We all want to reduce energy consumption in our homes. It's hard to complain about lower utility bills and feeling environmentally-friendly. When cutting back energy use, however, it is often difficult to start. Many residents simply don't know which appliances and home technology have the largest impact on energy use.

Enter Intel. At the time, tech companies were just beginning to explore the applications of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in the home. Intel wanted UX/UI design and prototypes for a new home energy management system that would channel IoT technology to help people identify goals and simple changes to cut their energy use at home.

In collaboration with Frog Design, we began reviewing use cases and other research to gain insights into home residents' knowledge, needs and wants surrounding energy consumption in their house. Do they know what appliances in their home use the most electricity? What would motivate them to change their energy-use habits at home?

After reviewing user research, it became clear Intel's energy management system would need a simple dashboard that translates complex data about energy consumption into easy-to-understand insights and recommendations. The design would also need to encourage the home's residents to stick to their new energy consumption goals.

With requirements established, we set out to design the interface, its elements, and the interactions for the energy management system. Many appliances are responsible for a home's energy consumption. We designed micro-interactions that made it easy for users to explore each appliance's energy consumption in real-time and over time, and to see how it translated into the home's total energy usage.

As Intel intended to integrate the product into markets with 13 different languages, we focused on designing elements that global users would universally understand. These elements included common home appliances and images that illustrate concepts like "green" and environmentally-friendly. Knowing people tend to stick to their goals when success is acknowledged, we also designed elements that would be universally perceived as reward to present to users when they acheived their energy consumption goals.

With Intel satisfied with the design direction for the device, we developed a UI toolkit that documented all the interface elements and interactions. The UI toolkit also included videos explaining the behavior interactions designed so the engineers could easily understand how to implement the visual patterns into the device's code.

This UI toolkit ultimately helped the software engineering team to understand the experience of the app and it became a single source of truth for the development team as they integrated the design into the product.

During design integration, we had on-site working sessions with Intel's engineering team to ensure all UI elements and interactions were successfully integrated. As challenges arose, our design team made changes to the interface and elements in rapid feedback cycles resulting in a fast, streamlined integration.

User testing ultimately revealed the success of the device's design. Using the dashboard, home residents found it easier to make informed decisions about their energy usage, with test households reporting 30 percent lower utility bills.

In designing this device, we pioneered design techniques that translate complex data into simple, easy-to-understand visual representations.

These principles still guide our work today as we translate big data into beautiful visualizations and insights for IoT tech products.


6 Benefits to design documentation

Christina Maness


Andrés Richner