One of the most eagerly-awaited for tech innovations is perhaps the Internet of Things, or the more popularly known IoT. For the starters, IoT is the platform that enables everyday objects to connect with one another to complete tasks and make our lives easier! The Internet of Things allows physical devices to interact with one another, understand environmental and framework changes, and augment the computing power of the connected devices.
While the technology itself is necessary, the role, influence, and power of the design in the entire IoT story cannot be undermined. Design becomes particularly crucial in IoT because the latter indicates ‘user experience’, and what could focus better on it (user experience) than design?
In consumer terms, regular IoT classifications include:
- Connected home technology such as indoor regulators, lighting, and energy monitoring: With IoT entering our lives, it will now become possible to connect nearly every device/ gadget that we have at home, which includes the air conditioning system, kitchen appliances, and so on. Data from these devices will be captured and shared with you over your phone or computer and vice-versa.
- Wearable gadgets, such as smartwatches: Wearable devices are ‘in’ at the moment and with IoT connecting our worlds, these are all set to take our lives by storm. More than a style statement, these will add to your ease.
- Medical gadgets, such as blood pressure monitoring devices: Home health monitoring devices are a boon to families that have members struggling with chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and others. These gadgets aid patients and their attendants to easily monitor the health conditions and promptly share the medical records with their healthcare professionals – all from the comfort of their homes and in real time.
- Connected cars that connect the dashboard with cell phone applications: Imagine other cars ‘talking’ to your car and suggesting alternate routes, so you give the slip to the traffic chaos ahead of you! Consider the comfort you will enjoy when your rental car will ‘already know’ of your preferred route, your schedule, and other such stuff that you can in no way teach a vehicle. This is a connected car for you!
Designing for IoT includes a whole plethora of choices; however, User Experience Design (UX) is the foremost on the list. Your success can be influenced by getting the user experience right.
UX design in IoT: An understanding
IoT or not, designs that are simple reach the finish line first. Period. Who wouldn’t like to visit a site with an easy navigational structure? Or, read through a product description with an un-cluttered interface? The key to enhanced customer satisfaction (and loyalty) is to offer an ease to your customer while he/she is browsing through your product and establishing a connection with you (your brand).
In the same breath, in today's era of rapidly-developing interfaces, UX configuration is vital. UX is the foundation on which a user and technology will interact – undoubtedly; this should be stunning enough to attract, yet practical enough to make your customers love it. Most product developers primarily focus on the technology bit – capturing and sorting the right data – however, those that stand out understand that it is the user who needs to cooperate with the devices; they effectually take care of the user design as well.
Key design elements that can enhance the IoT experience
Brands are pumping in big money to make their devices ‘smart’; however, not many are focusing enough to make them ‘user-friendly’ too. Steve Jobs had aptly summed this up as below
“Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs
And that is where the catch is – smart devices with good UX is the ideal combination that brands need to look at achieving. An interface with useful UX design will ensure that all components of a connected ecosystem work coherently and that users can use a smart device in a hassle-free way.
So, how can you enhance the experience of using an IoT-enabled product, via UX?
- Conceptual model: Because network-enabled products can be complex, it’s essential to keep the design as simple as possible for users to be able to use them without a struggle. Transparent functioning of the system and users’ knowledge are two key elements that govern the clear conceptual model. This model works excellently in dynamic and decentralized networks. It has multiple parameters which can be tuned to satisfy the level of trust requirements in a specific application.
- Continuity and consistency: UX design in IoT isn’t just about designing for the devices – it also is about designing for the spaces between them. This means that besides keeping the designs simple, you’ve also got to ensure that the working between the different devices is seamless. The Internet of Things will open up for users a world of connected devices; rather than having to interact with each device individually, IoT design should take care that this entire process appears unbroken.
- Accessibility: With the ‘user first’ outline, brands have managed to cater to customers as per the diverse locations (geographical) and distinct conditions (disabilities), amongst others. No wonder, they are working on stabilizing the idea of voice commands and gestural interactions. Add to this segment the high possibility of low or no internet connectivity (in many cases). To make an IoT-enabled product accessible, UX designers also have to focus on the fact that in case of a connection issue, the device or IoT-enabled system isn’t rendered useless.
- Inter-usability: For good UX design in IoT, designers need to ensure that they create a coherent system that interconnects and works across multiple devices. Interusability aids the model in synchronizing across multiple functionalities, thus making it fit for a distributed environment.
UX design challenges in IoT
Is all of the above so simple to achieve?
Certainly not. There are quite a few challenges that designers have to deal with while designing IoT-enabled products. These include:
- Designing to keep all collected data secured
- Merging diverse data points to create a unified and informative base
- Considering practical issues to ensure there’s no break in the user experience
- Selection of hardware and incompatibility issues between different software programs
- Designing user experiences that are relevant to the user, and easy to use!
What is ultimately the future of UX design in IoT?
With the Internet of Things creating ripples all over, businesses are prepping for the future – the future that will be ruled by the IoT. So, where are you (your business) headed?
In IoT, UX configuration is multi-faceted – it places critical thinking between the business model and the user. Planning for IoT is naturally more unpredictable than just creating designs for software; hardware adds new considerations and can be easily modified. Therefore, for IoT to succeed, designers will have to concentrate on creating stylish UX designs that are in sync with the ‘age of the customer’ concept and therefore handier!