Posted August 20, 2018 | Software | No Comments »

Interaction Of Things And Why A User-Centric Approach Is Key

We recently came across this great blog by Craig Lynn, Co-Founder and Director of Glasgow production design house Filament, thanks to our friends at CENSIS. The article discusses the importance of staying focused on the user experience when designing Internet to Things (IoT) devices.

An approach to IoT and connected hardware is often tech driven, however technology for technology’s sake has never been a proven model in developing lasting, successful products.

At Filament, when we’re approaching IoT from a product design background we always place the user at the centre of the development. User experience (UX) becomes the nucleus at the intersection between hardware, software and service.

So why is UX so important for IoT and connected Hardware?

As the lines between hardware, software and service blur, we must rewrite the rule book for good product design. Here are five lessons I’ve learned working on connected device projects over the past few years:

1. It’s all about the user

Even before you start developing you should ask the question “Is there a user need based on ‘real’ user insights”? If the answer is no then it’s time head back to the drawing board I’m afraid. Once you’ve established the need then it’s time to go deeper, really get to know who you are designing for as sometimes innovation can come in the subtlest of insights from the ‘real’ not ‘ideal’.

One great aspect of IoT is the closed loop feedback system generated by a connected device. Gone are the days of ‘sell and forget’, the product development now extends far beyond the shipping of devices. Adopting a ‘Connect, Engage and Improve’ mantra means you can monitor usage (on mass) and in real time to learn how to improve for the next generation. Tesla are leading the way with this with Elon Musk responding to some customer ‘complaints’ on Twitter with hard fixes implemented in software updates within six days

2. Crossing the divide

Every element of UX is a manifestation of your brand and as such there needs to be a consistent message that translates across all touch points including (physical, digital and service). If your brand’s core characteristics are reliability and strength then this needs to be communicated beyond your shiny logo. The physical hardware has to be ‘clyde built’ engineered; your comms need to be reliable even in the most challenging environments; your service needs to deliver on time and as promised otherwise a void starts to open up between your brand identity (what you say you are) and your brand perception (how others see you). Designing for the core values across physical, digital and service is key to not only grow a brand but to maintain its integrity in the market.

3. Question of taste

We humans are a fickle bunch, although users may have the same needs they don’t always have the same tastes.

We often judge software purely on functionality and not style, when have you ever heard someone say “I don’t use Virgin Media as the UI doesn’t go with my living room décor”. However when you move into the physical realm, in both the consumer market and more lately in B2B, visual taste becomes one of the main psychological motivators and barriers for purchase. It’s not only the industrial design (styling) of a hardware device that can put the users off, every aspect of the interaction needs to be carefully considered with a level of personalisation offered to suit the tastes of the many.

When we talk about personalisation of UX we’re not solely referring to switching the fascia of your new smart thermostat, it’s adapting interactions to the user’s requirements (B2C) or business requirements (B2B). Personalisation can, and should, be offered in physical, digital and service. The iPhone is a good example of successful personalisation:

  • Physical: It comes in multiple sizes, colours/finishes. Cases can be added for the more extreme personalisation.
  • Digital: The home screen allows you to choose, position and group shortcuts to apps to ensure less clicks/swipes to your favourites apps.
  • Service: Supplementary services such as iTunes and Apple Pay are easily integrated and can be seamlessly used.

Studies over the years have shown that a level of personalisation/customisation can actually increase sales however care must be taken on how to implement these options to avoid purchase paralysis.

4. Smoothly does it

Humans are also stubborn when it comes to UX, the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” applies. If the interaction or experience is new and requires learning then this adds a certain level of friction which in turn creates apathy. The key to good UX design out the friction. Interactions that are inflexible and dictatorial in nature don’t tend work. Interactions that are intuitive and flexible prove to be more successful.

So how do you design for intuition? Co-creation is key. Bring your users into the development process, observe them, speak to them. Produce prototypes and mock ups and get them to test and provide feedback. Treat this process as an iterative one, with each prototype you’re sanding down the rough edges of the interaction until it’s silky smooth.

5. Uninterrupted

Today’s world is 24/7 365 and we expect that from the products that we interact with. We expect our connected hardware devices to be ‘up’ and ready at a moment’s notice. This doesn’t only affect the power strategy but, in a connected system, all aspects of the comms, security/authentication, data processing and storage. One kink in the chain and the whole system can fail. Products with good UX can change user behaviour and maintain this if they are uninterrupted but we’re creatures of habit and as soon as the interaction is interrupted (be that from lack of signal, battery or downtime in the service) then we quickly slip back and don’t get the true user benefit the device was designed for in the first instance.

