Are you a Vera user? If so, you’ll probably have heard complaint after complaint about Vera UI7 and how many users are not planning on upgrading despite it being released over a year ago. If you’re not a Vera user… stick around anyway!
A quick little background note, I have installed and configured a couple of Vera’s through work for clients who wanted to do alarm integration with it, so I have used both Vera UI5 and Vera UI7, but I’m not going to compare the two (not today anyway). Being a self proclaimed Android developer, I wanted to concentrate on what I see as wrong in specifically the app (though most of my suggestions probably apply to the web interface, and the Apple app as well).
I see this time and time again on the forums. Everyone complains about the wasted space (both in the Web and Mobile UI). And I agree 100%! This is my BIGGEST pet peeve with the app, and I think it’s because it would be so simple to fix. Take a look at the screenshot below.
Everything highlighted in red is what I would consider a complete waste of space, whether its from excessive padding/spacing, or the laziness of using a linear layout where a relative layout would look much cleaner.
Using Too Much Space Per Device
Again we’re talking about wasted space that affects the overall layout of the app. I should note that I’m rocking a Huawei Nexus 6P to take these screenshots. For those of you that don’t know… the Nexus 6P boasts 2k resolution (1440 pixels by 2560 pixels) on a 5.7″ screen… so there’s a huge amount of screen real estate to be used here.
Despite the resolution and screen size I have, I can only fit 2 devices on the screen at the same time. Really? 2 devices? It may not seem too bad when you only have a handful of devices, but I have just over 30 devices on my controller. It doesn’t really matter if I sort by room or type, I still spent minutes scrolling to find the devices I’m looking for.
Displaying Useless Information/Controls
The Android SDK provides so many options to make things easier when designing a UI. Specifically I want to discuss the option to press and hold (or double click if you prefer that instead). Utilizing this in the Vera UI7 you could certainly clean up un-needed info and controls, specifically the “Relay” icon, battery stats, and the “Favorite” button. Instead, press and hold the device, it could then show you more relevant info (eg. that it’s a relay or battery life) in a separate pop up window and give you an option to set as a favorite in there.
It doesn’t seem like a huge amount of space, but because of the linear layout, you could easily get rid of a whole horizontal row and compact it that much more.
Why A Dedicated Row For Dimmer Percentage?
I don’t even know why I have to ask this… but an entire row used just to display the dimmer percentage? Really? Just put it BESIDE or ON TOP of the slider itself! Enough Said!
Missing Features In The Vera UI7 App
I shouldn’t even have to bring this up. This should be like app design 101. But why would you give features available in the Web UI that aren’t available in the app itself? And I’m not talking about third party apps here…
Specifically my thermostat is what bothers me the most. There are two features in the Web UI for thermostats that are missing from the Vera UI7 app. The first is the ability to do decimal setpoints. I can increase or decrease the set point in the Web UI by 0.5 degrees in either direction. I can also do it directly on the thermostat itself. But not in the app, it only changes in whole numbers. The other missing option is the fan control, want to force the fan on from the app? Forget it, it’s not happening. Yet this feature is in the Web UI. Again utilizing a press and hold (or double tap) feature (see above), or even cutting the width of the existing buttons in half it would be extremely simple to add additional features.
Don’t get me wrong… the Vera is an amazingly capable controller especially at the price point, but the Vera UI7 app definitely needs a little refining around the edges. Take a look below for a comparison of the space that could be saved with only a few suggestions that I have provided (almost half the the number of pixels required to display and control the exact same devices). I want to specifically note that I did NOT resize ANY UI controls, I only removed the dead space and unnecessary padding everywhere. With a little more work, and some resizing of the UI elements, it would have been extremely easy to cut the width of a lot of the devices needed in half as well and even display 2 devices per row. If Vera is smart, they will really spend a little more time with the UI on their apps to make a much more pleasant user experience.