Preview: Designing Connected Products

December 15, 2015

As you prepare for your morning commute on a rainy morning, you scroll through your phone to identify the most urgent emails in anticipation of the day. While mentally reviewing your to-do list, you receive a text from your child’s babysitter letting you know that she is running late. In the midst of responding, your activity tracker app reminds you that you need to walk 12,000 more steps today to meet your goal for the week. Just then, your calendar dings, reminding you about your 9:00 am meeting with a potential vendor. While technology and smart products have made our lives more efficient in so many ways, we are facing an unprecedented stream of messages and interruptions. Our attention has truly become a premium commodity. How do we filter out the noise and focus on what’s most important?

With smart, connected products becoming more ingrained in the day to day lives of consumers, the amount of data available can be staggering. Data helps us to lend context to situations, and helps guide decisions. But can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to data? Well, in the context of designing a product for an end user, maybe.

Data helps guide decision-making, but too much data can be a distraction. And good smart product design is respectful of the user’s attention. What does this mean for designers of smart, connected products? Designers should be asking about the end user’s goals. Why are they using the product, and what do they hope to achieve? The answers to these questions can provide insight into how to make data meaningful and actionable to the user.

Chapter 13, “Designing with Data” in the book Designing Connected Products takes an in-depth look at the importance of considering a user’s motivations for using a product. Take the example of the activity tracker app alert: Is the goal of using such a product to keep an inventory of steps, or is it to become healthier? If that same activity tracker can consider contextual data, like the weather and your schedule, it might suggest a lunchtime walk around noon when your calendar is free and the rain will have stopped. This product has just progressed from simply feeding data to providing actionable, contextual information based on the user’s goals and environment.

Interested in learning more? Download the complete “Designing with Data” chapter for an in-depth look at:

  • How data processing in IoT is often distributed, and what that means for the product
  • Typical characteristics of IoT data, and their impact on design
  • The different concerns of designing types of data-driven products
  • How focusing on users’ goals is the key to making data meaningful and actionable
  • How users’ attention is a scarce resource, and how to be respectful of it
  • How products that seek to produce behavioral change need to delivery very specific insights in the right context
  • What’s different about visualizing data for smart, connected products


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