a brief intro to ux for the internet of things: thingmonk 2013

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A brief guide to UX for the internet of things Thingmonk Dec 2013 Claire Rowland @clurr photo by neko Sunday, 12 January 14

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Why productisation, conceptual models and interusabiity are key to good mass market consumer UX for the internet of things. Slides from Thingmonk, 3rd Dec 2013 London


  • A brief guide to UX for the internet of things Thingmonk Dec 2013 Claire Rowland photo by neko Sunday, 12 January 14 @clurr
  • photo by david ward photo by lyzadanger photo by nickpo photo by steven de polo Useful, usable, desirable Sunday, 12 January 14 I'm Claire. I'm a UX researcher and designer from a psychology background. Currently service design manager for AlertMe, heating systems, energy monitoring, security, safety and general home automation. I'm here in my own capacity and opinions are my own.. my interest: iot products and services that do everyday things and are useful, usable and pleasurable to use for the mass market consumer. cIOT - until patricks talk i didnt know it had a name. i think of it as how do you get this stuff sold in argos/boots/ikea... when you start looking at mundane day to day activities that might not superficially seem that exciting, you uncover a lot of interesting human problems.
  • Good UX is needed to get us here Everett Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, 1962 Sunday, 12 January 14 not every service is going to be consumer oriented, and it's perfectly valuable to make things that target innovators, early adopters or generally engage people in more than just a passive consumer role. but if we want iot to reach its full potential, then at some point, we need to find a way of making things that work for even the late majority. for that, good UX is essential
  • Clear proposition Clear conceptual model Good interusability (distributed UX) Sunday, 12 January 14 need 3 things for consumer market: either unique to iot or given where we are now, particularly pertinent: clear proposition, clear conceptual model, distributed service-oriented approach to UX design (interusability)
  • Clear proposition Clear conceptual model Good interusability (distributed UX) Sunday, 12 January 14 proposition is where the user experience starts: if people dont understand what your thing does and why they might want it it doesnt matter how clever your design is.
  • Value > Money & effort Sunday, 12 January 14 what the mass market wants and needs is good products, that do something of value, for an amount of money and effort that seems in proportion to that value. I work in home automation... many examples going back up to 40 years of systems that never managed to convince people en masse that what they did was worth the money and effort to install. this is x10 powerhouse for the commodore 64 form 1986, allowed you to control appliances, lights, heating from any phone. people are still getting excited on kickstarter about that stuff but this system is nearly 30 years old and were not all using it, are we?
  • product tool In areas where they dont have expert knowledge consumers tend to buy products, not tools Sunday, 12 January 14 we're making things that are cheaper, better designed and easier to use... not always creating clear products. by a product i mean: the majority market is used to buying products that make a promise to solve a specific problem and come reasonably well configured to solve it. witness belkin demo vs nest protect. nest protect advertising is very interesting: doesnt talk about connectivity at all, talks about how it is a better smoke/CO alarm. belkin has a good UX, but is essentially an example of a tool: something that requires end users to define and solve own problems. it requires an imaginative leap even to think about what you might do with it. tools can be powerful things, and empowering more people to use them is a great aim. but id argue that thats not late majority. in the case of wemo, id argue that controllable sockets are a step along the road to a majority product of controllable appliances.
  • Clear proposition Clear conceptual model Good interusability (distributed UX) Sunday, 12 January 14 conceptual model: concepts, and relationships between them
  • Conceptual model of conventional heating turns it on & off & up & down (bit confusing) makes heat (by heating water) Sunday, 12 January 14 conceptual model of unconnected heating looks like this: box make heating come on. boiler: thing that heats up water. if im lucky it doesnt go wrong very often but when it does its uncomfortable. and when it does i call someone out. box might be confusing and most of us dont use it well but we vaguely understand which bit does what.
  • Connectedness requires users to understand system models Whats this mystery box? Why is my heating system telling me the internet is down? Is that 6pm at home or where I am now? Sunday, 12 January 14 connected heating may promise to make things simpler, with simpler controls, but also adds in additional complexity. there are these other bits. what do they DO? hub is a mysterious box to many people. ive tested this stuff. more things, things that can lose power, connectivity or are in different places? all of those have implications as to how the system works. why does the heating system email me when the internet is down? does that mean its not working? (actually it is, the alerts are sent because some users also have a security system running on same platform which is dependent on the internet connection) and is that 4pm in the UK where my home is, or the US, where my phone is right now? in order to understand and predict the behaviour of this heating system, you need to know a bit more about the system model. if im a user of a common or garden website, i dont have to engage with the system model. this is why the web is consumer friendly in a way that gopher was not. there are advantages from having a connected system, but however well the individual device UIs are designed, there are new things to go wrong and an extra layer of stuff to be confused about.
  • Weve broken direct manipulation Sunday, 12 January 14 in the case of a lighting system with automated rules that turn lights on and off at different times, in order to predict whether it will still run if your internet connection goes down, you essentially have to know where the code governing those rules runs. if its on your phone or in the cloud, then it wont; if its in a hub it will. thats in a sense, weve broken direct manipulation: 30 year old principle in UI design: i act on things and see effect immediately. moving towards a model thats more like programming: things run in different places, at different times. level of abstraction that can be hard for people who are not inherently interested in tech. if were not careful with design, risk of what Scott Jenson (google, ideo, apple) calls surprise package - taking a successful mass market product and making it into an early adopter product again (props to Pilgrim Beart and Alan Blackwell)
