IoT User Experience (UX)
While any front end needs in-depth UX planning, testing, and iterating to be successful, IoT UX poses a unique challenge.
Not only do we need a traditional screen-based UX, but we also look at the UI of the device itself and the hybrid UX that results from the interplay between these two technologies
My colleague and Very’s Lead Designer Andrew Frank urges us to ask some of the following questions:
- What is the IoT experience like in isolation of each part of the product—software and hardware?
- How and why do those pieces work together?
- What new interactions can users have that result from the communication of software and hardware?
- How do we add new functionality to a pre-existing physical product without rebuilding it?
- How is all of this ultimately packaged into a single product experience?
To get started finding our answers, we begin with See | Do maps.
By giving us a visualization of what the user sees at different points in the user experience and enumerating the possible options for what they can do, we start to get a sense of the overall Information Architecture (IA) and high-level user flows.
Essentially, we’re trying to map out the user journey as they go from booting up, saying “hello!” to their device, to putting it to use.
Once we have this big-picture view, we’ll create low-fidelity (lo-fi) wireframes, the blueprint for design that connects the IA structure to the visual design that our user sees.
From there, our designers (who are also front-end developers) and our software engineers “fill in the blanks” to put various features and functionalities in their designated spots.
As soon as we’re done building a minimum viable product (MVP), we begin user testing. Since there’s so much that’s impossible to predict within a closed lab environment, we put our product directly into the hands of the people who are going to use it and ask them for feedback.
What works and doesn’t? What could be easier or more intuitive? And always remember: if you're the one building a product, you shouldn't be the one testing it!
Armed with test results, the UX team gets to work on the branding, UI design, and high-fidelity (hi-fi) prototyping.
At this point, our product is coming very close to its finished state. It’s fully interactive, integrates key features, and all that’s left is smoothing out the wrinkles. We continue testing and integrating until we’ve got an awesome connected device that’s easy and fun to use.
One of the key takeaways from Very’s user-end design process is how closely the tech people and the UX people need to work together.
While it’s sometimes too easy for the techies to get caught up in aspects like code or hardware, successful IoT technology brings a strong human element to the table.
From the very beginning of the design process, we get our UX team deeply involved. Instead of waiting to the end and trying to staple on a UI, we build it from the ground up.
After all, it doesn’t matter how great your IoT product is if nobody wants to use it.
Ready to get started with IoT? Take a look at our Guide to IoT Development Frameworks and Best Practices to get your imagination going.