Every digital thermostat panel I've come across - just HORRENDOUS!

  • There's a temperature display. Fine.
  • There's an up and down arrow. First thought, it's to change the temperature. Good.
  • There's the hold button. This is where it starts to get ugly.

So I want to change the temperature. Most thermostats will change the display to the temperature as I press the up and down arrows. They then have me hold the hold button for a while to lock in the new temperature. As a user, I find it frustrating that:

  1. I didn't know if I held it long enough because most of them won't give me an audible or visible feedback to tell me that the system is working on getting to the temperature I've set.
  2. The temperature on the display will change back almost immediately to the current temperature in the room, which makes me even more uncertain if my setting was actually accepted.
  3. I have to click the up or down arrow to find out whether the current temperature is at the desired temperature. Those two buttons are for setting, not for checking.

What would you recommend for such a thermostat UI design so that most users will immediately know what to do and how to tell whether the unit is working to get the room to be at a particular temperature?


4 Answers 4


I'm surprised that nobody talks about Nest! Nest has an amazing UI, very easy to use. If you want to see that you can go to the Nest website. I don't have one since I don't really need it where I live but I think that it's one of the best thermostats out there.

  • That has got to be the best thermostat UI EVER. I don't even need to read any doc and I already know how to change the temperature - just by looking at it and seeing the hand turn the knob. It also gives you the feedback of what it's doing at the moment. Feb 21, 2014 at 18:07
  • Yes, exactly what the user needs ! Feb 23, 2014 at 7:04

As I never live in America where the thermostat is digital, I need to ask first, what's the use of "hold" here if you were to press it only a short time?

As for the answer, I think the only sensible situation is to change the word "hold" into "apply" and remove the long press requirement. if you really need to use long press (as to avoid users which accidentally pressed the button), then give audio feedback. one short beep for every button push (up, down, or hold), and double short beep when the hold button has been pushed long enough to run the "save"/"apply" function.

  • Some of them require that you hold the hold button for at least 3 seconds so that it will start to apply your new temperature. I agree with the beeping for setting and double beeping for "save changes". Feb 21, 2014 at 4:05
  • 1
    @MickaelCaruso: Having to hold for three seconds to start the new temperature seems odd, but it's common to require hold for three seconds to permanently override scheduled temperature changes.
    – supercat
    Apr 10, 2020 at 17:44

Those UIs are obviously designed by engineers, not by design experts. If the user is hitting up and down, 99% of the time it's because they want to make the room warmer or cooler. It should create a temporary hold as soon as they press the arrows, without asking them to confirm it or whatever. If they don't like it, the main menu can still show options like "cancel hold" and "make current hold permanent"

  • no need to confirm/cancel the hold in the first place, just let the user return to the old temp by setting it manually Feb 24, 2014 at 14:59
  • 1
    @ratchetfreak: Many thermostats are designed to automatically change temperature on a certain schedule. Typically, if one sets the temperature without using "hold", changes will remain effective until the next scheduled change. Pushing hold will cause the changes to remain in effect until canceled. Note that setting the temperature back to the old value is different from canceling a hold, since it would simply cause the unit to stay at the "old" temperature indefinitely, rather than resuming scheduled operation.
    – supercat
    Apr 10, 2020 at 17:43

I think your experience with digital thermostats is just limited then. There are others that are easier to operate. I personally have one of these:

Honeywell Chronoterm Touch

I find it relatively easy to operate, though it could be improved especially in the programming department. It does have one very good feature that is useful for programming: you can take it off the wall and bring it with you to the couch or table. That makes programming easier.

Changing the temperature will tell you until what time the new temperature will be set (by default: until a new temperature is in the program), and allows you override that time using up and down buttons next to the time. I find that quite easy to use.

More modern thermostats (or really: home control units) that are now becoming popular look like this: Eneco Toon control unit

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