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Product Design

Why is product design so important in an IoT offering?

Nisha Gopinath Menon
March 18, 2018

Many researchers predict that our daily lives will be peppered with connected devices not too far in the future. But for this to actually become a reality, engineers and product designers will have to restructure the way they work together to build successful connected personal devices. This evolution will be difficult for many companies to achieve because most fail to recognize the value of design in connected product development. As companies that rushed to exploit the IoT wave learned, fancy technology isn’t enough to draw potential users. Product design will be crucial in getting consumers to adopt new offerings and the pull of good user experience will dictate market demand.

The fundamental principle when you work with connected devices is that the end product is not IoT. The IoT is not a TV, a wearable device or a mobile phone. Customers aren’t buying IoT. In fact, far too many people seem unaware of what IoT is. The rationale for customer purchase can never just be IoT connectivity, although the technology can be used to enhance a product’s value. IoT companies with B2B2C distribution channels and traditional B2B business models rather than addressing the pull of customer needs and tastes have been pushing IoT technology. This happens when both management and engineering value product function more highly than effective design. The below points should help you make sure you're not making the same mistakes.

  • Nail down a clear problem statement. Every new product is meant to address some problem or opportunity, but often they aren’t really successful in addressing those issues. Problem statements must assess value to the customer. Ask yourself why each feature will matter to your targeted user, the impact it will have and what your potential users will be willing to pay for it. If your engineers and team leads cannot nail down a clear problem and keep floundering, you do not have a viable product.
  • You likely have a lead systems person in your development team who knows the technology stack, but for an IoT offering, the lead must also possess an understanding of the user and their experience. And find a new lead if your systems lead does not appreciate how design delivers those insights.
  • IoT also demands a design approach that's technology-aware. Product experience now includes adapting to other products, upgrades, big data, and personalization. Designers must work closely with developers to understand what’s necessary and what’s possible in the design of the customer experience. In a nutshell, make sure both the technology team and the design team isn’t working in isolation.
  • Users today demand simple solutions to everyday problems. Any kind of friction in the user experience, even when its something as mundane as changing batteries might be enough reason for users to stop using a product, which spells death for an IoT offering. Designers and technologist must handle IoT development with a less is more mandate. An IoT product jammed with features will fast lose user-friendliness, thanks to the already complex technology behind it. Cutting out the frills isn't always easy, but it will eventually save you from an overly complex interface and a bad user experience. Why make tying a tie any more difficult than it has to be?
  • Use the power of routine to increase the chances of your product quickly becoming a part of your user's daily lives. Offering a product different from everything your users are used to is always risky. It’s easier to sneak into their routines by automating a task they’re already performing. An important consideration while building an IoT product should be paying attention to how much it fades into our present landscape. Should aim for stealth instead of flash with your product’s hardware.
  • It can be overwhelming to use an IoT product for the first time, especially for the not so tech-savvy users. So make sure your onboarding process is designed keeping technically-handicapped users in mind.
 IoT is a beautiful blend of software and hardware, yet very few engineers have the ability and vision to build a harmonious union of the two. This IoT wave will require a new partnership between the ones who understand and integrate the technology and those who understand and advocate for the user. If you’re unsure and have questions regarding the power of smart technologies, don’t hesitate to ping us. While we might not have all the answers necessary to help you build the next flying car, we can propel your vision toward a more prosperous and connected future.
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Nisha Gopinath Menon