Your Sensi team

People-centric products: meet your Sensi UX Team

People-centric products: meet your Sensi UX Team

Customers are critical to our Sensi UX Team

People first is the mantra of the Sensi UX Team. When designing the new Sensi thermostats and updating our mobile app, the team sifted through countless hours of customer interviews and data points to provide products that fit seamlessly into your lifestyle. Learn more about who they are and how the Sensi UX Team learned from you to design the next evolution of Sensi thermostats.

Stephen, Sensi user experience lead

Stephen Education: Undergraduate degrees in Music History and Literature, Music Performance from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Business Management from Fontbonne University. Currently pursing an MBA with an Entrepreneurship specialization from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management
Previous work: Started a web and mobile UI Design practice at Monsanto; worked as a Senior UX Designer at WWT/Asynchrony Labs on web and mobile applications.
Personal life: Married with two wonderful, high-energy kids.
Travel: Family vacations anywhere with a beach or a cartoon mouse.
Hobbies: Home improvement projects – my wife and I recently started a gut remodel of our 1890’s home. Between that project and going back to school for my MBA, I don’t have much time for anything else!
Recent work projects include: UI and UX Design for Sensi apps on iOS and Android, User Testing of the Sensi™Touch Wi-Fi Thermostat interface.

Julie, Sensi user experience researcher and interaction designer

Julie Education: Bachelor of Arts in English and Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri; Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction Design from Indiana University.
Previous work: In more than 10 years in interaction design and research, Julie has designed digital experiences for organizations such as Orbitz Worldwide, eBookers, Hotel Club, CVS Caremark, Motorola Solutions, the University of Missouri, and Butterball.
Personal life: I live in a beautiful historic neighborhood in the City of St. Louis with my husband, toddler son, and our 16-year-old hilarious, megalomaniac cat.
Travel: Give me a cabin, a lake, and a bike trail, and I’m in heaven.
Hobbies: Since we recently bought our first home, I’ve gotten really into gardening and amateur landscape design. Ask me about Missouri Native plants, and I’ll talk your ear off!
Recent work projects include: Usability research for the Sensi Touch thermostat interface and interface/interaction design for a new type of management software for the Sensi line of thermostats.

Kathleen, Sensi user interface designer

Kathleen Education: Undergraduate degree in Graphic Design from Lindenwood University
Previous work: Freelance designer creating logos, advertisements and stationery. Started my own photography business (I occasionally shoot family photos, portraits and weddings on the weekends.)
Personal life: Married, my husband and I bought our first house this year and we are enjoying decorating – and learning how to keep plants alive.
Travel: Whenever possible we like to travel and see new places. We recently went to Maui. (Aloha!)
Hobbies: Antique hunting and refurbishing furniture are two favorite hobbies. I like to get outside the digital realm by drawing and painting—currently working on my largest painting yet (5x7ft)
Recent work projects include: UI design for the Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Thermostat, UI for the new Sensi website

Tell us about the process of how you designed the interface for Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Thermostat?

Kathleen: First, we collaborated with designers and product developers from several groups to do a competitive analysis of other similar thermostats on the market and then we all sketched out ideas of how we thought the thermostat might look or function.
Stephen: We used a great framework created by Jake Knapp at Google Ventures – a “Design Sprint”- where a cross-functional team assembled for a few days to sketch out design territory after taking inventory of the landscape and finding our opportunity space.
Sketch Kathleen: After the design sprint, I was able to take some of the ideas that were most promising and begin to figure out what direction to go with our designs. There were a lot of considerations we had to make: how much information should we show on the screen? Do users care about seeing the time on their thermostat? We asked a lot of questions and we designed a lot of possibilities before narrowing it down it bit.
Stephen: At the forefront of our decision-making process was accessibility for all users. We wanted to ensure that the temperature display on the thermostat had the largest, clearest numerals. After all, what good is a thermostat if you can’t see the temperature!
Kathleen: Once we had narrowed down some of the core elements and concepts we took these to test with real users.

How do you validate your ideas or designs?

