Designing User Experiences for Smart Buildings and Portfolios

Guest Blog: Designing the UX for Smart Buildings at Switch Automation

Research, design, test, iterate, and repeat.

Our team is full of beautifully diverse, creative people who are on a collective mission to change the way that the world manages buildings. That mission requires software developers, building experts, energy engineers, designers and a full business team. And while buildings are a big part of what we do, buildings don’t use our Platform. People do. And so, our Switch people bring their diverse backgrounds together to design for lots of other diverse people—portfolio managers, facility managers, sustainability managers and more. We talk a lot about the problems that we solve and our customer success stories on the blog, but today we sat down with our UX Designer to understand the user experience engine that powers Switch Automation.

Why is UX important for a building platform?

“My background is in fine arts, graphic and interior design with bits of math, biology and science sprinkled in too. I have always enjoyed observing people interacting with spaces and objects— the world in general. Knowing what our customers want and need is crucial to what we do. As familiar as we are with this industry, we can’t guess what people think or want or make any assumptions.

User experience takes the guesswork out of product development. While it’s a fluid, often unpredictable process, it’s an amazing way to help us design FOR people—better products, better experiences and better lives.”

What is UX?

“Lots of people think that UX simply means “is it user friendly?” But it’s beyond that, it’s a process that our team goes through to ensure that when we launch a new feature, like Alerts Analysis [coming soon!] or update our navigation style [also coming soon!], that it’s viable and enjoyable for our users.”

What does the UX process look like at Switch Automation?

“First, we specify the problem by interviewing people. Sounds simple. But to be effective, we must ask the right questions without leading to the answer that we unconsciously want to hear. Frankly, just because we may think there’s a problem, our users may not.  Our main objective here is to learn about our customer’s pain-points, wishes, what they think hear, feel and see. And from this messy, colorful, sticky-note chaos, we begin to organize our thoughts and understand where to focus.”

How do we take all of this research and turn it into a ‘big idea?’

“Once we’ve thought about our user needs, as well as our Switch value proposition, brand values, business model, tone of voice, key touch points and interactions with other channels and services, then it’s time to sketch. It feels good to go back to our designer roots and put pen to paper. And then we prototype, test and improve.”

And how do we bring these creations to life?

“Well, creating this full-featured smart building platform is a nuanced world. The design team has to understand how our product works. So we constantly talk to our in-house developers, engineers, and business team to understand the full context. Once we develop blueprints and wireframes, we work with our developers to actually build the design together. It’s an iterative process, full of detail, testing and pivoting.”

But why should a facility manager care about UX?

“Secretly, they don’t have to care. Because if they don’t even notice that we have a team who is obsessed with perfecting their experience with our Platform and driving our road-map, then we’re probably doing something right.”

Source: https://www.switchautomation.com/2016/11/18/research-design-test-iterate-repeat/