Ecobee: Touch screen thermostat usability sets new bar with the help of Macadamian
Macadamian helps innovator create the first full-color, touch screen home thermostat.
In 2009, energy management company, ecobee, launched the ecobee Smart Thermostat – an easy-to-use touch screen thermostat and the first of its kind in its industry.
The WiFi-enabled Smart Thermostat features simple touch-screen programming and access to a personalized web portal that allows homeowners to modify their thermostat settings from any location with Internet access.
"Many homes have programmable thermostats in place today, but statistics show that only about 30% of those thermostats are actually programmed," explains Chris Carradine, VP of Marketing at ecobee. "Most thermostats are either held at a particular temperature or are adjusted manually because people find them confusing to use or just too complicated to program."
Developing a simple, intuitive thermostat
The ecobee Smart Thermostat was designed to be both easy to use and visually appealing. While ecobee had the expertise to develop the software and user interface in-house, the company sought expert help to ensure that its development efforts would match the needs of its users.
"It was very important for us to solicit feedback and engage a third party with usability, user experience and user interface design expertise," recalls Carradine. "We were very focused on our product and market niche and wanted to hear from a company that had worked with other products and industries to take advantage of best practices and lessons learned."
ecobee considered three different companies and chose Macadamian for its interaction design expertise. "We were really impressed with their knowledge of both the embedded software and web space," says Carradine. "They had experience working with other startups and clients similar to us in size, and had excellent user interface knowledge and experience."
Addressing user needs
ecobee asked Macadamian to evaluate its initial interface designs and provide feedback on how user needs could be best addressed by the design. Macadamian developed wireframe diagrams to map out the optimal structure and navigation of the interface and conducted usability walkthroughs to observe how test participants made their way through particular usage scenarios.
Macadamian also gathered user feedback on the flow of the processes and provided recommendations on the interface’s look and feel, navigation, terminology, color and graphics.
"It was very helpful to examine the usability of our product in a systematic way," says Stuart Lombard, President and CEO of ecobee. “The user interviews provided us with valuable information and Macadamian also provided us with a final report on the finished product that was very helpful and insightful."
Launching ecobee Smart Thermostat
ecobee released the final product to the public in February, 2009, and quickly began receiving accolades from users and industry groups.
"We conducted a user survey and found that fully 82% of ecobee Smart Thermostat users are running a program," notes Carradine. "That is far above the industry average of 30% and really speaks to the ease of use of the product. Moreover, 96% of users told us that they would recommend the thermostat to a friend."
Industry also took note of the innovative nature of the device. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) News magazine awarded ecobee its Gold Dealer Design Award for the ecobee Smart Thermostat, and the product was also awarded the Deloitte Technology Green15 Award in late 2009.
"By providing us with user feedback and helping us to really think about and understand the user experience, Macadamian helped us develop a product that has had excellent user uptake" says Carradine.
Keeping the user experience at the forefront
Following the success of the home thermostat, ecobee launched a commercial version of the product, the ecobee Energy Management System (EMS), that can be used in buildings in which a full-scale building automation system would be too complex or expensive. The ecobee EMS relied heavily on the design and lessons learned from the residential version, and it too received user and industry praise.
ecobee has since turned to Macadamian for additional usability help by enrolling one of its employees in Macadamian’s user interaction training program. "We were impressed by Macadamian’s usability knowledge and wanted to have someone on staff learn more about user experience from the Macadamian team" says Carradine. "We hope to use the knowledge we have gained from working with Macadamian in all future products to replicate the success of the Smart Thermostat."
Macadamian is a global software consultancy that helps companies create successful products. Product development leaders turn to Macadamian to develop product strategies, design compelling user experiences, and build quality software. We transform ideas into market-ready products that your customers will love. For more information, please visit www.macadamian.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ecobee, founded in 2007, delivers intelligent conservation solutions for real people. The company is building its product platform around The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™. ecobee’s products are sold for use in single family homes (new and retrofitted), multi-family dwellings and light commercial properties. For more information, visit www.ecobee.com.