Stephen: Julie created a great discussion guide and test script for us to run. The Sensi UX team fanned out all over the country and met with real people and had them interact with our thermostat prototype. We listened to their feedback and made adjustments to our thermostat interface until we knew we had it right.
Field Julie: We made it a top priority to test our concepts with people who were interested in buying smart thermostats, early and often. With the initial concepts, we put the prototypes that Kathleen had designed on a smart phone that was about the size of the hardware we knew we would have to work with. I put it on a wall in front of potential customers and asked questions like, “What does it say the temperature in the room is right now? How would you raise the temperature? How would you switch from heating to cooling?” It’s amazing what you find out just from watching people try to do simple tasks on a prototype, and we use that data to inform the evolution of the interface.
Kathleen: We went through several rounds of designs, reviews and testing until we felt confidant in the design direction and the elements shown on the interface.

People first is a Sensi mantra - how do you use customer feedback?

Kathleen: When we get customer feedback we try to make sure that we understand the “why” behind what the customer is saying. Sometimes they will ask for something specific but if we can understand what their motivation is we can often find an even better solution.
Stephen: Exactly. Feedback is the only way we know that what we’re doing is working (or not). We want to make sure that there’s no friction between what you, a user, intends to do – quickly change temperature, change your thermostat mode from heat to cool, set a schedule or turn on geofencing, et cetera.
Kathleen: If we get feedback that a design is confusing to a customer that tells us that we still have more work to do. So we go back and try to simplify or refine until the design is stronger. Then we take it out for more feedback. Our products can always be improved. You have to learn to always be open to making changes to help improve a product.

What has been your favorite part of the design process?

Kathleen: I love the beginning of the design process- starting with a new fresh concept and sharing and creating ideas around it. It’s really exciting to take ideas that have been tossed around and bring them to life visually. Sometimes you find out quickly that something won’t work and sometimes you keep pushing an idea around until you can make something out of it. Once I have some early concepts, I’ll often work with Julie to see if they can be improved or to help bring some clarity to an idea.
Julie: I would probably say it’s the research days, which are exhausting but incredibly exciting and educational for all of us. There’s nothing like watching a person who’s never seen your product interact with it for the first time. If you’re willing to put your own assumptions about the design aside and really pay attention and listen, you see the little (and big) things you could change to make your product a million times better.
Stephen: Discovery is my favorite part. I really like rapidly prototyping ideas and testing them with people outside of our building. It’s easy to be biased when you’re close to the product and design.

Describe your typical day at work

Stephen: It’s hard, because no two days are the same! I could be sitting with developers working on a feature for the apps, running usability evaluations in our lab, or trying in vain to reach inbox zero.
Kathleen: It varies a lot but most days if I’m working on a design I spend a lot of time working on ideas then meeting with other teams to review, making sure requirements are met and discussing other ideas. Once we have something solid, we’ll run some user testing so we get outside the office and test our ideas with people that are new to our products.
Julie: On any given day, I might be mapping out the flow from one screen to another in an app, drafting tasks we want research participants to work through in an upcoming evaluation, collaborating on ideas for a new feature, or interviewing current and potential customers to gain insights. There’s always something new and different to do.

What do you like best about working on the Sensi UX team

Stephen: I feel like we’ve assembled a pretty awesome group of generalists and specialists. Kathleen is an amazing designer, Julie is an amazing researcher – it makes it really easy to do my job when I know we have a team on the top of their game. We never pass up an opportunity to help each other out and grow together.
Kathleen: Our team is awesome. We are small but mighty. We all do a great job at working together and listening to each other to gain from someone else’s knowledge.
Julie: To me, our collaboration during the design process is what makes it so fun to work on our team. Each of us comes to our work with different design and research experience, and I’m always learning and growing from our critique and collaboration sessions.

What is your favorite feature of Sensi thermostats, mobile app or website?

Kathleen: I just like that it’s simple to use.
Stephen: As an Apple guy, I love that we had the opportunity to integrate HomeKit into our products. I’m also really excited for the Material Design version of our Android app – it’s been a long time coming.
Julie The touch capability on the Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Thermostat takes the product line in an exciting direction and allows us to give thermostat owners an experience that is so simple but powerful. It was really gratifying during research sessions to watch people zip through tasks they wanted to complete that would just naturally have been more difficult with only a limited set of physical buttons.

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