Mobile App | Research, Strategy, UX/UI

Homeowner App
for Managing Thermostats Remotely

Scope: 6-week long design sprint focused on validating
the new proposed features for the MVP Launch

My Role: Lead UX Researcher & UX Designer

Client: HVAC Company

The Challenge

Add new features that would prompt more service and maintenance appointments, and improve overall user satisfaction and retention with the new features.

Business Goals & Intented Outcomes

+ Uncover areas of opportunity within the current experience for homeowners managing their system

+ Validate hypothesized features and understand their value to homeowners, and ability to increase service appts

+ Prioritize features for the current design sprint and future roadmap to increase customer retention

Methods Used

Qualitative Research: Usability Study (Early Stage)

Key Research Questions for Design Sprint

+ What pain points currently exists for homeowners managing their thermostats remotely?
+ Are these new hypothesized MVP feature additions meeting the needs of our homeowners?
+ Are the new features understandable and easy to use?

Solution Overview

The new features added to the design sprint focused on giving Homeowners more data and options to manage their thermostat remotely, with the ability to schedule maintenance appointments and contact help directly in the app.
New Registration Process

To make it even easier for Homeowners to connect their thermostat for remote management, we streamlines the registration process in the app onboarding.

In-App Alerts

Homeowners receive alerts when there's an issue with their thermostat. The alerts make it easy to take action if desired.

Schedule or Contact a Dealer About an Alert

The ability to schedule an appointment or directly contact a dealer within the app in order to get help with an alert.

View Thermostat Operating Information

Homeowners can now learn new detail about their thermostat's energy consumption and operating status. This helps them make decisions about their thermostat's usage and maintenance.

Process Overview

Where I joined the project

Development team takes over

Market Research &
Product Definition


Design Phase 1




Development Handoff and Implementation

Market Research, Requirement Gathering and Feature Prioritization

The team took an agile approach to designing the app functionality using design sprints

Designing remaining features needed for MVP release

1:1 Semi-structured user-testing sessions to validate features

Refined prototyped features based on findings from test sessions

Initial MVP
Feature Sprints

Final MVP
Feature Sprint

Usability Study

Previous Product + Design Team

Refine Final
MVP Designs


Design & Prototype Features

I focused on testing 4 main feature areas based on previous feature prioritization work completed before I joined.

1. Seamless Configuration
2. Service Scheduling with Alerts
3. Energy Usage + Spending
4. Monitoring Air Health

Screens I designed in collaboration with the UX Designer Manager on the project.


User Research Methods for Testing

9 moderated qualitative, 30-minute 1:1 user testing sessions


+ Better understanding of homeowners’ experience managing their thermostat remotely

+ Understand whether the newly designed features are clear and easy to understand for homeowners

+ Validate whether hypothesized features are useful and bring value to homeowners

Interview Structure

1. Background & Current Experience of the App

2. Provide open-ended tasks related to each of the 4 main feature areas

Stakeholder Involvement

+ Prototype review before testing

+ Interview protocol review: Testing goals and focus areas

Participant Profiles

+ Pre-determined list of users created by the client

+ 9 Homeowners who currently use the legacy app

High-level Findings

Seamless configuration was overall intuitive and easy to use.

Participants were hesitant about entering personal information because it felt unneeded for the purposes of managing their thermostat.

Service scheduling with alerts delighted participants.

Most participants mentioned they would rather self-troubleshoot first, and were nervous the scheduling may not be accurate.

Monitoring Air Health was easy to understand but some participants didn’t see the value.

Some participants felt this information wasn’t useful for the app because it didn’t provide any actionable items or information to help manage their thermostat if air quality was poor.

Energy Usage + Spending was confusing to understand for most participants.

The data visualization and design of this feature wasn’t clear to many participants. Some participants stated comfort outweighs cost and therefore wouldn’t find value in this feature to prompt them to change their thermostat settings.

Legacy App: technological
issues is a major painpoint for Homeowners

App connection issues with the participants’ thermostat system are frequent, and cause the app to stop functioning. Some participants have sought other thermostat solutions as a result.

Legacy App: notification mistrust due to an overload of inaccurate and unhelpful alerts

Participants have experienced receiving an overwhelming number thermostat alerts and notifications that aren’t accurate or provide them any value. This deters them from using the application.

