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WWDC 2022: The usability gains (and flaws!) of the redesigned Home app for HomeKit

To us, the greatest announcements of WWDC 2022 is that the Home app is getting a face-lift 🎉

Here’s why the redesign is great for usability:

Lock screen widgets 💖

Ok, in truth, the greatest announcement of WWDC 2022 was actually the new widgets for the lock screen. Users will be able to access lots of cool things from the unlocked screen of their phone, including the status of their smart home!

We’ve always talked about minimizing the number of taps to get to your smart home status and control. As far as getting the status, it doesn’t get better than 0 taps!!

From the screenshots shared so far, it’s a little disappointing that the Apple team didn’t come up with a way to present climate information more intuitively. Setpoints (55-72°F) are unnecessarily presented twice on the screen, giving users two extra numbers to process when trying to make sense of their smart home at a glance from the locked screen. But they’ll probably iterate this over time to get it right.

Whole home at a glance 👀

Even if users don’t add smart home widgets to their lock screen, they can now get a status of their whole home from glancing over their home screen of the Home app. 

The most important update about what’s going on in your home will come from the new categories presented at the very top of the screen, like 1 door unlocked, 3 lights on, etc. The top of the screen is the best place to present information because users’ eyes naturally go there and it’s rarely covered by their thumbs. The categories are also a shortcut for accessing and controlling all devices in one category, which may be handy when you want to turn off all your lights or lock all your doors.

On the home screen, it used to be difficult to tell what’s going on because all the tiles looked the same. The tiles now have different sizes, new icons, and grouping to intuitively communicate their function and status. Along with the redesigned camera view (more about that below), this makes it easy to see the whole home from a single glance. This sounds particularly delightful if you’ve experienced having to tap and wait for views to load when there’s an emergency or when you want to keep an eye on your home while away somewhere with bad reception. 

Quick control from the home screen 👏🏽

Given that the alternative control for many smart home products is to walk up to the wall to flip a switch, simple control needs to be available from the home screen. 

It looks like the new Home app has solved this problem by allowing users to control their devices by tapping the tile icons. They can also tap the device name to go to another screen for a more granular control.

This is great! But it could be even better if the controls were more obviously interactive. For example, instead of just saying “on” or “off” the tiles could have a toggle to indicate where to tap to turn the device off. 

Automation is all that 🤖

We’ve long said that automation (call it schedules or routines) belongs on the second tab. Since this feature is often the reason users invest in a smart device,it needs to be immediately discoverable. At the same time, automation is still a set-it-and-forget-it type feature, so it should never distract from features that users interact with on a daily basis on the home screen.

It’s exciting to see that the Home app has ditched the Rooms tab in favor of an Automation tab✨

Clever camera feeds 🎥

The new camera view deserves its own mention because having a few camera views in the Home app previously made it completely unusable. It was a looong list of views to scroll through. Other products, like the Nest app, have this problem too. If you have more than 2 cameras and a thermostat, you’ll always have to scroll to find out your current temp. Not ideal!

The new Home app design groups 4 smaller camera feeds in one view, with a horizontal scroll to see more views. This clears up vertical space for other things and makes it easy to see 4 views at a time. 

Horizontal scroll is never ideal for usability (carpal tunnel anyone?), but it’s ok here because it’s very unlikely that a user will have so many cameras that they will have that many 2by2 views to scroll between.

Anything else that Matters? 🙃 

Last but not least, Apple announced that HomeKit now supports Matter. With that, the new Home app will be able to control some 130 Matter-compatible smart devices that reportedly are launching later this year.

The redesigned Home app itself will be available along with iOS 16 in the fall. We’ll provide an update then when we can actually play around with the experience to get a better sense of usability from the interactions. 

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