The most important principle in product development is user validation.
While that may sound trivial, it is more often said than done. It happened to me more than once, while trying to figure out how to operate a DVD, washing machine or air conditioner. Staring at the product with frustration and amazement, I would ask myself if the engineers making that product ever actually tried to use it themselves, or at least gave it to anyone to try. And I knew they hadn’t, or they would simply go back to the drawing board and fix their useless design.
That’s why the first thing we did with Sensibo was to build prototypes. We hand made them, which was quite a lot of work. We then gave them to a group of people during the summer and let them use the product on a daily basis. Most of what we did during that summer was this user survey. And yes, during that summer we went back to the drawing board, more than once. Below are just three of the lessons we’ve learned.
The “just teach it your A/C IR codes” myth
We gave our first prototype users the system and let them teach our device the infrared codes. They had to take the regular remote, point it to the device and press a button, repeating the process for each configuration. Then we discovered that the number of configurations of a typical air conditioner is overwhelming! Think of it: 10 temperature settings, 4 cooling/heating modes, 4 fan levels, horizontal swipes, vertical swipes, etc. The number of options is thus 10x4x4x2x2x… = THOUSANDS OF CODES. Our users weren’t willing to spend a whole day just teaching their A/C all the codes. Even teaching just the more useful codes results in hundreds of codes. So we made sure our device comes with all the codes pre-installed.
The device shouldn’t depend on a power source
It turns out that a power outlet isn’t always available where you’d want it. Some of our beta users didn’t have a power outlet where they wanted to hang the unit. The dangling cable on the wall looked bad, no matter what we did. We tried to fix the cable to the wall, changed the colors from blue to white to red. Alas. In the end we realized that in order to make it look great we would need to remove the cables. So we decided to change the configuration of the product. In the new configuration the Sensibo pod is completely wire-free.
People need the ability to use their old remote control
One day I got a call from one of our beta testers. He was an enthusiast advocate of the system and used all its advanced features daily. He told me that they just got a nanny to watch over his baby. The nanny didn’t have a smartphone, so she was using the remote control. This led to a situation where the device lost synchronization with the air conditioner, thinking it was ON while in fact it was OFF. When that feedback continued to arrive, we knew it was something we’d have to address. So we added IR receivers to make sure Sensibo stays synchronized with the old remote control.
Click here to learn more and pre-order Sensibo: http://igg.me/at/sensibo/x/7891913