SECTIONS - Endpoints
August 29, 2016

Why We Need to Improve the IoT App User Experience

By Special Guest
Nancy Hua, CEO, Apptimize

If IoT is so great, why isn’t my life perfect already? The last time I checked, my toaster was burning my bread the same as it was 25 years ago. While I drive a Tesla, I don’t have in-depth analytics about my electricity consumption. And despite a Nest, my house is still too hot at night.

The promise of IoT apps is that everything is smarter and more convenient, but it’s hard to see how apps for every appliance could actually be useful to the average consumer unless each app is significantly more convenient than its non-connected counterpart. For example, if an app requires me to remember to do something or constantly manage settings inside the app, I will most likely default to the old, non-connected way of doing things. There is major, untapped potential in a smart home that could anticipate needs and automatically adjust for optimal comfort and energy consumption, but if this efficiency requires me to constantly configure items, I’m not going to remember or bother to do it.

However, there is one way to get me (and most consumers) to change a habit: time savings. I will jump through hoops and invest in new technologies if I believe they’ll ultimately save me a significant amount of time. How do IoT technologies accomplish this? By delivering an app that is intuitive, easy to use, and way more convenient than the status quo. Arguably, many optimizations could be worth a lot when you multiply the seconds it could shave off, but if an IoT app is hard to use or has a horrible design then users won’t believe the promise of convenience. The user interface design and the overall user experience is key to the success of any new technology, especially for IoT apps.

As a result of the implicit promise of convenience, speed is also an important consideration for all elements of the IoT user experience – especially during the initial onboarding experience. The efficacy of the onboarding experience that minimizes excess energy and time on the part of the user is not to be underestimated. Every time the onboarding process asks for information that the user deems irrelevant or repetitive, it’s undermining the promise that this new, supposedly smarter habit will be worth the user’s time. In other words, the onboarding experience must be streamlined, tested, and justifiably relevant, or apps risk losing customers before they even get started.

Since the IoT is built on the concept of having more intelligence, IoT apps must also anticipate consumer needs through consistently relevant UX. Paired with mobile apps, IoT technologies know a lot about the user, such as geolocation, identity, accelerometer data, along with any information the sensors in the physical object is tracking, and consumers expect this data to be put to good use. If the app appears to ignore information that users deem important (e.g., refusing to unlock a door when it knows a user is nearby), users will start to devalue the app.

The promise of IoT is built around convenience. If IoT is going to reach critical mass as an industry, IoT companies must invest in the apps that connect their technologies to users, just as much as they do in the hardware behind their products.

Nancy Hua is CEO of Apptimize (

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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