Roca. Smart Shower
- Retail and distribution
Concept, design & Innovation
Redbility partners with Roca, a world reference in bathroom spaces, in the development of its first smart shower.
Being one of our most loyal clients, he once again relied on Redbility to align the product strategy with Roca’s general line and raised the need that, thanks to our expertise in the development of digital experiences, we also collaborate in the creation of the new premium shower experience, the functional definition of the Smart Shower product and its control app.
Roca is constantly committed to technology and innovation and we are very proud to have been part and collaborate, once again, with them in the introduction of their new Smart product.
Our main goals were focused on guaranteeing a full showering experience, making the consumption of all the virtues of the product easier and meeting the needs of the user in a very specific context.
When we faced the project we did it with a previous work done by the engineers, with an existing initial product where the interface and interaction design were already functionally defined.
We worked with very diverse teams. In the first place, we had the Roca I+D team that was in charge of adapting, testing and introducing the product into the Roca world at ta physical interface level; and on the other hand, there was the business, marketing and engineering team. This last team was in charge of programming the shower and had the first 100% digital model from which we had to start off to adapt it to the needs of our clients.
To be able to work with a team of this magnitude it was necessary to take into account several points that helped us stay aligned throughout the whole process:
- Knowledge coordination: It was very important to take advantage of the knowledge of all the people involved in the project, especially those who manufactured the first model of the shower, since they could solve all the doubts and concerns that could arise throughout the project.
- Expectations management: We align ourselves with all teams to manage the expectations of each of our clients in the best possible way.
- Co-creation sessions with stakeholders: We met with all the teams, working together and providing all the knowledge that would be relevant for the development of the product.
- Communication between teams: Due to the diversity of the team, the language was very diverse. It was very important to find a point in common to enhance communication and find the most appropriate way to communicate with all the members.
The deadline to carry out the project was short and we had to adapt to the initial planning, however this did not stop us from carrying out a research phase. The process was carried out in sprints so that it was more agile but avoiding skipping this phase, since a product of this type could not go on the market without being validated with users and worked out from a strong foundation.
In this first approach to the product we focused on assimilating the characteristics that we had to take into account within the context, about the users and the technology used, and we investigated the functionalities already established and given by the first model made by the engineers and on which we had to build, since it had to be considered in the final design.
Features to take into account:
- Standard shower operation: We must maintain the basic functionalities of a shower so that any user can use it without having any problem.
- Configure the water outlet changes: Depending on the model, the Smart Shower can have several water outlets and it is necessary to take this functionality into account so that the user can configure it according to their needs.
- Warm-up: Configuration so that the device heats the water automatically at the user’s request.
- Program functions: The shower allows you to create an ad hoc program depending on the tastes of each user.
- Manage users: You can register several users, so that the different people who live in the same apartment can configure their profile based on their preferences and needs.
GETTING TO KNOW THE PRODUCT
It was important to understand the product and for this we took into account:
- Know the technological conditions
- Immerse ourselves in the basic functional approach
- Delve into the interaction with the physical product
We carried out a preliminary investigation of existing products to take referrals and, when we finished analyzing all the data collected, we highlighted the main points that we considered we should attacked first. From this point forward we started the investigation phase.
When we started the project the engineering team gave us the possibility, as part of the research, to go to the factories and interact with some digital showers so that we could define behavior patterns, analyze accessibility, locations, use of space and functionality, so that we could see at first-hand how the system worked. It was evident that we had to work with Roca at the same time to unify the functionalities already proposed by the engineers in order to build a friendly interaction design and to propose how the system responses should be in the interface, starting from the bases already raised.
When designing a physical product the interaction patterns acquired by humans over centuries must be taken into account, and in the case of a shower is not an exception. Improving the user experience many times consists in eliminating friction with the user target by avoiding innovation in excess, that is why the design that was made had both analog characteristics, to be able to relate interactions with previous experience, as well as digital ones, which allowed to explode new control and use functionalities that would significantly improve the experience. In conjunction with the technical and I+D team, decisions were made to incorporate analog elements that would facilitate the understanding of the device and its use within the shower context which is so complex at times.
