Underwhelmed and Overwhelmed (I couldn't look at Underwelmed any longer) all Welcomed

Hi community,

I feel like this is close to being a really excellent product but I keep running into little nuisances that make it all feel subpar. I hope you might have a moment to maybe help me examine my expectations of a smart hub or provide guidance on how to improve my experiences on hubitat.

The big question is the name of this category, "Why Hubitat?"

However in particular if you are interested in my woes:

  • I am finding the drop-down and check-box methodology for all setting pretty much any configuration to be onerous. I guess it makes the platform homogeneous but it doesn't expedite areas that could have better and targeted interfaces for their workflows.
  • Dashboards in particular feel like they should be in beta. More then anything this is was the final bother before writing this post.
  • I'm not keen that the hubs UAC is being phased out, but it seems like there is some vision behind the idea? However just pulling the links while leaving the underlying functionality is feels pretty amateur (path: hub/addUser)
  • The documentation feels weak, being far too basic for the General or entirely lacking a point of entry for the Developer. It reminds me of the App screen where the link text takes you to the (see above drop-down) build-a-function and the gear has the valuable information but with no good ways to use it.

As you might guess, this is my first hub, and really my first dive into creating a smart home so I have no frame of reference for the market, although in my research Hubitat seemed to be the ideal for my preferred relationship to the cloud and my imagined level of customization. I do not consider myself to be amateur in either programing or systems administration either, which is why I don't think too off base in thinking that this tool could be a bit better.

I feel like this product could be really good but just isn't. What do y'all think though?

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Welcome to our community, and thanks for your fresh feedback!

There is a lot lurking in the shadows behind some of your observations, things that clearly are not immediately obvious. We are the first to admit that the administrative user interface is a bit challenging at first. The UI framework, from which the clunkiness arises, is largely an artifact of the history of Hubitat. We created a product to be largely (95% plus) compatible with SmartThings classic, circa 2017. This meant that apps and drivers code and functionality are mostly compatible between the two platforms, and many of our customers have come to Hubitat from SmartThings. The result of this approach dictated much of the UI framework. We could have done a new design from scratch, foregoing that compatibility, and probably taking much more effort, but we went down that path.

What do you mean by this?

We are constantly working on improving our documentation. It is primarily intended for the general user, not for the developer. Developers get bare pickings. We did not set out to create a development platform as such, but offer the ability for people to write apps and drivers if they so choose. The compatibility with SmartThings in this regard meant that many of the developers who have created user apps and drivers already knew how to do so, or were porting existing code into Hubitat,.

One thing you will discover is that this community will race to answer any question you might have, either about using the hub, or developing for it. If you can't find the answer in our documentation, ask here -- you won't be disappointed. We are always open to constructive criticism, feature requests, and other suggestions -- we do our best to be responsive to these. We generally make a new release of the platform software every few weeks. We are always scrambling to improve the product, and welcome any suggestions you make. Some things are easy to do, and get done quickly some things would represent major undertakings, and probably won't happen quickly even when we see the need (for example, a new UI framework).

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There are the built in Dashboards and there are Community created ones. You are able to pick and choose. SharpTools is a popular Cloud based Dashboard with a built in Integration as just one example.

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As you notate you prefer the cloud on some things. There are benefits to both. I was using a few different hubs and a few different products all cointegrated through alexa.

Wyze and sengled hub and alexa and iftt mostly. The move to hubitat had to so with 1. Losing internet which toasted all my automation until its return and 2. The speed of reaction to sensors. Walking halfway down a hall or down stairs or in a bathroom was extremely underwhelming and had me thinking I wasted my time on automation.

Hubitat fixed problem 1, now if internet goes out all my fully automated functions work without question. For 2 Where it took multiple seconds for lights and other functions that now is an issue of the past as well. I cannot Express how much I value that In words. The wife is actually happy now lol.

Also I reintegrated everything with alexa so I have everything not only locally but also at my voice and any cloud integration I like.

As I'm newer to the platform I'm still learning the ins and outside and yes its alittle sub optimal ui and friendliness wise from the get go. But home automation is just that for me. Automation. Get it right, back it up and be done till I think of something new I want to do or add. With hubitat nearly everything will work with the hub natively or someone has written for if already.

