ST App the weakest part of the system?


(Todd Richert) #1

Does anyone else feel this way? They have a good hub, at a good price to get people in, they have enough sensors at a decent price to get to mass market. But the app … :frowning: It is painful to use, not user friendly at all. ST please hire an interface engineer ASAP, code up this app for ipads, put things in logical places and simiplify setup and you will take off like a rocket!

I’m a geek so I can live with it, but I’ve shown three of my friends my setup, and while they find it cool to walk around my house, have lights turn on/off, change color get announcements all on its own, they started to say they wanted one, I showed them the interface and they said yea … never mind.


(George Sudarkoff) #2

I saw the same reaction from people.


(Troy Kelly) #3

The app does have a very unique way of approaching things.

The problem is that it is an interface to an automation system - not a lighting controller, not a thermostat, and not a home entertainment remote.

There are a number of “conveniences” that would be nice - like colour selection for lamps that support it etc, but I think most importantly - getting a better understanding of where users expect things to be (not telling them where they will be).

It took me a long, long time to work out where things like motion triggered lighting could be changed once I had configured it as part of the add device wizard.

I’m sure in time the interface will improve - but it can’t improve unless we ask for things specifically using examples, and even mocked up screens to explain what we are talking about.


(Brian Smith) #4

I get confused on where Smart Apps or actions are “attached” to the system as a whole. Some things I do at a “thing level”, others I do at a Smart App level, still others I do at a Hello, Home level…and what’s up with the modes and the hello home actions also called modes.

I get it that is is pretty damn hard to build something that controls such a diverse group of devices. But, I do agree that it might be time for a clean slate and re-evaluate the layout from a holistic approach.

ST has grown rapidly. With Apple coming into the mix, I think it’s time to really sit down and design something totally different. I don’t know what that “different” is yet since, after reading these boards for a month now very religiously, it is obvious that we all do so many different things. …and therein lies the rub of complexity in design of this app.

I don’t envy the group tasked to figure it out. :smile:


(Brian Smith) #5

To add one more thing (to be a bit more positive), it is so very obvious that ST has a tremendous community who want them to really succeed! I think we should all continue to contribute, point out the bad (AND praise the good), and make this the best system out there.

(Yeah, I think I just did a little rah-rah shish-boom-bah here…but they deserve it!)


(Geko) #6

A flexible system like SmartThings needs an equally flexible UI because there’re so many different use cases and sometimes contradictory requirements. There’re good examples of user-customizable interfaces for Smart Home though, for example OpenRemote and CommandFusion iViewer.


(Troy Kelly) #7

I am not sure if the SmartThings App is trying to compete in the same space as OpenRemote et al.

My opinion of Home Automation - and the philosophy on every residential and commercial project I have worked on - is that user interaction with the system should be unnecessary.

If you need control over your lights, use an app that is designed for that. But, if you want home automation - then have it designed and installed properly - and don’t rely on interaction with an App to make your space usable. What point is there in accessing your lights over the ST App when you could just use the Philips Hue app?

Using an App is never a great use case anyway - it’s slow to start, slow to connect and typically unreliable.

The SmartThings platform allows you to automate your environment - when you are in a room, the lights are on - when it is hot, the thermostat is adjusted to make it cool - etc etc. None of that should necessitate interaction with the App once it is finished.

I actually think it is a big mistake that SmartThings made in releasing only a phone App - rather than a web / desktop environment to design and manage an installation. It does give the impression that it is just an add-on for simple tasks like turning lights on with motion - the app hides and downplays the true power of the platform.


(Marc) #8

I had to create a spreadsheet with all of my actions, smartapps, hardware, Etc to keep track of things since it’s difficult in the ST app to get a birds eye view of everything. I have gotten used to the app, but the learning curve is huge and for the average consumer, it’s going to be too confusing. Even though IFTTT is limited, their interface is awesome. Simple and controlled.


(Morgan) #9

The app could use help, BUT you don’t build a complex, flexible system without having your user interface be powerful, therefore difficult to use initially. It takes a long time to really hone in the most common use cases and get the ease of use.

I think the power of the underlying architecture that ST has put together is its strength, and will allow it to adapt moving forward.

I would much rather have the focus be on enhancing the reliability of all of the different integrations than to enhance the iOS/Android apps. Making sure that Hue, Sonos, and all of the Z-wave, Zigbee work every time on each timer, recover when the home internet connect goes up and down is the most important piece to me.

The dependence upon the internet for even the simplest of actions, (turn on a z-wave switch) is the biggest weakness for me personally.


(Brian Smith) #10

@thrash99er Good points. I think a few small tweaks to the app might buy us some time so that ST could focus on other issues. Personally, I would like to see a few changes:

  • Ability to see what process executed an action - very good for troubleshooting
  • Ability to get a list of all devices and their associated actions. @Mbhforum mentioned that they created a spreadsheet to track everything. The app should deb able to generate that and send a file via email…or setup an export from the IDE
  • Tweaks to the naming conventions used within the app- mode is used in two different places and it means slightly different things

Of course, there are many more, I’m sure.