Early energy smart meters suffered badly from this. At the start they were novel, they would be checked daily if not hourly. Lights would be switched off, heating turned down, cash was saved. Then there was the plateau, the device became less interesting and ultimately when the batteries died, this interruption meant that the meter found its final resting place in the back of a drawer. Over the passing weeks the good work would be undone as the user slipped back into their bad habits.

Summary

So if you are developing an IoT or connected hardware product that is tech led make sure you don’t consider the user experience as ‘nice to have’ feature, it should be imperative to the strategy of the product from day one.

Filament’s team of designers, engineers and strategists specialise in the development of IoT and connected hardware devices. Follow Filament on Twitter.


Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in software, electronics, semiconductor, and photonics in Scotland.

Interested in IoT and IoT recruitment? Get in touch with Daniel McGarrell on 0131 8150 510 or email dan@enigmapeople.com.

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Posted July 17, 2018 | Career Advice, Recruitment Industry, Technology Industry | No Comments »

Latest Electronics Vacancies

Looking for a new challenge?

Enigma People Solutions is recruiting for a variety of roles for some of our emerging technology clients. These roles are situated across the central belt of Scotland and each presents really interesting and exciting opportunities for the successful candidates.

 

Senior FPGA Engineer

Edinburgh, up to £47,000

We’re looking for a Senior FPGA Engineer for our international technology client. Our client is a well-established and well recognised international technology business with an established and growing R&D function based just outside of Edinburgh.
Objective of this position is to design and develop embedded software/FPGA solutions for new retinal imaging product development and existing retinal imaging product improvement as part of a multi-disciplinary R&D team.

Find out more

Lead Hardware Engineer

Edinburgh, competitive

We have been exclusively retained to recruit a Lead Hardware Engineer for our international technology client. Our client is a well-established and well recognised international technology business with an established and growing R&D function based just outside of Edinburgh.
On offer is the opportunity to take a technical leadership role within an international technology business that is highly respected, treats its staff very well and delivers outstanding products into its key markets.

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Be Part of Something Exceptional!

Join an organisation that is striving for excellence and that suits upbeat and motivated individuals with talent and potential!

We are delighted to have been engaged by the emerging market leader in optical networking equipment used in data centres and telecoms sites. Entering a critical phase of growth and development of its R&D function, this well-funded and high growth business is looking to identify candidates for a number of exciting roles:

 

Optical Development Engineer

West Lothian, Negotiable

We are seeking an Optical Development Engineer to join an existing team that has a track record of delivering breakthrough approaches that change the rules of the marketplace.

Reporting into the optics design team manager you will be responsible for the development and validation of new ideas. Apart from research, modelling and design of new approaches in photonic light circuits, you will spend time in the R&D lab where ideas are tested for their integrated photonic products.

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Process Engineering Manager

West Lothian, Negotiable

We’re looking for an experienced Process Engineering Manager.
Reporting to the VP of Engineering, this hands-on role, you will be working on managing a team of manufacturing process engineers, spending a significant amount of your time within the ‘cleanroom’ environment. You will also support the day-to-day engineering issues to help production reach the required output while maintaining a high yield.

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Product Engineer – Silicon Chip Products

West Lothian, Negotiable

Enigma is recruiting a Product Engineer to be responsible for ensuring the best possible performance of the company’s silica on silicon Planar Light Circuit (PLC) products is achieved.
Your role will be to continually control and improve the performance of the company’s silicon chip products. Interpretation of test results and liaising with the other engineering groups to maximise the yields is the core part of this role. As such, it is expected that the Product Engineer shall develop a fundamental understanding of the physics of how PLC products work to allow them to perform. This will be achieved through learning and doing, building on your technical and physics background.
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Product and Test Engineer

West Lothian, Negotiable

We’re looking for a Product and Test Engineer to join the existing team.
Reporting to the Test Engineering Manager this important role will help solve complex engineering problems and drive successful and robust solutions. You will be an integral part of the product and test function to support the volume manufacture of leading edge optoelectronic products.
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Quality Engineer

West Lothian, Negotiable

Enigma is seeking a Quality Engineer to join the existing team. Supporting the Quality Manager your role will include working with the engineering team to test, diagnose and identify cause of failure and more.
On offer is the chance to join a leading company that is growing and winning great clients.
You will receive a competitive salary (based on experience), life cover, pension, cycle to work scheme and generous holidays.