Let's not forget I post questions and I check back later that day and already have numerous responses with help. Cant ask for better than that. I'll take the ui and friendliness tradeoffs 100 times over. But everyone has their own ideas of what they like and expect. Feel free to try other platforms and see if they can meet your needs. For me it was not the case. Also for the dashboard it's free and built in. There are options out there that will integrate.

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This Community is a mix of experiences. But I do think it's 'drifting towards' Automated Smart Home (more than just a simple "smart" home.)

For me personally, if I reach into a pocket for a phone, or dream of putting a tablet on a wall.. I think I've failed at automating my smart home. :smiley:

It is my wish that my entire house takes care of my family and I. I have 100+ ZWave/Zigbee devices in my home and roughly half of them are sensors that determine when some Automation needs to occur.

In that scenario, the UI and Dashboard fade to nearly non-existant.

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bravenel,

Thanks for the response. I especially appreciate understanding the history between SmartThings driving the UI design! I hope I got these quote tags right... love to see some WYSIWYG here.

It looks like around March y'all may have started to phase this feature out (DOMAIN/t/hub-login-security-add-user-missing/12560) however if you are asking why I am unhappy to see a UAC system disappear consider the Principle of Lease Privilege and logging (worth noting here that I do have a LOT of appreciation of the amount of logging going on here.)

With all kindness I hope y'all will always put in lots of work and that it is never done =)

To me, this seems like a recipe for a wiki style community effort. Thoughts?

Also it is worth saying that the Drivers and APIs have been pretty excellent. Getting this going with my new zigbee network, Alexa and my brief look at Life360 were flat out smooth.

csteele,

=) We should probably talk more 1:1 if you have the time. I think we are aiming for the same things, except you are quite a bit further downstream. Regarding Dashboards though I have been finding them extremely useful to check the results of my new routines and when I pickout some sensors (suggestions valued) I feel that would be a good place to see them too.

However here I sat this evening trying to put a tile on my Dash to tell me the colour temperature of my bulbs to see if they adjusted for the night. After I struggled to get the terrible UI Framework to throw a title down, and move it off the default that covers old ones, I could never find a conf to show that data. Worse still the search outright froze the page or put the dash into other fail states requiring a reload. Lastly after tiring of entering my pin again and again I could not find a way to remove the pin conf to speed the dev cycles!

I am happy if others have made better dash products, however the built in one need to at least be rock solid even if feature poor to make my experience better.

I should probably quote you to generate a notification for ya.

Love to hear your thoughts about nonrepeating zigbee lights.

You've received some great responses above! Even better that the first came from Bruce (one of the Hubitat founders--staff are quite engaged with the Community, and they aren't kidding about how helpful people here are, so feel free to ask or search). I always find it interesting to hear what brand new users think, and I'm sure they do, too (like many, I came from primarily SmartThings and so was more or less already familiar with some of the quirks they inherited and the whole app/device/event model; I felt at home after a tiny bit of adjustment).

Here are some random things you mentioned that I didn't see specifically addressed if you are still interested:

This information really isn't valuable. :slight_smile: Staff or a community app/driver developer may ask for something here when troubleshooting, but pretty much all of this information is only useful to you if you wrote the app or know the platform well enough to make guesses about what some things might be. If anything, it's unfortunate that the icon screams something more like "settings" than "developer/debug information" (and that it's two easily accessible locations). Honestly, I'd just ignore this icon for now--and really forever except when you find a specific need (if you ever bork an app up so bad it won't open, this is one place you can go where the "Remove" button should always be there; otherwise it's more or less a read-only view of some app-internal data).

Bruce touched on this above. I assume you mean username/password login for the hub? This is in Settings > Hub Login Security. I'm not sure where you saw that it was going away; in fact, it's a relatively new feature (it wasn't there from the beginning; I actually requested this days after the product launched and I received one of the first hubs--as did many others along the line--and they eventually implemented it). It has changed a bit; I think you used to be able to add multiple users, and now you can add only one. If you happen to guess that the URL you used to add the first would work to add another even though this option is not exposed in the UI...then I guess that's on you if it breaks. :slight_smile: You can have multiple Portal logins, which are different (e.g., mobile app login) and where it definitely could make sense for everyone to have their own.

