A quarter of all pensioners in the UK are now living in fuel poverty which leads to many having to make the decision between heating and eating. With energy prices unlikely to come down, it is vital that a solution to this problem is found. One way to cut fuel bills with immediate effect is for the elderly to be provided with a home energy monitor so they can better understand their energy usage and make changes accordingly.
The aim of this project was to take an existing energy monitor and redesign it for elderly users.. This meant redesigning not only the energy monitor unit itself but also the packaging (including the graphics), the interface, the electricity detector, the transmitter unit and the instruction manual.
Unit And Interface Redesign
The biggest change from the existing design came in the form of a colour wheel that was added around the main navigation controls.
The colour changes depending on how much energy is being used. Light blue signifying very low energy usage, green to represent average use, yellow for above average and dark red to signify very high energy usage. This means the user can get a sense of how much energy they are using without having to read the numbers on the screen. Instead they can simply observe the colour of the wheel and get feedback at a glance from across the room.
The interface was completely redesigned using guidelines from the Royal National Institute of Blind People. The text is now 14pt Helvetica in black on white background. Highlighted sections are black on a yellow background an arrows on screen indicate what buttons can be pressed.
Packaging and Component Redesign
The product’s graphics were redesigned with all of the visual clutter removed for a cleaner look. The box containing the components now slides out of a cover replacing the latch system that was used previously. Inside the box, finger recesses were added to the sides of each component to make them easier to remove. The recess containing the batteries is now underneath the display unit to minimise the box’s overall size.
The electricity sensor (shown bottom centre) now uses a flick motion to open. This means users only have to rely on using push forces to attach the clip. The battery compartment on the transmitter (top left) has been changed to a more standard design with a ribbon included to make removing batteries easier. On the bottom of the transmitter, a chamfered edge was added to the sensor cable port to aid alignment. On the unit itself, the size of the screen has been increased to help readability. TV remote style buttons were also added to allow for a more familiar interaction.
The instructions were redesigned with larger, more readable text and new diagrams were created to better illustrate the setup process.