(George Sudarkoff) #11

“User-customizable” is usually a cop-out. “We can’t figure it out, so let’s just make it user-customizable.” It doesn’t work! (And that’s why OSX is popular and Linux is not among “regular” users). It’s the Prego Sauce fallacy, as I call it. Malcolm Gladwell is a brilliant man, but he misled quite a few people with his eloquence. Yes, people don’t truly know what they want if you simply ask them. But how is giving them two dozen choices going to help? Nobody’s going to methodically go through two dozen different sauces in the store hoping to find the one! Three choices is what normal people can manage. If you do it right, there’s usually one choice you rule out straight away and then it’s an easy choice between the remaining two. So here’s a simple (but not easy) two-step recipe for getting the UX right: (1) figure out what makes the most sense and implement that, then (2) listen to complaints for a while and add a few customizations in strategic places.


(George Sudarkoff) #12

Absolutely yes! Cannot agree any more with you! (I sound like a spam comment, huh?)

I have been playing with SmartThings only for a couple of weeks and I often find myself going to the website first and then remembering that it won’t let me reconfigure my things.


(Troy Kelly) #13

Not quite spam @sudarkoff - you didn’t offer ripped ab’s, or request access to my bank account (yet)

I am growing to love the IDE, and would hope to see it grow into a full programming and configuration environment.

It will be a far more productive experience - just having additional screen real-estate would be a huge help.

@ben is there any plan to add App based functionality to the web environment?


(Geko) #14

Or to put it simply, “regular” people don’t deserve freedom of choice because they’re so stoopid. Let chosen few decide what’s good for them. Brilliant! :slight_smile:


(George Sudarkoff) #15

Sure, that’s one way to read my response. Another one would be: lazy engineers/designers can’t do their job right, so they force their poor users to waste their valuable time doing it for them. We can play with highly emotionally charged words all day long trying to insult each other. The bottom line is, there is numerous research showing that three cans of Prego sauce lead to happiness while twenty lead to confusion and frustration.

I’m not saying that choice doesn’t matter. It clearly does to you. But it matters in areas you’re passionate about. We are all very passionate about home automation here. I want access to all the ST innards, I want to be able to talk directly to the hub. Hell, I’d even like to run my own firmware on it. And I want to write my smart apps in c++, because Groovy is not that great. I want choices!

But my wife is a different story. She comes to me and asks: “how do I adjust the temperature in our kids’ room?” I tell her: “honey, you scroll down here, open this section, click a few tiles to see which one you want because they all look the same, then you open the preferences, scroll to the bottom and type in this number here by hand. Then you exit all that and go here - it’s called Blah, but it’s really just a Yadda - and you make sure the mode (which is not REALLY a mode, but about this later) is “I care about our kids’ health” and voila, you’re done.” She looks at me as if she suspects I don’t love her anymore, says “um”, leaves and comes back 10 minutes later with a $20 device from Home Depot that does all that with just two buttons. See, she made her own choice because she’s passionate about our kids’ health.

Am I making my point across?


(Todd Richert) #16

The bottom line is this. Most home automation projects die, why do they die? Because they fail to reach critical mass. Why is that? Its the same every time. Joe blow the plumber can’t use the product.

If you make the best home automation system ever, but it can only be used by enthusiasts, it WILL fail, every time. These products aren’t $2,000 where you can afford to thrive on a few hundread sales a year, you need tens of thousands of sales, and that will not happen until this interface is thrown in the crash can and started from scratch. I’m already forced to do almost everything from TFTT, and my theubi is on its way which will take care of everything else. Smart Things is a great idea, they’ve put a lot of the ‘pieces’ together … but they NEED a GREAT interface, not an ok one, not a blah one. Anything else will lead to SmartThings not existing 18 months from now.


(Geko) #17

I don’t disagree with you. My point is that home automation means different things to different people and even to the same people in different circumstances. No one so far has come up with a flexible enough solution to make HA really stick. That’s why once the novelty effect wears off, most people loose interest in it. It would be interesting to see if Apple could crack this nut with Siri and HomeKit.


(Todd Richert) #18

I take it you haven’t seen www.theubi.com , its homekit with siri basically and available now :slight_smile: Mine should be here on Tuesday.


(Geko) #19

Yeah, I’ve seen Ubi. Its specs are lower than Amazon Fire TV, but it costs three times as much. I don’t need another “always-on” box in my home. I’d rather wait until Apple or Google or Amazon brings home automation to the settop box. I don’t think it will be a long wait. Meanwhile, ST will fill the gap. :smile:


(Todd Richert) #20

Then you haven’t seen TheUbi, the fact that you would classify it along the same lines with Fire TV is very curious since it is not in any way shape or form a similar device? I guess it happens to run Android, and it uses electricity … that’s where the similarity ends.

TheUbi is truly an amazing device that bridges all these gaps we have today and give you tremendous vocal control of everything in your house. And it isn’t limited to preconfigured commands, or trying to understand natural language you can configure ‘ubi i’m the best’ to blink all the lights in your house if you want. Being able to say from bed ‘ubi, tv and lights off’ and having it happen is kick ass.