Product Strategy

What We Learned From The Wink Hub

The Wink Hub looked promising. What worked, and what didn’t.

Lindsay Boeckl

October 6, 2015

A couple weeks ago the CEO of Quirky, the company that develops the Wink Hub, announced that they had entered bankruptcy and were looking to sell the company. A few weeks before this announcement we had done some field research into the Wink Hub user experience.

The Wink Hub is a software platform that connects a variety of devices to a single hub. This enables each of these devices (e.g., thermostats, light bulbs, door locks, etc.) to speak to one another. If you use the Wink Hub, you can control all of your devices from one place: the Wink app. The Wink Hub supports more than 50 connected home products. The hub itself is available at an affordable price of $50.

In order to learn about the experience of using the Wink Hub we recruited a non-technical participant who was not a frequent user of connected device products. We then shadowed her through the following activities to learn about the Wink Hub product experience.

  1. First we trailed behind her at Home Depot as she looked for the product, asked the salesperson questions, and purchased the product.
  2. We then went to her home to observe and evaluate the unpackaging and setup experience.
  3. We then left the product with her for a week to use the hub in her day-to-day life. We met again after a week for a follow-up interview to see how her experience was.

Our goal for this exercise was to analyze the experience of a non-technical user from the very beginning of the buying process until the end, when they actually use the product regularly (or don’t). The Wink Hub is still a relatively new product, so we also wanted to see what kind of experience it offered to get people hooked or adapt to this new concept of the connected home.

1. Buying the Wink Hub

Our participant felt uncertain about what they were supposed to be looking for at Home Depot, and what the functionality of the Wink Hub was. This information gap is a common problem with connected devices since they are a relatively new product category. The Wink Hub in particular can be complicated since it’s purpose is to stitch together other connected devices.

The Wink Hub Point of Sale in Home Depot

When we entered Home Depot (who are in strategic partnership with Wink), we immediately noticed a bright blue display presenting all of Wink’s products. It also featured other connected home products that work with Wink’s products. Everything was in one spot.

Our participant knew she was looking for the Wink Hub, but wasn’t sure which light bulb would best suit her home. She asked a sales associate who didn’t know much about Wink Hub and told her we could use any bulbs from the Wink Hub section (which we’d just come from). The sales associate then directed us to the Wink website (which might frustrate consumers, who would have considered this without the sales associate’s prompt).

Wink faces a particularly difficult challenge, since they’re not only introducing a new brand but also a new technology. People will have questions. Some consumers might be on the fence. Discouragement or frustration will tip them in the wrong direction.

Knowledgeable sales associates will be one of the first touch points for the brand. It can make the difference between a confident customer and a frustrated consumer. Informed sales associates would improve and distribute vital product knowledge and pre-emptive support to customers. The connected home seems to be hovering around the early adopters or early majority phase of adoption.

2. Setting up the Wink Hub

After the trip to Home Depot, we went to the participant’s house to set up the Wink Hub and GE Link Bulb. We also provided her with a lamp for her living room (in case she wanted to return to her normal bulb and lamp during the week of testing).

The first thing we observed is that it took a long time to download the Wink app. The participant was using a Samsung Galaxy S4. She first went to the Galaxy App Store, only to learn that the app wasn’t available there. She tried looking for the app on the website, but the only link to the app was on the “About Wink” page.

She progressed through the early stages of signing up for the app relatively quickly. However, she hit a speed bump — when she was connecting the Wink Hub with Wi-Fi, she didn’t know her Wi-Fi password. We had to stop the user testing process and reschedule for when she found out the password.

Admittedly, it’s a safe bet that the current target audience for a product like the Wink Hub would know their Wi-Fi password.

The Wink app design is simple and clean. However, they could design the experience to be simpler. For example, the first instruction process (what’s called a “coach mark”) was confusing. The screen in the instructions was different from the actual screen that came up (the “Add Products” button appeared). She pressed the back button on her phone for a second glance of the instructions. Before she could do that, she had to connect to the Wi-Fi once more, which again took a long time to connect.

The app then guided her through the action of dimming the lights. This was the first moment of actually being able to interact with the intended functionality of the product, and it came after quite a bit of time had been spent in the setup process. Once the Wink Hub and app were working we left her with the Wink Hub over the following week.

3. Follow Up

When we returned to debrief a week later, she said she felt the Wink Hub’s setup process was a huge barrier to adopting the product. Under normal circumstances she mentioned that she would’ve called Wink for help or just given up and returned the Wink Hub.

Despite these initial challenges, she did find the concept of the connected home intriguing. She looked at the other products that could be connected with her Wink Hub, and was particularly impressed by the thermostats. She felt that it would’ve been more interesting to have more devices connect to the hub. However, she didn’t feel the need to take out her phone to turn on and off the light, so she didn’t end up using it much. She also didn’t like the two second lag between controlling the lights within the app and the lights turning on.

Connected devices make the little things in our lives easier to bring great impact. However, in order to make this happen product designers often turn to interacting with a screen as a solution. This is not always the best solution.

Turning on a light with a switch is much easier than pulling a device out of her pocket, unlocking the screen, pulling up the app, and tapping the screen. In this situation, the Wink Hub didn’t offer too much value to her for using their device. However, the Wink Hub does have a feature, which she missed out on, that could have changed that.

Wink Hub’s Robot feature allows users to set a certain proximity or time to automatically activate different devices that are connected to the Wink Hub. Connected devices should minimize the steps the user takes to get something done, and Wink Hub’s Robot feature does exactly that.

Overall, the participant found the technology fascinating, but didn’t think she needed it in her life right now. She did love that it could connect a lot of devices together, but said the setup process and the other functions could be more clear.

4. The Lessons…

We understand that one week of living with a new type of connected product is not really enough to truly get a feel for how it fits into your life. We also know that this sample size of one participant is definitely not large enough to be valid as a serious piece of user research. That being said, there two key lessons we learned from the Wink Hub that can be applied to connected devices at large:

  1. Focus on the User Experience of unboxing, setup, and first time use
    One of the most broken aspects of connected devices is the setup experience. If the setup experience is simple and fast then people will be more likely to enjoy the experience of using it because they leave the process with confidence in both the device itself and their ability to get the most out of it. This will give you a big advantage over just about every other product on the market. The Wink Hub setup was inundated with complicated user flows for configuring the devices and provisioning them with Wi-Fi credentials. Setup is the first time that someone will interact with your product. If it doesn’t go well then your product has already lost their trust before even getting to the features for which they bought the device to begin with.
  2. Have a clear value proposition that sales associates and customers quickly grasp
    Explaining the functionality and value of a connected device is paramount because most people don’t yet have a clear understanding of the product space. Both the participant and the sales associates understanding of the Wink Hub were vague at best, and this was a major roadblock in the buying experience. Sales associates don’t have to know every single thing, but they should know the most common challenges. If sales associates stumble across a particularly unique challenge, they should know how to find answers and present them to confused customers.

Connected devices can be complex. That’s why working with specialists can make the difference between success and failure. If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive on this blog post or have any questions, shoot us a quick email here.

Connected is a Toronto-based software team that builds next-generation solutions for global brands and rapid-growth startups. Our clients rely on our world-class team, as well as our proprietary process, the ‘Connected Method’, to launch software on web, mobile, and new hardware products such as Wearables, Smart TV’s and other connected devices. The Connected team consists of over 40 engineers, designers, and product strategists with past employment experience at companies such as Apple, Facebook, Pivotal Labs, Tesla and Amazon.

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