June 29, 2016
UX in the IoT Era, Designing for Complexity is Part II of the “IoT… are we all doing it wrong?” series. Check out Part I and come back next week for part III, “How do you justify an IoT investment?”.
Charles Eames once said, “Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects… the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se. Unlike Keats who said ‘knowing about the rainbow shatters its beauty’, I feel the knowledge about an object can only enrich your feeling for the object itself.”
In this statement, Eames anticipated the importance of experience in a connected environment. An increased value through an experience requires a robust look at the role an object plays in a complex environment. This effort requires an understanding of how an experience may flow from one touch point to the next. This is where the efforts of experience design and systems thinking becomes imperative to the success of a user experience.
How we conceive, design and build physical products historically was a predominantly linear process. Though iteration is a core principle of design, an idea would develop and move through R&D, industrial engineering, marketing and so on. This would result in a series of departmental, siloed, hand-offs over the course of the idea’s evolution. At the time, this process worked. But as the concept of connectivity is introduced, barriers of time, location and space are removed. For instance, I can close my garage door from another country, update my DVR watch list for later, and review my sleep data for the past month with my doctor, all from my phone.
This evolution of design and technology have given organizations experience opportunities that were previously unheard of. Which platform? How do we extend the experience? Is the object collecting data for use later by the user or the business? Does it connect, control or communicate with other objects? What happens to the experience when there is a loss of connectivity?
These complex considerations are invisible and beyond the object itself. It is now that we are at a point where the mesh of experience that knits all of these connections together has eclipsed the importance of the object alone. The product’s ability to interact with other products is more valuable to the consumer than the product itself. With this movement, we now have a visceral, emotional and relational reaction to smart objects that is much deeper and often more enchanting. Users of such devices not only have a singular relationship with a simple physical object, but a dynamic and evolving experience that inspires, informs and influences our behaviors.
Looking back at how we traditionally invent products in a linear fashion, we must now organize and work in a fashion that allows iterations across silos. Design, engineering and research must constantly inform one another, as well as share empathy and user experience methodologies across their work.