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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 data visualization

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

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.

Performance

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.

iot ui design

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%.

Connectivity

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.

Physical UI

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.

Useful Tips to Create Great UI Design for IoT Apps

Creating a successful IoT UX/UI requires much expertise and attention to detail. That’s why when building their IoT solutions, many businesses prefer to find a software company that can provide professional designers and IoT experts rather than searching for specialists on their own.

Here are the main aspects designers should pay attention to make their IoT apps effective and engaging.

Easy and Simple Onboarding

The onboarding process is the first step when an end-user meets with the app. It’s a matter of several minutes for a user to decide whether the app is worth it or it’s an instant turn-off. Therefore, it’s essential to make the onboarding journey as simplified and trouble-free as possible.

Easy and simple onboarding includes swift and effortless authentication when the IoT network logs in a user with one code verification, avoiding any switches between devices or remembering passwords. Therefore, designers need to ensure that when working with multi-device interaction, users undergo one-time authentication and can manage all the connected devices.

Establishment of Seamless Cross-Device Design and Connectivity

IoT systems involve various devices, platforms, and software which designers have to unite in a smooth and tightly connected network. The simplest way to do so is to use the cloud as a basis. It can combine and timely update all the parts of the system, ensuring its uninterrupted performance.

ui for an iot data product

Above all, the IoT network should have a familiar and intuitive interface with each element incorporated into it. This way, users will enjoy seamless transitions between the network elements and won’t take much time to adapt to the system.

Personalization

Every day IoT networks gather tons of data, including information on their user details such as preferences, habits, and others. To provide a more user-centric experience, IoT software development companies include advanced analytic features in the developed apps. This way, they manage to better anticipate their users’ wants and needs and deliver the right service at the right time.

For example, Amazon’s Alexa can recognize different users’ voices and adjust its dialogue, switching its individual permissions to the person who is currently using the voice assistant.

Interface Interconnectivity

With the development of IoT networks, there appear new interfaces that can be incorporated into them. Today, one of the most popular trends is to combine IoT products with voice and audio interfaces, e.g. virtual assistants that can manipulate the network devices at the voice command of an end-user. Therefore, when creating IoT apps, software developers have to consider the compatibility of their app UI with various interfaces, e.g. Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and others.

New interfaces aren’t limited only to voice assistants. They can also include gesture interfaces, biometrics-activated features, and much more. For example, the app Chris, a smart co-pilot software, uses a gesture interface for improved and safe driving.The biometrics feature can be used for enhanced security of IoT systems and is already widely implemented in mobile apps, e.g. face recognition systems, fingerprint sensors, and many others.

Final Words

Internet of Things is a fast-developing technology that has found its practical implementation in diverse industries. More and more companies search for ways to utilize IoT in their services and provide an outstanding experience to their clients.

One of the key elements of a top-notch customer experience is engaging and responsive UI. Building UI for IoT is a much more complex and challenging task than for conventional web and mobile apps. Therefore, businesses search for software companies that could develop effective UI for their digital solutions.

SCAND offers a diverse range of IoT development services, including UX/UI development, development of web, mobile, desktop, and wearable IoT apps, creation of platforms and networks, and much more. SCAND experts are ready to assist in the development of your unique IoT network. Therefore, don’t hesitate to contact us and find out more about IoT solutions.

Author Bio

Victoria Puzhevich Lead Business Development Specialist
Victoria has over 15 years of experience in IT, keeping track of the current and future trends in the sphere, sharing expert advice and relevant industry experience.

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