Marieke
UX designer

Changing Color

Remote control redesign for color-changing ceiling lamp

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The assignment

Our assignment for this project was to redesign the remote control for a color-changing ceiling lamp based on the outcomes of user testing.

At the time of the project (2008), LED was still quite expensive and this specific lamp was intended for the Asian market. For this reason, the light source consisted of three fluorescent tubes instead.

Tools used:

  • Illustrator

  • Photoshop

  • Flash

  • Actionscript 2.0

Project completed in 2008.

User testing
The original remote control that was supplied with the ceiling lamp

The original remote control that was supplied with the ceiling lamp

Observational research

The original remote control was the starting point for this redesign project. To evaluate the usability of the remote, participants were invited to complete several assignments in a special set-up room.

First, they were asked to explain the meaning of the different buttons on the remote control. This gave insight into what concepts with regards to color and light they were already familiar with, such as brightness, but also what was unclear such as saturation.

Next, they were asked to perform specific tasks under observation. Although the assignments in themselves were simple, the participants experienced a lot of difficulties.

  • Understanding of the difference between hue and saturation

  • The functionality of the different buttons

  • Difference between the upper set of buttons and the lower set of buttons

  • Losing track on where they are in the color spectrum

  • Unable to efficiently navigate to the correct color

The colour spectrum the lamp was able to work with

The colour spectrum the lamp was able to work with

Technical limitations

Another factor that impacted the user experience during testing was related to the lamp itself. Due to the use of fluorescent tubes, there was a jump between 0% and 20% light intensity for each tube, after which the light could gradually increase to 100% light intensity. This jump caused product behavior that did not always match the user's expectation.

Ideation
The 3 different concepts were presented to participants for testing. 'Play' (version 1) concept in the middle

The 3 different concepts were presented to participants for testing. 'Play' (version 1) concept in the middle

Concepts

After the first round of ideation, 3 concepts were developed and evaluated with participants using a cognitive walkthrough.

The concept that passed user evaluation with the best results was the 'Play' (version 1) concept. It was designed to resemble a game controller and encourage playing with color and light. This concept was innovative due to its two physical discs that had a small overlap in the middle. The color in the overlapping area matched the color output of the lamp. This solution made it very easy for the user to determine what action needed to be taken to get the desired outcome.

During concept evaluation, there were also some improvement areas identified. Although the playful look was appreciated, the participants indicated it would be more convenient if the remote control could be used with one hand. The memory function was not clear, but also not seen as an important requirement due to the ease of selecting colors with the new design.

Final concept 'Play'

Final concept 'Play'

Final concept

After another iteration of testing and redesign, we delivered our final proposal to the client.

Key improvements:

  • The brightness button is integrated with the on/off switch. In functionality it compares to a dimmer switch used on regular lamps already known to most users

  • Physical overlapping discs provide clear information to the user on what color and saturation light to expect and how to navigate to the desired color

  • Effect of changing saturation clearly communicated

  • Color segments instead of gradual colored transition to inform the user the color transition is not smooth

These results were obtained while keeping technology simple and relatively cheap which was one of the project requirements.

Video of the interactive demo created using Flash and Actionscript to enable user testing

Results

Great idea!

Our client thought so too and applied for a patent, which was granted! I think it's amazing what you can achieve as a team, even when you're still students.

Color variations of the remote control

Color variations of the remote control

20
Participants
5
Concepts
3
Iterations
1
Patent