The action of showering can be related to all types of users, but based on the fact that it was a Smart Shower we kept in mind that we were addressing a very specific type of audience such as hotel or gym owners and wealthy people.
However, this type of people even though they were between 40 and 60 years old also lived with minors or elderly people therefore, it was important to cover the needs of all types of users and take into account that the functionalities of the digital shower could not move away from the functionalities of a conventional showers.
The decision made was to digitise the most complex actions thinking mainly in the most frequent users, but without neglecting the idea of being able to take a shower the way we are used to, without complications, complex configurations or new functionalities.
When designing a product, the context of use is another fundamental point to take into account and it is important to analyze it in detail before starting the development process.
The installation and operation of the shower, for example, will be very different when used in Europe than in India since the location can affect the temperature or pressure of the water, being this a relevant data when designing a product that is sufficiently versatile and adaptable to all contexts. This led us to make the decision to eliminate the numbers that gave very specific information and focus on providing more visual information.
We conclude to modify the way the users interacted with the buttons by opting for a more visual interaction were the users could visualize on the screen when the temperature rose. However, we decided not to specify which was the initial temperature since in different parts of the world this changes radically and we had to combine the functionalities with the needs of the different type users.
It is always important to ask the right questions to know in detail the device and its limitations such as cost and its implementation and, from there, begin the functional definition and design phase.
We started from technical functional flows that delimited the technical aspects of the shower such as the implemented programs, the temperature limits, the physical controllers and some of the digital buttons.
With this base, we constantly iterate on paper and analyze the different flows to understand the different interactions, we had to take into account all the processes and sub-processes (errors, break-ins, idles …) and analyze the actions of the user to prioritize and enhance those that are more important.
It was very important to analyze all the cases and situations that could occur when using the shower to contemplate it in the design, not only physical, but also in the app that would go with it.
For example: What happens if I try to turn off the shower during a program? Will the water stop falling if I try to access navigation during the shower? Should I warn the user before an automatic shutdown? How soon we notify it and how? As we went deeper into the use flows, the casuistry multiplied and we had to find a design that respond to each one of them just as the engineering team had to cover the different problems with technology.
We must know the hardware in detail so that we can work on the software and create a product and high-level experience. We must take into account the winks and interaction that the users have in their daily basis experience with their own shower so that the learning period is not extremely long.
Points that we take into account in the interaction design:
- Define how the user interacts with the interface: It is important to detect how the user would interact with the device. We had to analyze in detail its direct interaction as well as with the application, know its movements, needs and behavior to contemplate it in both interfaces, always maintaining the same design so that there is a direct relationship between both.
- Give the user clues about what will happen before or after taking an action: The selection of colors and fonts are one of the key points to take into account when the user interacts with the device. It was important to differentiate notifications from alerts, not only to distinguish when an error occurred or it was simply a warning of the beginning or end of a process, but also so that the user could view and understand the message in a quick and easy way.
- Anticipate and mitigate errors: Many errors can occur while using the device and it is very important to take into account all possible casuistry. We analyze the flows in detail, always taking into account these unforeseen events and the possible messages that could appear to notify the user that something was not working correctly. From problems with the operation of the device itself as well as warnings for external errors, which includes lack of water flow or problems in temperature, for example.
- Consider the system’s feedback and the response time: Given the first analysis of the design carried out by the engineers, this point was really taken into account to define the graphical line of the device. As it is a digital device, it was very important to consider the response time of the shower based on temperature changes and the device flow rate. We knew that the average time could not be modified and that we were the ones who had to adapt our design to those needs. One of the solutions to this problem was to display on the same screen not only the temperature that the user selected, but also the actual temperature of the water and how it was changing to reach the desired one.
