Starting an Internet of Things Business Blog Series: Evolving the user experience

Al Sisto

Blog by: Al Sisto - 29 / Sep / 2017

In today’s blog we’re returning to our series advising you on how to set up a brand new Internet of Things (IoT) business.

We started off by examining how you can develop the initial idea into a tangible product and business plan – click here to read that blog.

Second, we turned to marketing and selling that idea, which included tips on building a connected message, branding and building a strategy – take a look at that blog here.

And third, we examined the all-important issue of financing your new business, looking at the funding available for start-ups and how you can make yourself as attractive as possible. You can read that blog here.

Today’s blog takes you a little further along the IoT start-up journey. Once you’ve got all of those important foundations in place, once you’re actually happily selling your IoT product, how do you stay at the top of your game? How do you ensure you can carry on winning new customers, and, ultimately, grow your business?

A key piece of this puzzle is evolving and enhancing your user experience.

What is user experience?

It might seem self-explanatory, but it’s worth thinking a little more deeply about what ‘user experience’ really means. It is often thought of in terms of ease of use – how quickly the product can be understood and used to its full potential – but this, though important, is just one facet of user experience. It is also important to consider the degree to which your product delivers on its promise – how well it carries out its core function – and how any problems or issues are alerted and dealt with. It is vital, also, to think about optimisation – the degree to which your users’ experiences can be enhanced, the longer they use your product for.

The most salient elements of user experience for you to consider will depend on the nature of your product, but thinking about these multiple dimensions from the start should help you avoid focusing too narrowly on one aspect. Don’t forget to think specifically about the IoT/connected requirements of your product – how easily does it connect to the networks it needs to operate on? How smoothly does it share required information between different sensors, devices, engines and platforms? 

The feedback loop

An effective market research and product development process should ideally ensure that your user experience starts in a good place – there’s no excuse, for example, for bringing a product to market that simply doesn’t do what it promises. However, enhancing and evolving the user experience thereafter depends on building an effective analytics and enhancement process after your product is launched. In essence, you want to be able to gather insights from how all your customers are currently using your product, analyse them, and use them to inform future adjustments to your product, or even the development of brand new ones. In short, you want to build a user experience feedback loop.

Of course, the joy of bringing an IoT product to market is that the connectivity needed to collect data on how that product is being used, and send it back to a centralised analytics engine, is already built in. There’s no need to develop additional networking functionality, or to go through convoluted processes of separately surveying your customers and gathering feedback. You simply need to ensure that your product can collect and transmit the relevant data – which might be anything from the time taken to complete a specific function to the relevant popularity of different functions – and ensure that the permission for doing so is drafted into your terms and conditions.

Learn by doing

From there, you need to ensure that you have the capability to analyse all that data en masse, and draw both short-term conclusions and longer-term trend maps. Typically, this will require some kind of digital analytics software or platform, together with a clear dashboard translating those analytics into tangible product development actions. This is particularly important if your IoT product is a so-called ‘headless device’ – that is, a product without a graphical user interface of its own.

Above all, enhancing user experience is an ongoing process. It can’t just be tacked onto the end of your product development cycle, and it can’t be forgotten once your product has hit the shelves. Rather, it should be continually revisited the entire time your product is out to market – and because your product is an IoT product, the communications technology to enable that approach is already at your fingetips.

Topics: entrepreneur, sme, IoT, starting a business, startup

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