Next Steps After Testing Sessions

How I worked with the team

After doing a read out of findings, I worked with the product team
to prioritize design changes based on what was most valuable to users.

Changes to the 4 features were made based on the findings, and 6
new features were designed and added to the app, based on business decisions.

Key constraints we used to help prioritize changes:

+ Our Statement of Work (SOW)

+ Project & Contract Timeline

+ Quick Wins (High-impact, low-effort)


Final Design Iteration

Before & After Highlights Based on Findings

Changes to the 4 features were made made based on the findings, and 6 new features were designed to the app based on business decisions. Over 100 new screens were designed and handed over to the new development team.

Seamless Configuration



Simplified seamless integration flow in onboarding. Updated language of notifications that new users can opt-in to sharing their systems data if they want.

Seamless Configuration



Seeing the air quality itself wasn't valuable or important to users. There wanted to feel empowered to take some type of action if the air quality was poor, otherwise it felt irrelevant.

Seamless Configuration



The first iteration showing a user's energy consumption wasn't helpful. Instead, it was more helpful to see cost data to help them make HVAC usage changes to reduce costs.

Seamless Configuration



Participants liked the ability to see critical alerts at the top of their app, but needed to make sure the design was adaptable for them to manage more than one alert.

Unique Challenges During the Design Sprint

Challenge 1: Designing the Prototype

Lack of Requirements: The client had a list of high-level features, but there was little information about the details.

Workaround & Key Takeaway

I leveraged best practices found in other apps to help information key interactions and feature design. I planned to evaluate overall effectiveness, clarity and ease of use in the usability study.

Challenge 2: Untested Core Usability

Previous MVP features had not been tested. After investigating the file, I noticed many UX gaps and potential usability issues in the design.

Workaround & Key Takeaway

Unfortunately, changing the original features was out of scope for my work. I made sure to raise the importance of testing these flows, to emphasize the importance these original features could have on the usability of the new ones.

Challenge 3: Scoping Challenge

User testing and my analysis of the design revealed many feature gaps that the Product Owner wanted added to the design, but that we didn’t have time or budget to design.

Workaround & Key Takeaway

I created a backlog list of all the design changes potentially needed and used this to communicate with the Product Owner and team about what changes we were prioritizing. This allowed us to clearly communicate and prioritize the most critical changes to increase customer retention.

Business Impact

Quick, Iterative designs were completed that were expected to increase homeowners' satisfaction, and boost revenue through an increase in service appointments

+ Design changes and feature prioritization were made to meet homeowners’ needs and increase homeowner satisfaction

+ By delivering these new features, there would be an expected increase in service appointments and therefore an increase in revenue and partnerships with service centers

Insights to help drive next phases
of work to improve overall customer satisfaction & retention

+ Identified pain points in the current experience to ensure the business can mitigate this in the new app

+ Provided insights about what current homeowners find valuable, which the product team can use to drive decisions for future state priorities and feature roadmaps

Next steps recommendations to help guide the team in the next design sprint & future work

+ Conduct a usability study on the previous design work that wasn’t studied in this sprint

+ Investigate which critical and routine alerts homeowners receive and how we can make sure they only see understandable, actionable alerts

+ Conduct a usability study on additional updated and newly added features


What would I have done differently?

+ Conducting a quantitative study to get more data on current pain points, and what future features are most valuable to users. This could have been used to help triangulate which areas of the app could provide the most value to users and increase overall satisfaction for the next MVP launch.

+ Follow-up co-design workshop with Homeowners. and allow for more time to make design changes. There was limited time to ideate and iterated on potential solutions.

+ Stakeholder priority workshop before starting this phase of work. During the project the stakeholders had a laundry list of features they wanted to add, but didn't have a clear priority. The workshop could have level-set on the what and why is most important for this next phase.

What did I learn?

+ Qualitative user testing can provide valuable feedback to the business to help shape next steps of a product's roadmap. However, it's still important the organization takes this into consideration and has a broader strategy for prioritizing features.

+ The importance of level-setting on expected research outcomes beforetesting session with stakeholders. Especially with stakeholders who are new to UX or don't understand the outputs of the user research

+ Users’ previous experience with a product can greatly impact future perceptions and attitudes towards the business.