- Interaction with the product when the user is not using it: The shower can be programmed at the user’s mercy from the device itself as well as from the app, giving them the possibility of configuring the warm-up so it starts and changes the temperature of the shower according to their selection. To do this we had to take into account the warnings and notifications when the warm-up cycle started and/or ended, so that it could be be viewed from far away. Messages not only notify actions, with messages and color changes, but they also work to warn the user. If there is a problem with the warm-up or an error with the boiler, like if there is not enough flow for example, the shower will notify the user with a red message to let him know that there is something that is not working correctly.
- Design each element strategically: We started analizing in a hardware level to define the shape, design and size of the buttons. An important fact to highlight was that the separation between each one of them, and their rounded shape, was defined because of a water droplets analysis carried out by the engineers that indicated the size and the place where the drops were going to fall, being this a problem because they can’t have direct contact with the buttons simultaneously, since this would generate a failure in the shower.
MAKING IT REAL
At this point we face the product digitization phase where we focus on three pillars:
- Simplicity: The minimum necessary elements that must integrate each screen.
- Unification: Each similar interaction must have its unified graphic representation.
- Movement: Each representation is based on the movement.
Based on these pillars, several visual proposals were presented until the one that responded to all the KPIs established at the beginning of the project was found. It is important to highlight that you must always bear in mind that the important thing about visual design is to be at the service of what we want to communicate, it is not just an aesthetic issue. From these premises we arrive at the following solutions:
- We represented the temperature and flow graph in a curved way to maintain a direct relationship with the way the user interacts with the dimmer.
- We used different graphic codes to differentiate the temperature with the water flow. Temperature is represented by lines, hinting at a thermometer, and water by points, which the higher the intensity the greater the quantity.
- We worked with large fonts with high contrast to adapt them to all users.
- We always kept the same visual code using a leitmotiv that respond to the same settings, temperature and flow.
- Another point that we had to take into account was the colors of the TFT. In the first instance, it had been decided by the Roca team that only two colors would be used. However, after carrying out user tests and analyzing the different functionalities and interactions of the shower, we decided to add a wider range of colors to be able to inform and notify the user in a more visual and interactive way, always adapting to the characteristics, costs and quality of the product. It is important to bear in mind that at the same time that we worked on the design the engineers developed the product, always maintaining direct contact with the team and technology needs.
Testing on prototype
In order to test our design, we created a navigable prototype for a tablet with 70% of functionality simulated. From this we gathered some users who worked among the team of designers and we proposed 3 different tasks: Starting the shower, exploring options and accessing programs and users. Based on the results, we conducted a recall test and an in-depth interview to learn more about their opinions. Despite the fact that the results obtained were interesting and we were able to find some points that we had to modify, it was evident that it was not a real context and it was biased.
Testing with real user
Due to the fact that the test previously carried out was not with the target users nor did we have a realistic prototype, a test was carried out with real users with the product already developed to obtain feedback. After the first impressions using the device, conclusions are reached to functionally and visually adjust some key aspects of the differente interactions and the screens involved in the process of using the shower. Based on these latest results the necessary iterations were carried out in the design and the functionality of the final product.
We not only focus on designing the physical interface of the product, but we also worked on the design of the app experience. It goes along with the Smart Shower, so that the user can interact with the device in a context other than the shower offering the possibility of setting up the Warm-up, alarms or even customizing the user according to their needs.
Like the shower, the engineers already had a more technical flow of the different functionalities of the app and our team started from these first approaches to adapt them to the needs of our client. Some functionalities that we had to take into account were the possibility of programming alarms to start the Warm-up, notifications or warnings of error or finalization of some configurations, modify or change the profile, customize preferences and view water consumption and the time of use of each user.
The design of a quality product is exceptionally aligned with Roca's general line, seeking harmony in sensations and always maintaining a balance between experience, functionality and business needs.
A result like this, so thought for the user and at the same time so consistent with the business strategy, can only be achieved by working together with all the teams involved in the project following a process of creation and knowledge of the product, followed by a good research design, user analysis and development from conceptualization to definition.
It has been a pleasure working with Roca’s I+D, marketing, business and engineers team and being part of the development of this innovative product and accompanying them, once again, in the design of one of their Smart line products.
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