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Senior Electronics Engineer

West Lothian, c£60,000

We’re seeking a Senior Electronics Engineer to join the existing team that has a track record of delivering breakthrough approaches that change the rules of the marketplace.
Reporting to the Test Engineering Manager this senior role will lead the design, development and prototyping of leading-edge products, and seeing them through to successful mass manufacture as part of the wider team.

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Senior Optoelectonics Design Engineer

West Lothian, c£60,000

We’re looking for a Senior Optoelectronics Engineer to join the existing team that has a track record of delivering breakthrough approaches that change the rules of the marketplace.
This is a key hire for the business so we are looking for a senior experienced developer with a demonstrable track record of complex product success. The right person will be an excellent cross-disciplinary team player, comfortable doing detailed design one minute, or fixing urgent product issues the next.

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Not quite found your dream vacancy?
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Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in electronics, photonics, semiconductor and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422.

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Posted June 19, 2018 | Technology Industry | No Comments »

Are Software Developers the Football Stars of the Tech World?

Watching the World Cup? Of course you are. The World Cup kicked off in Russia this week and our office football fans couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity between footballers and software developers; their demand.

Are software developers the football stars of the tech world?

Super-rich football clubs, like Real Madrid, are able to offer players high salaries in order to secure the best talent for their team. Last year, Paris St-Germain paid over £200 million in transfer fees to secure Neymar and pay him over £25 million a year in wages, making him the world’s most expensive football player at the time. Similarly to this, large corporate companies have the funds to be able to offer a premium price for highly sought-after and increasingly scarce talent, like software developers.

The skills gap yet again takes centre stage as the reason for this increase in demand. Companies are faced with taking on talent which has been underinvested in and that requires training and development, just to be able to do their job. Instead, companies attempt to find a quick fix by filling their immediate vacancies with ready-made developers who can come in and immediately perform in their job. It seems in today’s market many businesses would rather recruit talent which has already been trained, rather than invest in the long term development of talent.

Problems arise when talent is pinched from other smaller companies, as it’s very often the largest corporate who can offer the highest salary that tends to win the battle for highly-skilled talent. These large corporates, that can offer large salaries and benefit packages to candidates, can easily afford to promote their company as the place to be for developing careers. Not only this but they have much bigger marketing budgets and are able to advertise their recruitment process and attract candidates – much like the football clubs that can afford to pull in all the best footballers.

BUT

Is biggest always best?

Does the largest business guarantee success and career satisfaction?

Is moving for money always going to be the be-all and end-all?

Does working for the biggest and most well-known company mean that your individual contributions and talents are going to be celebrated and recognised?

Once you’ve ‘signed’ for one of the big ‘clubs’, where do you go from there?

Developers have a choice. Developers who choose to join small start-up teams can benefit in the same way football players can by joining a smaller team. Whilst we can’t necessarily speak for professional footballers, we have found that, for many developers, it isn’t money which drives them to seek new challenges but the opportunity to continue to learn and develop their career. The chance to expand on their experience and the excitement of creating something new and wonderful with code is what really motivates them.

Companies compete for this talent by trying to offer the highest salary but it isn’t always going to be the ‘golden ball’ that keeps developers around for long. Something more needs to be offered and that’s where start-ups come into play.

The opportunity for growth, focussed training and development, the use of newest technologies and the chance to shine can be much greater in the smaller, agile and innovative start-ups. It is in start-ups that career progression can be achieved, learning opportunities are greater and your contributions can really make a difference.

In many of the larger firms we have noticed management struggle to reward and encourage their employees. If they have already paid them a very high salary to begin with, a pay rise is not always going to seem a very significant reward. Large corporations must offer other tangible benefits to entice developers and reinforce employee growth and development, in the same way that start-ups can.

Are you a developer in today’s competitive industry? How do you achieve a balance of finding the right team to play for?

Is it all about money? Or is training, career progression, the quality of project, or something else, the main draw?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what matters most to you when you’re looking for a new role, or what would tempt you.

 


Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in software, electronics, semiconductor, and photonics in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422.

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