholders included Product Management, Engineering (Firmware, Software, Cloud), and Marketing.

Above: Co-creation exercises were held with a cross-functional group of stakeholders (remember: everyone is a designer!) that included Marketing, Sales, Product Ownership, Executive Leadership, Support, and Development.

Above: The stakeholder group dot-voted interface elements to pull forward in a Rose / Bud / Thorn exercise.

Above: The Interface Design team took the hand-drawn concepts and digitized them. They were then brought into another round of Rose / Bud / Thorn exercises with stakeholders to further narrow down the design direction prior to development.

Above: Emerson had a really cool technology lab built into a warehouse. I was able to use this Residential Advanced Technology Lab (RAT) Lab as a testing location for the mobile application installation instructions.

Above: Outside of the RAT Lab, we had to ready all of the devices for testing. We wanted to ensure our test would reflect real-world use, so we had devices with all of our supported Operating Systems available to ensure completeness.

Above: Inside the RAT Lab, we were able to use a room for the evaluations. We trained a camcorder on the thermostat, and had a few other overhead cameras mounted to feed into the observation room with stakeholders. A call bridge was set up so the observers could hear the evaluation room.

Above: Testing in a controlled lab environment is ok, but we really wanted to get into the field and test with homeowners. We arranged for several demo units flashed with the latest firmware and iOS/Android devices with the latest builds of the application and recruited participants. We learned a lot, like how some users keep their wires from falling through the wall (below).


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