User Experience Design for IoT Devices

IoT en­ables in­ter­con­nected de­vices to com­mu­ni­cated by syn­the­sis­ing data and au­tomat­ing re­sponses to that data. However the first step for IoT is not au­tomat­ing a re­sponse, it’s col­lect­ing data. Decisions can be made by users based on the data. Because users are in­volved in the process it’s nec­es­sary to en­sure the user in­ter­face al­lows them to act on the data swiftly.

How it Differs

Designing UX for IoT de­vices pre­sents a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. Firstly, in­dus­trial IoT de­vices are gen­er­ally lo­cated in re­mote en­vi­ron­ments where in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity is flaky at best. As a re­sult, the UX should ad­dress how to re­spond to de­vices that may be of­fline for cer­tain pe­ri­ods of time. To ad­dress this, it’s rec­om­mended that you de­sign for no in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity at first and see what func­tion­al­ity can be per­formed lo­cally. By min­imis­ing the de­vices re­liance on in­ter­net con­nec­tion you’re in­di­rectly im­prov­ing the user ex­pe­ri­ence.

Picture your mo­bile phone is ca­pa­ble of con­trol­ling your lights and track­ing your en­ergy us­age but half the data is miss­ing/​un­able to be tracked be­cause in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity is in­con­sis­tent. From here, the UI can ei­ther fake it un­til the data does get through by in­di­cat­ing an ac­tion has been taken or al­ter­na­tively, in­di­cate the data is stream­ing un­til the de­vice re­con­nects. Good UX de­sign en­sures there is a plan in place when the de­vice is­n’t con­nected.

It’s also im­por­tant to note that IoT so­lu­tions han­dle data from a va­ri­ety of sources. Consider an oil and gas com­pany op­ti­mis­ing oil­field pro­duc­tion with IoT. The com­pany uses sen­sors to mea­sure oil ex­trac­tion rates, tem­per­a­tures, and well pres­sure for thou­sands of wells. That means an IoT sys­tem will need to com­pile and rep­re­sent the dis­parate data points in a mean­ing­ful way. If it’s just num­bers on a page, your UX de­sign needs work. The data should be arranged in an in­for­ma­tive man­ner so that the spe­cific user (yes, there may be dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of users) can eas­ily draw in­fer­ences from the data. The lay­out should also re­main as con­sis­tent as pos­si­ble across dif­fer­ent de­vices (phone, lap­top, tablet, etc).

Because users still in­ter­act with IoT sys­tems, their needs must be con­sid­ered. The ad­di­tional de­vices, ap­pli­ca­tions and data syn­ony­mous with an IoT sys­tem pre­sents a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge for UX de­sign­ers. The de­signer must strike the right bal­ance, find­ing a UX that al­lows ma­chine com­mu­ni­ca­tion and sat­is­fies hu­man users.


Isaac Joekong

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