User interface

(Alex Leiva) #1

Hi I’m very exited about the whole Smarthing project. And one thing that still in my head is the UI, is there gonna be any customisation? it would be good to be able to have custom user interfaces.

If this is not possible I was thinking I could help to produce some kind of templates, so any user can choose their own. I’m an architect and you’d understand why GUI is so important for me

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(James Stolp) #2

Alex, thanks for posting! I completely understand.

We are spending a lot of time on the design of the user experience and user interface across Web, mobile and other devices (the Instacube, for instance). I believe it is one of the most important things that we have to get right in order to realize the dream of having SmartThings in as many homes and hands as possible. If it’s not elegant, beautiful and a delight to use, we won’t succeed. So first, I can provide you my personal assurance that we will hold SmartThings to the highest possible standards when it comes to design.

I want everyone that uses SmartThings to feel directly, and even emotionally, connected with their world of places, people, pets and things that SmartThings will bring online. Personalization is one tool for achieving this goal.

So how deep should that personalization go? I believe we have to strike a balance. There is a lot of underlying complexity that comes along with putting your entire world of connected things (your physical graph) at the tip of your fingers in an app. This complexity requires that quite a bit of the SmartThings experience follow a carefully crafted and defined structure. In some cases, we’ll need to reserve certain elements of the design specifically for functionality and usability.

This approach helps with the initial learning curve of getting started with SmartThings. It allows us to provide effective support. It helps us rapidly develop, test and launch new features. And ultimately it ensures that we can craft the most useful experience that “just works”, consistently, for as many people as possible.

Within that framework, there will definitely be room for creativity and putting your own mark on things. One simple example: adding photos to locations, for people and pets, as well as connected things, will go a long way to bringing the experience to life in a super relatable and very personal way.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment, and please keep the ideas coming!

Warm regards,

(Alex Leiva) #3

James thank you very much for your reply. Is good to know that you guys understand the importance of this matter and value it as much as I do. I guess I’ll have to wait to have the SDK and then start customizing my SmartThing. As I said, I’m very keen to collaborate with the community. Instead of proposing ideas I’d like to show them, and if anybody like them I’ll be more than happy to share them.

And for the record, I never doubted about you guys doing the best work possible.

Looking forward to the delivery date


(Freetobelee) #4

I am also passionate about the digital user end experience, and I think it is more important than ever to implement it thoughtfully when representing a real interaction wit the physical world.

I would love to be a tester for the various application pieces of SmartThings as they are coming to fruition.

(Solardave1) #5

A web portal would solve allot of issues.

(Solardave1) #6

And please, please, add “display name on tile” functionality. I’ve got 5 or 6 motion sensors and its like playing whack a mole.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #7

@jamesstolp… (and cc:@alex_leiva)

Thanks for your response.

The SmartThings client UI can be described as elegant simplicity, modular expandability (particularly as it pertains to the extensible universe of SmartThings ecosystem [Device Handlers…], and distinctive look and feel (all of which are praiseworthy to the designer/developers)…

But, respectfully, even with “obvious” bug fixes and incremental features that are bound to evolve into the product soon (e.g., tile labels, improved sliders, landscape orienation…): This interface appears to be very weak (IMHO) compared to established competitors (admittedly, very expensive competitors).

e.g., Consider Control4, Crestron, … and many more;

I think I tossed my latest issue of Sound & Video contractor; but I quote the list of companies in the “Tablets as GUI” topic.

Some control system companies—such as Crestron, AMX, ELAN, Savant, Control4, HRS Control, Global Cache, URC, and RTI—have created proven and reliable applications that interface an iPad to their control system processor. Pricing for system solutions vary from inexpensive to as high as you want to spend depending on which vendor is used.

Such as:





Features vary from vendor to vendor, but include options such as taking a photograph of the room and making each controllable item a clickable area (e.g., the lamp in the picture or the TV or the blinds).

Another very practical, but much more efficient than SmartThings UI’s tiles is a screen that just has a set of sliders across it, like a virtual light switch panel of dimmers (a mini “soundboard”); but including a row of “Scene” set-and-activate buttons across the bottom, and a few usual menu options on the side. I wish I had a picture handy, but doubt it is hard to find.

