Creating a UI for an IoT Application: Things to Consider
The use of the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more common in diverse industries and has long ago outgrown the borders of implementation for Smart Home only. Today, the technology is used in manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, automotive in connected cars, and much more. It’s expected that by 2025 the agricultural IIoT market will reach almost $7 bln, the industrial IIoT will hit the mark of $110.6 bln, the Smart Home market will gain $144 bln, whereas the global Internet of Things market size will amount to $1,102.6 bln by 2026 in comparison to $190 bln in 2018, growing at a CAGR of 24.7% in the forecasted period. This broad scope of applicability results in significant challenges for designers when they build UI for IoT products.
Creating UI for an IoT data product differs much from traditional web app design or building UX/UI for mobile applications. In this article, you’ll find out how the development of IoT user interfaces is different from regular UX/UI design and what tips to follow for building an outstanding and user-friendly IoT application that connects several devices.
Why IoT Design Is Different from Regular UX/UI Design
The creation of UX/UI design for IoT apps is often much more challenging in comparison to conventional software products. Unlike traditional web or mobile apps, IoT digital solutions involve additional layers, e.g. a number of devices and interfaces with different functionality, Artificial Intelligence (AI), input-output data streams, user rights distribution, specialized platforms, and much more. Designers have to entirely understand how to work with each aspect of an IoT network while making the system as smooth and intuitive for end-users as possible.
IoT devices exchange large volumes of data with each other and provide only processed results to end-users. Therefore, designers have to consider the compatibility of diverse interfaces, the way they gather data, connect with the cloud and other platforms, as well as interact with humans. They also have to take into account the characteristics of a particular network, whether it’s automated car diagnostics, climate control, supply-chain tracking, or any other activities. This increased complexity and specificity of IoT networks result in non-standard approaches in interface design. Designers have to elaborate unique solutions for certain IoT platforms often using a trial and error method.
Another considerable challenge designers encounter is the necessity to develop UX/UIs that can support more devices and data points. Therefore, IoT products should have flexible and adaptive interfaces which can be simply amended without much interference into the core functionalities of the products.
IoT App UI Design and Its Challenges
When developing UX/UIs for IoT applications, software developers have to take into account general design principles that are invariably important for building a successful interface in any app type. Here are the key ones to consider for IoT.
Simplicity and user-friendliness are important in any software app. Though, things get to an entirely new level with IoT networks. It’s essential that designers find ways for apps to deliver the most needed and well-processed information from numerous devices in the simplest way. For this, they have to carefully consider which data to provide for different user groups and when to provide it.
For example, when a smart-watch user utilizes their gadget as a fitness tracker, the device should display relevant data such as the number of steps made and calories burnt instead of a weather forecast or the latest messages.
Also, software engineers should pay much attention to IoT data visualization, as visual information is much easier to process. It’s worth considering displaying data in charts or line graphs if the data is gathered from several devices and requires some comparison or displaying certain dependencies or patterns.
No lags, fast data processing, and fluid motion are key to successful UX/UI. To ensure robust IoT application performance, software developers have to use well-established and efficient UX/UI development tools.
To ensure a robust tech stack in their IoT apps, many companies prefer to outsource their app development to skilled software development teams. When outsourcing app creation to an IoT development company, businesses obtain a highly-qualified team of professional software developers who can gather the best tech stack suitable for building effective digital solutions. With outsourcing teams, companies ensure that they receive lag-free, robust apps that meet their business and customer needs 100%.
Most of the IoT apps are internet or cloud-dependent. It means that they send their data to the cloud within a certain period of time. If there are any difficulties with the internet connection or a device can’t upload files in the cloud, the UI should inform its users about that. This way, when designers develop UIs they have to consider this aspect so that the UI could reflect the information on the latest data updates, e.g. “The last message was received 1 hour ago”, etc.
What should a user do if their IoT app is having an unplanned downtime or just lagging? Designers should be prepared for this scenario and offer end-users an alternative – a physical user interface. For example, if there isn’t any WiFi connection, users should still be able to use smart lights or use a smart kettle in their homes.
Though physical UI isn’t limited to any unexpected disruptions, it can also be used to quickly inform users about the state of a device, e.g. a small green LED light on a sensor to notify that everything works as it needs to.