For - Havells   |     RolePhysical UX         Timeline - December 2021 to February 2022         StatusPrototype
Context - The AC market in India is set to see a 17% year on year increase in sales. The overall number of air-conditioner units in Southeast Asia could rise from 40 million units in 2017 to 300 million units in 2040 [iea.org].
So, the main point of interaction for an increasingly important appliance remains largely under designed and the design team at Havells saw this as good opportunity to add value to the AC experience by redesigning their remotes.

The Culprit : Current Havells AC remote

Market Research
The majority of existing AC Remotes use the same interface - backlit LCD screens and rubber membrane buttons.
There is also the problem of inconsistency between different remote interfaces, so even if you do manage to get used to one interface, a new remote may leave you confused again.
Interviews
We conducted unstructured interviews with 12 users. The interviews revolved around particular features they used, the frustrations they have had with the operation of the remote and what features they looked for while buying a new AC.
The majority of the users admitted to mostly using the Auto and Turbo modes on their AC coupled with the fan adjustment features. Other than these, a few users occasionally used the swing function and one used the timer mode regularly. Interestingly, the timer feature was being used in a way that the sleep function was meant to operate but the user wasn't aware of this. Most users were unaware of the My Mode, Blow or Silent functions. None of the users we spoke to were familiar with all the functions the remote had and
Analyzing the data
There was a sense the most users didn't need all the functions available on the current Havells AC remote. We decided to do a card sorting exercise to be able to organize the features in order of usage frequency. By the end of it we had a clearer picture of the most frequently used buttons and this informed the button layout on the device. The data also showed how many of the features were never used by the users, this was important to show to the stakeholders and convey the need for simplifying the UX of a routine device.
The most important buttons (power, temp up/down), need to be most identifiable, so they should be a different size, shape and color from the rest. The fan setting and the different modes are less frequently used and the timer setup / swing functions are the smallest and least visible on most remotes, these functions usually require more attention while using so the need not be so visible.
Designing the Interface
We had a brainstorming session, at the end of which, we had 4 concepts that all focused on different areas. In the first concept we used a vertical screen so that it mirrored the button layout, the thought behind it was to decrease the disconnect between the visuals on the display and the buttons. The second and third concepts were more like traditional and focused on creating a simple and user friendly interface with minimal changes to the internal components. In the final concept, we explored a remote design that did away with the screen entirely, and used LED's next to each button to convey their on/off state.
To test these concepts out on users, we used a hybrid approach, displaying an interactive prototype and a physical cardboard mock-up alongside it to test out various remote layouts. We evaluated the 4 concepts on the basis of viability, feasibility and usability. We decided to go forward with concept B and C for the ID phase.
Industrial Design
Based on the research we focused on designing a remote easy to use in low visibility and comfortable to hold and use. Key considerations were - Asymmetric form so that orientation of the remote is obvious, large primary buttons with recognizable shapes to make night time use easy.