My suggestion: it sounds like you want to dive into developing custom apps or drivers. Since this is your first automation platform, I'd encourage you to play around with the stock apps and drivers first to both see what they can do for you (they're here because they're designed to cover most cases--apps are basically automation templates, something I found lacking on some other platforms where you pretty much had to create everything yourself, similar to how you can with Rule Machine here, but that is again not somewhere I would recommend starting) and experience how Hubitat's event-based model works. Some people interpret this as a knock on their skills (I make this recommendation a lot), which it is certainly not intended to be. It will just save you from needing to learn everything at once (e.g., you're not trying to learn what an "event" and an "event subscription" are at the same time you're figuring out the lifecycle of an app--which, unlike some conventional definitions of the word, on Hubitat aren't things that are constantly running).

As I've said before, whatever quirks there are, I'm used to them by now--I'm sure there are some and that your perspective as a brand new user can reveal these better than those of us who've been on it for a while. Personally, it's my preferred home automation platform, and I have used and tried a few besides SmartThings (mostly Vera and Home Assistant).

I once remarked on the ST forums that I wish someone made something with an ST-esque model but local. A year or so later, I heard about Hubitat's launch, so my wish was granted--and I'm happy because it's pretty much exactly what I asked for. :slight_smile:

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I, like oh so many, started this journey with bulbs. Why not, they are cheap, easy to install, available. They are like the 'gateway drug' to Home automation. :smiley:

I have two bulbs today. They are installed in table lamps.. you know the kind, with the little knob hidden up under the shade. Except for me, those knobs are in the trash. No one is ever going to turn those guys off. :slight_smile:

And that, in a nutshell is MY problem with bulbs. I don't like that guests can ruin a perfectly good automated home with a flick of a switch. Bulbs must be always-on, forever.

My two bulbs are RGBW bulbs because I want to use them like a siren.. they go purple when the Garage Door is open too long. Or long toggle RED when there's a water leak. Their 'white' is used for normal, color is for an announcement.

Zigbee is the more 'sensitive' of the protocols. Lutron is the least, via their Smart Bridge PRO... 433MHZ goes thru walls like a knife. Great range, no interference to speak of. 'bullet proof' for the most part. IF you have the $$ always choose Lutron.

Zwave at 908MHZ (here in the US) is 'half as good' as Lutron's Clear Connect. It has a good reach, walls are 'foggy' (vs opaque) so they can build their mesh a little bit easier for the casual user.

Zigbee, at 2.4GHZ is rather 'sensitive' to attenuation and interference. Walls are darn near opaque at that frequency and power. (Your Wifi is also 2.4GHZ + 5.2GHZ and where do we place our hubs... yep. right next to our Wifi gear. )

Zigbee bulb woes are stories galore. It's easy to find people that are discarding this or that brand (I'm looking at YOU Cree,) to improve the mesh. They have tiny buffers and are easily swamped. Got 200 Zigbee devices?? If this was Star Trek, those Zigbee bulbs would literally explode from the load. Thankfully here in the real world they only drop packets... no smoke. Kinda wish they came with a smoke canister so we could easily tell when they got overloaded.

I do not like the current range of products in the Zigbee line. I must use Wall Warts to build out my mesh. I have two In-Wall Zigbee Dimmer/switch to try and build out a mesh in the areas where Guests often roam.. a fail. That device is the absolute last in quality of signal in my Zigbee side of my home. . I guess the plasterboard and 2x4s cut the signal too much.

Enough? :slight_smile: (the last word in that famous NewsRoom video. :slight_smile: )

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Hi Robert,

Thank you for taking the time to write so much.

And this has to be the most... interesting... opener I've seen in a long time. Your assessments and values are you own, however I hope you don't mind if I pursue my own judgements regarding the quality of the responses my question received and the value of the individuals who make them?

In case you brought these things up because you felt I was disparaging or you otherwise needed to add gravitas of a title to Bruce's reply to my comments, please be assured I did not think it was bad (I tried to tell him so), and I do appreciate you circling around to try to touch on things he missed.

Regarding the uselessness of that gear... and in general what I believe your perspective is on how I should approach the hub... we are probably at odds.

I have been and y'all didn't do bad with 'em. However as I see it Google and Amazon will always have a better stock "experience." Lucky for us, I wanted that I wouldn't be here =).

There is certainly value in learning to walk before you can code, but from where I am standing I see blase stock apps with dropdown configurations and then a gulf of guessing my way through breadcrumbs and a million tiny forum questions to get to the level of customization I want to reach. I don't even an official document stating what languages you use... underwelming.

