Clearly understanding the value of user-centred design, Honeywell, global producers of domestic and commercial thermostats, brought User Vision in to test existing thermostats before starting to design a new range of programmable thermostats.
The user interface had to be easy to use by both customer and installer. If an installer does not like a design he will not recommend that product to customers. Additionally, the thermostats had to be usable throughout Europe in multiple territories and markets.
The goal of testing was to learn which design elements do or do not work well so that positive aspects could be fed into the design and known pitfalls avoided.
The early rounds of testing by User Vision were aimed at identifying interface features that would enhance the usability with installers and domestic users in the UK and highlight any conflicting issues for users in Europe.
User Vision produced a set of guidelines based on its findings and created three design concepts as a benchmark for Honeywell's new range of programmable thermostats.
Informed by User Vision's testing, the industrial designers developed a series of drawings and physical models. These were then tested to progress the interaction design and select the best industrial design.
By reviewing the product design concepts and validating the prototype interface design with installers and domestic users, Honeywell was in a strong position to make the decisions needed to progress the design to the next stage.
Usability testing of a software prototype and industrial design reviews of six different design options were carried out by User Vision in the UK and Europe with both consumers and installers.
Results from the industrial design review showed a wide variety of responses and aesthetic tastes. A final series of findings and recommendations were made on specific aspects of the interaction.
The launch of the final design was one of Honeywell's most successful and achieved an immediate increase in sales across Europe of 20%.
Highly regarded by the design industry, the thermostat was exhibited at Six Cities Design Festival 2007, a £3m initiative aimed at celebrating and raising awareness of the value of design in all six of Scotland's cities.
Internationally recognised in the Belgian, Spanish and Italian press it was ranked number one against its competitors.
Working with User Vision has had a significant impact on the way Honeywell designs its products. User Vision provide a neutral and unbiased view on the user interface. This provides Honeywell with an elevated view from which to independently analyse and discuss the research.
One of User Vision's key findings was that users were not sure if the changes to the programming settings they had requested had been saved. By introducing a simple ‘OK' button Honeywell addressed that issue. This element of the interface has now become part of Honeywell's marketing message: "Honeywell Thermostats are more than OK."
Honeywell continue to work with User Vision to verify design concepts and find areas for improvement before going to market.
Krzysztof Meinicke of Honeywell says: "By offering an independent and expert view, User Vision helped us to create a handsome design that is highly usable and has become one of our best selling products. We continue to work with User Vision on other products because we trust their expertise and value their independent assessment of our products.