We built an app as part of Team Virtue, a university team that built a sustainable house for the Solar Decathlon competition in Dubai. The app helps inhabitants of our house to live more sustainably, both environmentally and socially. Through iterations, we focused our designs on educating users about behavior and lifestyle. The app also showed our vision to the competition's jury and visitors whom all responded very positively.
Designer at Team Virtue UX, Interactions, Animations, Front-end dev
Team: 2 designers
When I joined the team, one team member had already created a basic version of the app. We discussed how we could develop the app in such a way that it would demonstrate the vision of our team to people. We wanted to take the application beyond a regular smart home app and focused on educating people about sustainable behavior and lifestyle. We also wanted to keep the app simple and have a wow-effect: it's part of a competition after all. We made quick sketches as a starting point.
House functioning How can we make sure that people really understand the functioning of their house?
Education How can we positively educate people about their sustainable behavior and influence their lifestyles?
Social LINQ focuses on social interaction and shared facilities. How can we build this into the app?
Control over appliances How can we let people have control over appliances and show monitored energy consumption?
We used research conducted by previous team members that focused on personalised feedback to influence sustainable behaviour. Besides, we looked at how other apps show (sustainable) data and appliance controls and we analyzed how other apps inform users and motivate behavior change. We developed our app using ReactJS to be able to scale it to multiple platforms. The API and database layer, necessary to communicate with appliances and sensors, was built by another team. We had bi-weekly meetings to discuss architecture and functionality.
In the meantime, our team tested the real house on the university campus. It was temporarily opened for visitors and we put iPads in the house with a basic prototype of the app based on mock-up data. With the competition deadline coming up, these weeks taught us to set limitations and constraints.
We went to Dubai were the competition was being held and continued developing the app. Each university team had 15 days to build their house and connect their systems.
Then, the competition phase started and our house was opened for public and juried tours. During the first days, we were able to fine-tune the application. For instance, we noticed that buttons on the main screen were not clicked often during tours. We redesigned this part.