An artist at heart, I was drawn to Electric Objects, a NYC-based startup creating a connected art display for your home. In the fall of 2016, I joined EO as their first dedicated product designer.
EO sells a display and a subscription service: Art Club serves subscribers artwork from emerging artists and museums in formats like stills, gifs, video— even generative web art. As we prepared for the upcoming holiday season in anticipation of our third generation display, we also iterated on our software for a completely reconsidered art experience.
Customers control their display through our Android app or web app, but 85% of them use iOS. Originally designed as a social network, customers were limited to uploading images and following other users. Over time, we introduced new features like Art Club and Playlists, a way to queue up artwork for your display.
Our app redesign team consisted of three team members: Luke led the way, directing the design process, Rob tackled iOS development, and I hammered through research, user experience design, interaction design, visual design, and prototyping. We worked in 5-day sprints, setting design goals on Mondays and presenting designs on Fridays. Our workflow relied upon sketching, prototyping, and user testing. We employed a range of tools like whiteboards, notebooks, Illustrator, Sketch, and Flinto. But the star of the show was Framer which let us easily experiment with realistic designs, share prototypes with the rest of the team, and test with our users.
Redesigning EO’s remote was an exercise in hierarchy. Everything defers to Home, a view responsible for containing Now Playing and Display Controls. Home acts as a launcher for three separate experiences: Browse, Upload, and Me.
A display on display
Brightness. Display Selector. Settings. All at your fingertips.
Browse, Channels, and Search. Oh my.
It's all about Me
Artwork detail page showing off favorite, display, and add to playlist actions.
Users can look at the art, but can't touch it.
Designing for successful pairing was easy; designing for unsuccessful pairing was a whole other beast. The display uses Bluetooth and WiFi to connect to your phone and router. During the connecting phase, things can go very wrong very quickly. Maybe you typed in the wrong SSID. Maybe your display is too far away from the router. Maybe the connection times out. Every case needed to be covered and lend a hand to the customer to walk them through the problem and the solution.
A troubleshooting mode to guide the user through errors in onboarding
Playing with established patterns can be taboo. There lies a tension between usability and creativity. Although it bucks conventions, user testing described our nav as “fun” and “delightful,” even “elegant,” with little learning effort required. Going back to the app’s hierarchy, our new navigation sets Home, at the absolute top. Instead of 4 equally weighted tabs, we designed one predominant platform for 3 secondary experiences. And, Home is always a swipe away.
Fun, but risky. Familiar, yet boring. Recognizable and, in the end, unfriendly.
Startups are hard. On June 27th, EO shut down. The app never made it into the hands of our customers, but I'm proud of the work we did and grateful for the opportunity. I'd like to thank the EO team for all of their support. Thanks Dylan and Chris for the video and hosting tips. And thank you Ariel, Mark, Allan, Hannah, Felix, Rob, Jake, and Luke for all the feedback.
Eli Rousso designs products in New York City. Available for fulltime, freelance, and firstname.lastname@example.org