How are Designers Involved in The Internet of Things?
Since the introduction of the Amazon Echo, Alexa has become a part of many homes in the United States and is quickly spreading across the rest of the world. The Amazon Echo is the most popular device to date which works with the magic of the Internet of Things. But it is definitely not the only one.
As the Internet of Things grows in popularity, more and more products and services will be connected to each other and to people. With all this connectivity comes production of devices and systems, both physical and virtual. For all these things to be produced, companies need designers, and that’s where you come in.
Designers for the Internet of Things are mostly UX and UI designers but graphic designers and technical designers are also involved in the process. Designing for the Internet of Things also involves designing for voice-activated tools and actions and this type of design is aptly called VUX and VUI (Voice User Experience and Voice User Interface).
Let’s take a look at all the ways in which designers are involved in the Internet of Things
Initial Idea of a Connected Device
Pretty much anyone can come up with the idea for a connected device. The best are the ones that really solve a problem for users. Devices that by being connected can learn from the user’s data and make their life a little easier in some way. Obvious problem solving connected devices are robots that clean up spaces, heart rate monitor bracelets, kitchen, and home appliances.
Designers (most probably technical or industrial designers) are involved in this stage with the initial sketching of the physical device. They work closely with connectivity developers to design the perfect device which will also need UX and VUX design for it to work properly.
Prototyping of physical device and virtual systems
When the time comes to actually build the device, it’s time to prototype. Prototyping involves the actual production of the connected device as well as the systems that control it, through either a computer or smartphone app. The device is built in a factory with the close watch of the industrial designer, while the app is built by the UX, UI and VUX and VUI designers. It will depend on the creators if the device will be voice controlled or not, but as the Internet of Things becomes more and more mainstream, voice commands will be the norm.
Up until recently, designing prototypes for voice controlled systems and devices depended greatly on a designer’s creativity to visualize the systems as an idea. As of the latest Adobe XD update in October, they now offer VUX and VUI templates and tools to help developers and designer prototype systems and software for the Internet of Things.
Before a connected device can be sold to anyone, it needs a name and brand. A device created inside a larger Internet of Things company might already have a brand guideline to follow but it will still need a name and its own personal branding. The same branding processes apply to connected devices as to other non-connected things. The difference is that part of the branding needs to be directed at how the user interacts with the device, what problem it’s meaning to solve and what the ultimate outcome is.
The designer will need to create all the visual style guides for all aspects of the brand, including the way the connectivity system look, in terms of buttons and interactivity. A brand style guide for a connected device can be quite elaborate and will need to be worked into the last phases of the prototyping stage.
When the prototyping is done and the branding is sorted, it’s time for the graphic designer to create the packaging and maybe some informational leaflets to go along with the product. The client might prefer to have all the information about the device and how it works designed as a digital document accessible through a computer or phone. The designer will follow the brand style guidelines through the entire packaging design process.
Data analysis and Visualization
Once the product has arrived at a user’s destination and is being used, it will start to collect data. The way in which this data is collected is also part of the design process, mostly the job of developers and data scientists. This is also better designed during the prototyping process, so when the devices are actually in use, the data will be properly collected. Some important things to remember in data collection is the user’s privacy and what is done with the data.
The main idea usually is that the systems use that data for machine learning, making the device more useful as time goes by. Just how Alexa will tell a homeowner that it’s time to order more kitchen paper, any connected device can learn from regular use.
One last way in which designers are involved with the Internet of Things and the connected devices is with the data. Using the information collected, data designers can create data visualizations for various purposes. They can help the team see how things are working with their systems. They can also be made into beautiful colourful designs to send to clients showing how their device has changed their life for the better.
Over to you
Apart from your smartphone, what other things do you use that are connected to the internet? There might be more than you think!
Have you ever designed for a connected device? Try the AdobeXD VUX templates out for size and let us know what you think!