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Things Designers Want to Know, but are Afraid to Ask (Part One)

Dan McGowan | Jun 05, 2020
If you’re a designer, architect, or builder, you’re confident and skilled with your craft. Sometimes, however, customers might bring up something — especially about home technology integration — that’s just beyond your scope. THAT’S OKAY.

To shine a light on some of those questions and topics, we’ve tapped into the expertise of two first-rate CEDIA integrators for a series we’re calling Things Designers Want to Know, but Are Afraid to Ask.

Their answers have been adapted from appearances at a major design-build gathering that also featured Dean Keyworth, founder of Armstrong Keyworth, a company providing services ranging from informal design consultancy to full project coordination including building work, planning, lighting, decoration and furnishing and Susie Rumbold, managing director of Tessuto Interiors, a multi-disciplinary interior design practice with international, private, and commercial clients.

How can customers be trained to use technology once it’s installed?

James Ratcliffe is managing director of UK-based Homeplay, a home technology integration business focusing on home cinema and media rooms, lighting, audio, and wi-fi connectivity. He said:
Home technology should be intuitive. (2018 CEDIA Award Winner, Best Integrated Home, Level 1, Asia Pacific Region 2018 Award Winner, Award, Electronic Living in Australia.)
“The main thing is for us to design a system that doesn’t require any training. It should be intuitive enough for people to walk up to it and figure it out. For example, you want to put the lights on the bright setting, you push the keypad button that says ‘bright’ and the lights change accordingly.

But this doesn't always happen. Over the years, we've had clients say, ‘I had X system in our old house, and we hated it — we couldn't use it. I don't want it again. I just want something simple.’ The reality is, simplicity requires some complexity, but in the background. If you've got a beautiful lighting design with thousands of circuits in a room, trying to control that with a bunch of rotary dimmers is pretty much impossible. Instead, we should do the complex part that allows you to have a simple pre-set keypad with an engraved button that everyone can understand.”

Pip Evans is director of UK-based NV Integration, a bespoke designer and installer of home automation and cinema systems for customers in the luxury residential category. He said:

“We like things to be beautiful and quite often, what is beautiful is very minimal. But that doesn't always lend itself to be the most user intuitive. I’ve got two remotes in mind — one is a very design-led remote with a touchscreen and it's very ergonomic and sleek and the other is a lot uglier, but it's more functional. We show our customers both options, but we tend to steer them towards the one that has the physical hard buttons because you don't have to navigate a touchscreen to pick your sky channel, but it’s the client’s choice.

People who have grown up in the iPhone generation are very familiar with using a touchscreen, whereas a client who is in their later years, will be much more familiar with physical hard buttons that can be engraved. Lots of our clients have their second houses in London. So, English isn't their first language. We've installed lighting control keypads on the wall that have been engraved with text in Russian and Italian, for example. This is very important. It's not our house, it's our customer's house, so we need to make it for them.”

Our next entry in the series will cover budget and space considerations.

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