Likewise I think we differ about the UAC. Yeah, you figured out the one I've been referring too. I'm not really clear why your use cases for this product pulled back from allowing for multiple and different administrators. In my book, that doesn't make sense, and in my house I have at least two. I would rather restrict who can change what or at a minimum who might have changed what and when. Y'all don't. Plenty of Admins will all just run as root together all the time. Can't say I like that either but that's all there is to say about that, I guess.

Anyway enough walls of text from me. I do appreciate you looking at this through my perspective.

I started with the X-10 platform decades ago, in the eighties, but gave it up eventually due to AM radio interference. It had no user interface aside from physical buttons and such. My first foray into modern HA was with the Wink platform in the summer of 2014. Recently, I switched to Hubitat as the Wink platform is slowly fading away, along with so many others. I like Wink, but it is a flawed platform, as are all of them, and even if it were still robustly supported, I doubt you'd like that, either.

I think we're all yearning for the same thing, a good, solid, attractive solution which just works, and I agree that Hubitat Elevation is not that. But the good news is that I do believe that it is by far the best solution on the market, and it is being strongly supported, at least so far. I certainly agree that the formal documentation is, shall we say, lacking. But to make up for that is this very community, which is robust and friendly, full of lots of experienced users who have worked through nearly any problem you might encounter.

Regards, Jeff

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I'd be happy to loan you my smartthings hub for a time.
Welcome to Hubitat.

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100%

What about Hue? Zigbee protocol but seems just as reliable (maybe 5% less?) as Lutron Smart Bridge.

I'm not sure what there is to be at odds about here. I literally just objectively explained what is behind the gear icon. :slight_smile: It is indeed mostly just read-only data about the app state that is more or less only useful if you wrote the app or are working with whoever did (or are writing one yourself). Again, perhaps unfortunate that it's in such a visible area and that the icon doesn't really reflect its use.

I don't work here (or write any of them)--just sharing my perspective as a longtime user. I hope you don't take anything I say in the wrong way. Again, it seems rare that someone who is brand new not to just Hubitat but to home automation in general posts here and shares feedback so clearly, so I was just glad that staff were among the first to see (and respond)!

Honestly, I'd say that description of a UI is more or less due to the model inherited from ST (which has only a mobile app for this kind of configuration, and they had to make some sort of input model that was usable on both iOS and Android). But it's also part of the whole app/device security model: an app can only access devices you've specifically selected in the app. This explains why almost every app asks you to choose devices from a list, often as one of the first inputs you see. You'd be under the same limitation if you wrote an app yourself (another reason it would be good to try stock apps before trying to write one yourself--but also because they can already do a lot, and it might save you a lot of time; feel free to ask if you're trying to do a specific automation but don't know where to start).

The language is Groovy, by the way, but it runs in an environment/sandbox similar to that of ST. Some parts of the underlying language/libraries are unavailable, but the platform also provides a lot for you on top of what you write yourself. The ST Classic developer docs as suggested above aren't a bad place to start. There are a few threads here on the mostly minor differences (as well as similar questions about where to start with development). But again, my suggestion wouldn't be to start here on day 1.

We must, as I wouldn't even call it this. I'm still curious what the use/value is of multiple logins for this particular aspect. The Portal login--where you can have as many accounts as needed--is separate, as the hub login is just for administration (so likely just you or a trusted household member). I guess things brings up another point: the web UI for the hub really is just intended for administration. Some of it isn't pretty (e..g, device pages). For "regular" users in your house, a Dashboard (either the native option or a third party option) would probably be better for day-to-day device control and monitoring--and while you can get to a Dashboard in multiple ways, the mobile app via any associated Portal login (no hub admin UI login needed) is one way.

Also, there are some threads here with cool things people have done with dashboards if you don't like the way they look by default. I agree that they editor, at least, is a bit clunky, but it works once you get used to it. SharpTools was mentioned above and may look sharper (no pun intended) with less effort, though it is cloud-based only.

Honestly, this is probably true. I attribute it to the classic "ease of use vs. power" tradeoff common in the application/UI world. Automation possibilities in Alexa work for many people but are severely limited in their power--basically, "do X when Y happens." Hubitat can do pretty much anything you want with any (supported) device. I don't doubt that Hubitat could benefit from the touch of a user-experience professional, but staff have stated in the past (not in response to this particular question but in response to many others about this kind of thing) that their priority at this point is to make a stable platform first (and presumably also one with enough power that we find it useful). The only bad news is that if you stay around long enough, you're likely to forget what you once thought was quirky. I sure have. :slight_smile: (Again, part of why I hope they find your feedback now useful--as they seem to.)