  • Designing a conceptual model != Training users to understand the system model Sunday, 12 January 14 you have to explicitly design conceptual models - not just about getting people to understand the way that you have built the system learning what they need and and they have to fit with the way people think, existing knowledge, behaviours and beliefs
  • My teenagers skulk in their bedrooms. Theyre not out, but theyre not really in either... photo by wendizzle Sunday, 12 January 14 one of those that i've bumped into a lot is the mismatch between the conceptual model of a lot of home automation, and the way people think about their home lives. for example, we have this idea of tracking who's in and who's out, that superficially seems logical but actually turns the home into a big computer that people have to log into and out of and someone has to be the sysadmin and allocate permissions, and when you put that in front of users you discover that doesn't work with the way people live. teenagers exist in quantum state and permissions are negotiated and flexible. sometimes throwing tech at a problem overlooks human issues - creating a system that doesnt fit with the way people live and expecting them to adapt to it isnt going to work very well
  • Clear proposition Clear conceptual model Good interusability (distributed UX) c.f. Cross-Platform Service User Experience: A Field Study and an Initial Framework. Minna Wljas, Katarina Segersthl, Kaisa Vnnen-Vainio-Mattila, Harri Oinas-Kukkonen MobileHCI'10 Sunday, 12 January 14 Youve heard of interoperability: making things work with other things. There is a parallel in UX: interusability: what UX looks like distributed across multiple devices with different capabilities. Surprisingly little in academic literature. My favourite model for thinking about interusability is from this paper:
  • Composition Which devices you have, how functionality is distributed vs Sunday, 12 January 14 (related to conceptual model but choices you make affect functionality and UX of system) http://www.tado.com/en/ example: tado thermostat has no UI, its all on the phone. probable reasons: its expensive to make a good thermostat UI, (and no-one understands the bad ones), so just make a good phone UI, which is relatively cheap to do. Its an elegant choice but has limitations: if you dont have your phone to hand, or its not working, or youre a guest in the house without access to the phone UI, you cant adjust the heating. AlertMe chose differently: we have a standard thermostat with a conventionally bad UI but also the phone and web apps, which are easier to use (the one you see here looks rather plain as its our unbranded version). This means that you, and your guests or other residents without smartphones, can still use it as a conventional thermostat. Its less elegant (we didnt redesign the thermostat UI, in order to keep costs down), but it doesnt lack anything youd expect from a normal heating system.
  • Consistency Device-appropriate interfaces that feel like a family Sunday, 12 January 14 nest example: twiddly knob on the wall that clicks. touchscreen: up and down arrow. (twiddly knobs are inefficient and inaccurate on touchscreens). BUT it still makes the same click :)
  • Continuity Fluent cross platform interactions... Sunday, 12 January 14 Set goal on phone: displayed on fuelband via bluetooth. (Jawbone, up until recently, had to be synced).
  • ...up to date data on all platforms !!possible 2 minute delay!! Sunday, 12 January 14 A lot of the knottiest design problems Ive run into in my work are continuity challenges. It sounds obvious: If i interact with the service on one device, I would expect all other devices reect that change in state. e.g. if I turn the target heating temperature up on my wall thermostat, youd expect the new temperature to be immediately reected on the smartphone too. But sometimes this isnt technically possible. In the case of the AlertMe system, there can be a delay of up to two minutes before the smartphone app is updated. This is because the wall thermostat runs off a battery, and sending data to the network uses a lot of power so it only does it every two minutes. If it sent it more frequently than that, it would run the battery down very fast. We could make mains powered controllers, but engineers dont like those in this country as they are more complicated to install. So for the time being, the UX is a compromise, albeit a small one as the main use of the smartphone app is when you are not standing in front of the wall thermostat, and 2 minutes isnt a long delay in turning the heating on. The important thing is to ensure that users are as informed as possible about whats going on.
  • UI/visual design screen layout, look and feel Interaction design architecture and behaviours per service, per device Interusability interactions spanning multiple devices with different capabilities Many layers of IoT UX Industrial design physical hardware: capabilities and form factor Service design customer lifecycle, customer services, integration with non digital touchpoints Conceptual model How should users think about the system? Productisation audience, proposition, objectives, functionality of a specic service Platform design conceptual architecture and domain models spanning products/services Sunday, 12 January 14 so... UX for IoT. its not just about building systems and slapping UIs on things. many product companies making a platform play... UX involvement in a platform involves thinking about conceptual architecture and domain models. That might be my language, maybe were talking about meta models, from Ricks talk. Meta structures that help people make sense of the stuff around them and get it working together to do sensible things without spending their lives on sysadmin.
  • Summary IoT is tech centric: were still guring out how to make compelling consumer products When user experiences are extended across multiple devices with different capabilities, users need strong conceptual models Distributed UXes need good interusability: Composition of functionality across devices Appropriate consistency of interfaces Continuity of interactions across devices PS: Theres loads more. Im writing a book... Sunday, 12 January 14 So,that was a brief introduction to some of the challenges. Were still figuring out how to do this stuff and there are lots of challenges.
  • Thank you @clurr [email protected] Sunday, 12 January 14