Finally, many of these ARE drag-and-drop modular: You can design you own custom set of desktops with various gadgets linked to various vendors Things or information sources (e.g., a climate desktop that has a weather report, outdoor camera view, and the thermostat control…).

Now here’s my point: I believe that the SmartThings API (even with the security restrictions though OAuth and thus requiring the user to grant a third-party application explicit access to pre-added Things…), can absolutely be used by third-party developers to replicate the look-and-feel of the above described UI’s. This would include the ability to rebrand the custom UI, either as a sold or subscribed piece of software, or as a part of an installer/integrator/customizer’s service offering.

But your response above in this thread seems to imply that SmartThings is trying to avoid this scenario – I don’t understand WHY.

I can think of a few good reasons; but the spirit of “openness” means that people should be free to make their own mistakes and customize the system as much as possible to meet their own preferences and lifestyles!

Finally, there is a tremendous opportunity for third-party UI developers (i.e., people that are clever and/or professionally specialized and experienced in UI design) can bring their skills to this challenge: And in return, profit from the sale, subscription, or integration of their software (and/or hardware controls, custom tablets, etc.).


Thanks for your consideration and thoughts,
private message or email as welcome: @ tgauchat

P.S.: Quite a few of the above pictured interfaces are being ported to web based access; for consistent look and feel and power regardless of your physical screen.

(Andrew Urman) #8


And please, please, add “display name on tile” functionality. I’ve got 5 or 6 motion sensors and its like playing whack a mole.

Pro-tip if you’re on iOS shake the phone to reveal all the device labels.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #9

@urman (and @solardave1): Really PRO tip: If your GUI client device is a tablet mounted on the wall, it is handy to live near a major earthquake fault in order to periodically reveal the device labels. {Heck, if you’re really lucky, the wall might fall 90% and give you a functional landscape mode.}

I’m a straight-talker, and I must be annoying as frack quite often…

So pardon if I hurt anyone’s feelings: “Shake the device”, is, IMHO, IMHO, IMHO – NOT A VIABLE GESTURE / USER INTERFACE CONTROL OPTION. No no no! (Seriously, even if the device is a phone and not attached to the wall, “shaking” just looks ludicrous, it is not accessible (i.e., not ADA compliant to the best of my knowledge…), and takes inordinate amount of energy.

The correct interface?: Please offer a pull-down or click-toggle of displays on the tiles: Icon/Value <-> Device Name <-> Both.

Thanks for bearing with the yelling out of my pet peeve. I’m a chronic complainer… you could hire me, though, cheap (!), and I’ll promise to just send all my complaints to the designated intern or “dumping ground” of your choice, daily. ?

sincerely, ttyl,

Feature Request: Label on tile "previews" in things view
Who designed this UI?
(Alex Leiva) #10


This is exactly what I was talking about. You mentioned some good points.
I know exactly what I want and what I need therefore I’m planning to create my own UI. Last thing I heard it’s that it is possible to do it through third party GUI software like commandfusion .

More info HERE

I’m gonna create beautiful interfaces and I’d like to share it for free with the smartthings community. But I don’t know how easy this is at the moment. Customization is always good, just saying…

(Alex Leiva) #11

Sorry, links seem to be missing in my last post.
Here they go again:

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #12

@alex_leiva … thanks for the support of my examples.

We are definitely on the same page.

The REST-API has some published documentation (or did…); though I am not sure how complete it is. There are fairly simple requests to pull lists of objects (Devices) and their properties and update them.

–>I have an early downloaded PDF copy of this API documentation (in case it doesn’t have a live link anymore… didn’t check).

At the “extreme”, if SmartThings were to never wish to see fully capable alternative GUI’s; these API’s are at least meant to give sufficient control for Cloud-to-Cloud cooperation. For example, a voice command “dim kitchen lights” – spoken to The Ubi or a Siri extension, if properly authorized, will be able to use the API to look up the object by name, and send the dim command to it … and probably get the acknowledgement. Same thing for logic “rules / Apps” processing from other HA systems, like WigWag.