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Home automation is a young field, and the available solutions on the market don't always map to the expectations/budgets of potential customers. When my friends ask about it, I give them a rundown of the "tiers" I've seen and interacted with:

Entry-level consumer tier: Using an Alexa or Google Home as the hub, or just having devices from one manufacturer (such as Hue) and using their app. Low cost. Generally easy setup and the promise of "it just works". (Though the reality usually ends up less reliable than that.). You hit the limits very quickly. "Can it do this too?" No... no, it probably can't.

Mid-level consumer tier: The other hubs. ST and Wink, etc. A little more expensive. Generally easy to use. More control and power. Ability to actually automate. Each has its own combo of disadvantages, whether it's unreliability of their cloud, lack of device support, or the company ceasing to exist and disabling your house when it's no longer profitable.

High-level consumer tier: A relative has a Control4 system in his house. He's probably spent in the upper 5 figures for it. Possibly into the 6 figures. Mostly it gives him fancy button panels on all the walls. Surprisingly, he has very little automation going on. (though I'm sure it's possible.) It opens and closes the curtains daily, and when he goes in his home theater, it turns on 5 different devices at once, but that's about the extent of it. Any time he wants to change something, he schedules a contractor to come program it, and then pays an invoice.

Sysadmin and hacker tier: The open source frameworks people spin up on Raspberry Pis and home servers. Extremely customizable. Learning curve is steep. I tried them out, and decided I didn't want to be a sysadmin off the clock. It wasn't for me, though from the number of contributions, some folks certainly enjoy it.

From my viewpoint, I see Hubitat fitting into the mid-level consumer tier, but without the disadvantages of cloud reliance, and with the ability to add in some of the hacker tier customizability if you're willing to put in the sweat equity. That's a great fit for me personally. I understand it's not for everyone.

But this is a space where desires and available solutions don't always line up. It's like my old beat up convertible. I would love to turn it into a shiny hot rod, but there are only two ways to get there. Do all the work myself, or pay someone an amount far in excess of its value to do it for me. Neither one is in the cards, so the car remains rusty and slow. (But I have a hot rod smart home! Take that, Randy.)

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We're all fan bois of Hubitat - it's what we use - but I for one agree with everything you've said. LOTs of room for improvement. There's certainly a lot of clunkiness to Hubitat (and especially the dashboards) that's I've found aggravating and frankly disappointing. But in fairness, I kinda loath the day that it becomes smooth, intuitive and easy to use. First, that'd mean it was bought out by a big company with a big marketing team. But aside from that, just look at the new SmartThings. It's amazingly easy, but almost entirely useless. Meanwhile, Google, Amazon and Apple have joined forces to create a new smart device protocol that will combine all of the worst and none of the best of Zigbee and ZWave, presumably in the hopes of killing "true" automation in favor of voice control and buttons. My point, when it's easy to use, it will be locked down.

Any rate, Hubitat developers are the most responsive I've ever seen for any company, bar none. If you have specific suggestions, they WILL read it if it's brought to their attention. They've ignored most of my suggestions (presumably because they sucked), but I've also seen requests be included in an update literally the next day.

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Wow! I got some top notch replies overnight! I want to reply to everyone of them individualy but I am getting very short on time of late.

In general thank you for your thoughts. I especially appreciate your experiences on different platforms and your journies in HA. I especially like the agreements with my pain points (of course) but even the digressions are appreciated too.

Many thanks all. I'll definately be circling back to this tread in the future for ideas.

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It is a wiki, and we do allow people to help with it. One has to request to work on it...

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I think this is very important. HE is currently not "new to smart home" friendly. I'm an Engineer/Product Manager, and even then I would have not been successful with HE unless I had first gone through something more user friendly first to really understand smart-home and what those systems really lack. In particular I came off of Wink2 as my first.

To me, HE is incredibly powerful and strikes a good balance between not being overly advanced (you don't have to code to get things done, but you do have to wrap your brain around how things work) and not too simplified that prevents 'true automation' and flexibility.

It's strength to me is "local" and this community.
It's weakness is documentation, and not user friendly.

My hope is over time HE hires someone (like me!) to take a UX/Customer central approach to this amazing platform to really be great for first-time Smart Home users, as it has that potential.

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