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My Favorite Control System GUIs

My personal top-three control system interfaces.

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You know I’m in this business too deep when during a massage I start thinking about GUIs. But, like a good masseuse who knows all of the sweet spots to hit, a good user interface hits all the right notes and makes using it a pleasure. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch I’ll admit, but I had to do it since I came up with the blog idea while on the massage table.

Every day I’m communicating with customers about everything tech in their home. I am always looking for opportunities to upsell where appropriate and where it will benefit the homeowner. From converting existing customers to Crestron Home, to working with new customers and understanding what they like about other systems they have seen and other professionals they have worked with. I always ask customers what they like about other parties that have been in their homes — from dealers to control systems to mobile devices. I want to get a feel for what they like and where their head is at.

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I do everything I can to bring it to life for them. I bring my iPad Pro and iPhone 11 Pro and I connect to a demo system in my workshop so they can see what Crestron Home looks like and how it performs. I also show them demo modes from other control systems when available. I’ll be honest, sometimes it costs me a sale — I’ve had potential clients that love Savant so much that I know the right thing for them is Savant and anything else will be a disappointment. With their best interests in mind, I then refer them to a Savant dealer. I want the client to be happy and get the system they want and prefer.

If you try to force something, then they are likely to be disappointed. I use this feedback to bring back to Crestron about what clients like. I’m sure all of you hear what clients think about the GUIs. The interface is what they interact with day in and day out and is the “brand image” for their entire home technology experience. Here is the feedback I have seen from clients on the top players in the market, in rank order for customer acceptance and excitement.

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There are some “costs of entry” that all of the control systems have today. End users can customize lighting scenes, name “favorite” devices and scenes to more easily access them, and easily navigate through the system. Like it or not Apple sets the standard for design for what GUIs look like. Don’t forget that Apple changed from being more 3D to a flat design and everyone quickly followed.



#1 – Savant.  Simply said, it is gorgeous and easy to use. Every client who sees it will hold it to all other GUIs as a standard. From a technical standpoint, it is fast and responsive. I have to admit that five or six years ago, before we went with Crestron, I seriously considered being a Savant dealer. And even since going with Crestron, Savant was interface I always aspired to be like when I would develop custom GUIs for customers.    Being so Apple-centric, Savant was the first of the major players to adopt the 2D, flat effect.

#2 – Crestron Home. I am not talking about Crestron traditional here. You can’t really compare traditional Creston to the others since it is custom every time. We are talking about out of the box GUIs today. Home has the fastest response I’ve seen from any of the major players; from app loading (both on-site and remote) to responsiveness of button presses. What I really like is that the app gets right to the point. It is such a difference from PYNG and the basic interface that was Crestron’s first attempt at a standard GUI. Home is much more sophisticated and has been a boon to my business. Clients are converting more easily and quickly from prospect to sale and they are purchasing more products since they love it so much. It is what they have always been asking me for.

The CP4R that powers Home uses a powerful processor, is Cloud based, and uses HTML5, making it one of the more advanced OS’s out there, in my opinion.  While it is still in its early development, the early returns have been fantastic and it will only get better. While not every Crestron interface works the same way, every Crestron Home interface will.  So as time goes on, it will become more standardized.

#3 – Control4 OS3. While I don’t find it as clean and sophisticated as Home and Savant, it is very functional for the home owner and is easy to program and configure for the dealer. With the ability to favorite devices, scenes, and other buttons to the home screen for each room, it is highly end-user customizable and meets a need Control4 dealers and customers have been clamoring for. My biggest gripe is that, in the devices themselves, not every button has a purpose and doesn’t necessarily do something. As I understand it, some device drivers use a standard device proxy (often DVD or similar), so buttons are there that do not do anything. For example, the Roku driver has record, skip forward and back, eject, red, green, yellow, and blue. I find that to be cluttered and confusing for a home owner. The device controls should reflect the device being controlled. On the other hand, as an interface overall, clients love that everything is the same no matter where they are — they go to a friend’s home and automatically know how to use the remote and touchpanels.

All of the control companies and evolving their GUIs, and user interface design is finally making a big splash in our industry. We all cared about it down in the trenches, and that is why I love traditional Crestron so much — the ability to make a gorgeous and intuitive interface. But now senior management sees it at the 30,000-foot level and is making it easier and easier for those of us on the ground to deploy beautiful, functional, repeatable, and profitable interfaces over and over again.

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