But, optimistically, This same API can be used to write alternative GUI’s with our own ideas of “look & feel” that are partly borrowed from the expensive competitors, but also can evolve.

Automation of activities (lights on at Sunset, motion sensors, etc.) are the main feature of SmartApps intended to make the need for “traditional controls; even in touch-screen format” (dimmer sliders, thermostat dials…).

But basic controls are more important to some people and will never go away.

Chat me up via Private Message (@ tgauchat) and we can discuss if you want to collaborate on this in some way.

(Saxnix) #13

Just curious to know if either of you have investigated/backed WigWag and are thinking of developing a customised interface for it?

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #14

I am a small backer of WigWag project (Relay, 1 Sensor, 1 LED string).

Until I can examine their API and compare to the UI they provide; can’t tell if it is worth customizing.

(Saxnix) #15

Until reading this thread it hadn’t even crossed my mind that a custom interface (looking pretty like the big guys) was an option. I figured I would just set up the rules and then do manual control where needed with the native apps or interface. It hadn’t occurred that some smart devs would custom design very attractive controls for various components. Something like that would be awesome and something I would be prepared to pay for.

I like the idea of checking either all the controllable items of a particular room (possibly a plan of the room with all controllable items selectable), or checking a function such as Air - and being able see all rooms listed with the state showing of that item. I have seen something like this somewhere, but can’t remember which software it was?? Either way, it looked pretty slick and seemed pretty straight forward for guests to be able to pick up and control their room without much trouble. It will be very interesting to see how things develop in the area.

(Solardave1) #16

I’d settle for landscape mode and names on tiles before someone gets all artsy with the UI. Pretty things that are non-function able are secondary at this point (dissalusionment setting in (:

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #17


Well… I’m looking for a development team :slight_smile:

Actually: The big risk at the moment is that the effort expended to develop alternative interfaces could be completely wasted as these companies’ business models develop and they modify their APIs and/or impose usage restrictions.


The GOAL of having a third-party develop a UI is to offer the user community an alternative to the rollout plan of SmartThings. Is it worth the development effort and risk? How much would people pay for UI development that is more responsive to their wishes or more comparable to competitors?

(Solardave1) #18

There’s no telling what ST is up to as they don’t release plans or roadmaps. Luckily, I can just call up the NSA and get transcripts of all their emails, phone calls and meetings. Seriously, why keep everyone in the dark - roll out firmware updates with no notice or release notes, same with the IOS UI - I’m still trying to figure out what’s changed for the better and if its under the hood, you should be posting detailed release notes.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #19

@solardave1: I Totally agree.

Physical Graph Corporation & the SmartThings Team certainly has the right (and, probably some obligation) to keep some of their plans secret, and perhaps a good chunk of their team is unaware of the upper-level strategizing… and they may also be in “wait and see” mode before taking next steps.

All excuses aside I am increasingly disillusioned with the trend over the past several years of “endless” Beta releases of products. In the case of “free” websites, I suppose there was not much footing for complaints.

However, as a paying, official “Backer” (and Developer and Maker…), I do believe I am justified in expecting extra attention and response to our curiosities legitimate questions.

As a “voluntary” Beta tester, I am providing a valuable service to this enterprise. Without a diverse user base willing to endure stability issues and report our problems, questions, and suggestions, the product line cannot successfully evolve.

As a “backer/developer/maker”, I risk considerable expenditure of time (and money…) to try to establish peripheral revenue streams and partnerships based on the SmartThings ecosystem. This risk is significantly higher when we remain uninformed of both short-term and long-term product developments and road-maps.


I hope @jamesstolp and @ben_edwards take our feedback/complaints in THAT context (i.e., as Backers/Testers/Developers/Makers, etc. – I would like to feel a little more on the “inside track”, and a little more like our concerns are actually driving product direction.

For example, I’m pretty certain that every request we’ve made for web user interface (even basic, but broadly functional) appears to have been ignored.

(Alex Leiva) #20

I agree with you guys.
And we’re not really complaining, we’re trying to improve, from what we think, a richer experience for the user, we’re enthusiastic and we’re keen to give our time to this project, in my case even for free. I know exactly what I want and I’m planning to get it.

Count me in your team!