Over the years, user experience techniques have evolved and adapted to current technological trends. However, UX for IoT solutions is more complex because it involves a sequence of user interactions with both software and hardware systems, with a complete and coherent path.

The success of IoT products depends on how uniform the entire process is from the user’s perspective. Providing an easy-to-use, intuitive, and simple interface will, therefore, result in greater user satisfaction.

UX is important in the design phase

The term user experience (UX) refers to how the user interacts and experiences a product, system, or service. This includes perceptions of usefulness, ease of use, and efficiency. UX improvement is important for most companies, designers, and developers when creating and perfecting their products.

The answer to the question, “Why?”, is because a negative user experience can reduce using the product or service. This negates any desired positive impact. User experience is subjective, however, the attributes that define it are objective.

UX design techniques have evolved and adapted to dovetail with the latest technological trends, from the era of desktop applications on the web to the current mobile revolution. Now, it is necessary to face a new challenge, which presents some peculiarities compared to the previous techniques used: the revolution of Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) technologies.

Industrial IoT and UX

Recently, many IoT solutions have focused mainly on the technical capabilities of the company and the potential of its services. Many companies that have been developing Industrial IoT solutions are now looking to improve their existing products or create a noteworthy new product by investing more into user experience design.

The user experience for IoT solutions involves a sequence of user interactions with both the virtual (software) and physical (hardware) systems and must be consistent for the entire experience. Furthermore, when we design UX for connected products, the design becomes much more complex from the increase in the number of users and systems.

Therefore, Industrial IoT poses new challenges to designers who are accustomed to working for software services that stem primarily from the specialized nature of connected devices. The fact is that many IoT products are distributed systems of multiple devices.

User experience is certainly an added value to IoT, both for the industrial sector and its end-users, since it improves ease of use and makes users happy. A good interface ensures that IoT reaches its full potential making user-machine interaction possible with ease and, consequently, meeting the user’s needs.

What are the main rules to follow for effective UX?

To begin, let’s outline some of the most important user experience design points when building a new IoT solution.

UX design Zerynth

Figure 1. UX design: elements of interaction, information architecture

1- Simplicity is the UX mantra

First, make the user experience as simple as possible. For example, here are some UX design decisions to consider:

  • do not make the user worry about the battery life of the machinery on which the IoT solution is installed;
  • ensure that the perceived performance of the instrument used is instantaneous and efficient,
  • minimize the cognitive load of the solution used rather than adding it in such a way that the user sees that it can perform better

Regardless of the type of IoT device you are building, you must always keep in mind that UX has to offer an experience that is easy, intuitive, and simple.

2- Evaluate the presence or absence of an Internet connection

Another point includes working locally. No one is ever sure that they always have access to the Internet. When designing for IoT, one should not assume there is  an always-on internet connection available. Ideally, it would be logical to initially design without internet connectivity, and see how many features can be performed locally before having to access the internet.

Connectivity plays an important role. It is a fundamental aspect to offer a user experience for IoT solutions without interruptions. There are numerous options available in the market, in terms of connectivity, but it is important to have the right solution for each use case. For example, in some situations, low latency and minimal data loss are very important factors to consider.

3 – Quick updates

A third point is to make devices upgradeable. The life cycles of connected devices are too long to assume that users will replace them every two years.

Good design must include the ability to easily update devices without affecting the rest of the device, thus improving the end user experience.

4- Coherent IoT solutions

Consistency is another very important point, given the large variety of products available. In fact, IoT solutions are built on a platform that supports the implementation of hardware, connectivity, data collection, analysis, rules, actions; and application development all under one roof.

This requires User Experience Designers to understand each module of the IoT platform thoroughly, and invest a lot of time in understanding the impact of each module on the entire design to see how it could be modified or improved.

Between various modules there should always be unifying elements in the design so that the consumer can intuitively navigate between the functions of each product even with little knowledge of it. Instead of a 100-page instruction manual, for example, you coudl provide a series of visual / tactile suggestions on how to use the product and what it can do.

5 – Device expandability 

The last point to analyze is expandability. The real power of the IoT is not represented by one-to-one interactions between the device and the cloud service, but the interactions between your device and all other devices.

Easy to use interfaces for all users

In summary, we can say that the success of IoT products depends on how comfortable customers are when interacting with them. A poor user experience, in fact, makes users reluctant to invest in smart devices and may even cause them to avoid using them.

Providing users with an easy-to-use, intuitive, and simple interface will, therefore, result in greater user satisfaction. This principle applies to both software and hardware as they are agglomerated in IoT. Essential components to focus on include:

  • Easy and efficient remote activation
  • Reliable UI / UX systems
  • Usability
  • Personalization
  • Connectivity

How all these challenges are overcome depends on several factors such as: the technology we are using, the context of use, user expectations of the system, and the service’s complexity.

Why it is difficult to talk about user experience for Industrial IoT

User experience for industrial IoT is very difficult to maintain, both in terms of adding and optimizing new features, and in terms of different types of users; however, one thing is obvious: if you can show the experience fluidly through a defined flow, users will be satisfied.

In conclusion, to design a satisfying user experience for IoT products, we must not forget that:

  • Installation must be easy, fast, and not technically demanding.
  • Connectivity is the main point of IoT products. One of the main goals should be to make this connection process as smooth as possible.
  • Many IoT products do not have a digital interface making it necessary to optimize other elements such as: voice, lights, vibrations, or audio sounds.
  • If the complexity of use exceeds the value returned or perceived, your product will fail.

These are the fundamental principles with which Zerynth’s Industrial IoT platform was designed and conceived, with the purpose of making IoT technology accessible, easy to implement, safe to scale and maintain.

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About the Author: Stefania Falchi

Stefania Falchi
Stefania is a Software Engineer at Zerynth. She has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Pisa. Her tasks are to take care of everything related to front end programming and user experience. In her spare time she plays the saxophone and enjoys cooking.

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