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User Experience

Home switchboard redesign

Before a sign may acquire meaning and therefore become a symbol there must exist something for this sign to symbolize.


It's 8PM and I return home from yet another long day at work. I open the door and reach out to the switch board of the living room to light up the room.

Impatiently, I sweep my hand over all the controls, to switch on the lights and fan of my living room. And then carefully switch off the extra lighting in my balcony and staircase. Quite annoying every time I do it!! :( Being frustrated for a long time, I decided to find out the problem and solve it.


To start, this is the top view layout of the house and total number of 6 Lights and 2 Fans controlled by the single Switch Board

I have been trying to remember to reach out to the right controls but always fail and eventually have to test every switch to get to the right one.

Am I too incompetent to remember it or is there a flaw in the design!!?

It would be stupid to blame myself as I found there is a clear indication of poor design.

Here is the list of all design flaws I found,

1. Extra set of controls and switches:
a. Switches marked by red letter X  are extra non functional switches.

b. Two controls for fan: One to switch the fan ON/OFF and the other to control the SPEED.

This arrangement is conventionally used but I personally dislike the idea of using 2 different spatial controls.

2. Poor Mapping of the controls
Mapping is an important design concept which comes from natural arrangements for the relations between controls and their subsequent result.

In this example, when I try to switch ON the fan on the right, I have a spatial mapping of the fan in my head to be right but contrarily the control of it is in left bottom. A clear dissonance of arrangement which increases cognitive load.

Mapping simplifies usage when it uses spatial correspondence between the layout of the controls and devices being controlled.

3. Wrong arrangement of lights:
Originally the electric mapping illuminates the hall horizontally. Spatially, the hall is divided into two halves along the length but lights are arranged horizontally. Not clear thinking by the both the architect and the electrician.


To start, this is the top view layout of the house and total number of 6 Lights and 2 Fans controlled by the single Switch Board

1. On the right is a quick activity to correct the mapping using illustrations and markings. The added visuals provides signifiers to better map the right controls

2. Next, I improved the design by creating a mockup on computer .Below is the render of a simplified switch board. The round buttons control the fans while the toggle button up/down controls the lights.

Here's how the new design works-
-Because the hall is spatially divided horizontally, each pair of Fan and light controls, effect the respective horizontal areas
-I shifted light controls for both the balcony and the outside patio to extreme top and right to correctly map their actual positions.

The electrician on request removed the extra switches and corrected the mapping of the existing. Much relief. But, I deicide to go another step and created this high fidelity switch board as the presentation.

Since, it's a rented facility and my landlord didn't really care about design, he rejected the minimalistic idea of the board below. But i loved making this a case study.
Hope you guys enjoyed it :)

© Sharang Sharma 2018

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