UI in the home - using your smart phoneThe same easy and intuitive UIs you use every day now allow you to operate a wide variety of devices in your home. Being able to run your world with a few taps and swipes is not only very cool, it’s convenient.

Imagine you are watching an intense drama an hour before the kids get home, and the washing machine starts to rumble through the spin cycle. You can’t hear the main character’s big speech and you really need to get dinner started. You reach for your smart phone and call up your home control app. A click on the washer pause icon gets the noise under control. An interactive image from the fridge shows that there are veggies you can give the kids to get them through the afternoon. Click on the oven icon and you see that there is still an hour to go on the roast. In seconds, you are back to your movie, with no worries.

In addition to the smart appliances mentioned in the scenario above, there are new conveniences coming out every day:

  • Smart security systems
    Check your alarms, view cameras, lock doors and more all from your smart phone.
  • Energy management
    From turning lights on and off to reprogramming climate controls, you might just be able to pay for your devices from the energy savings.
  • Yard work
    and Keeping the yard orderly and healthy is a snap with new innovations like programmable sprinkler systems and lawn mowers that drive themselves.

Thanks to the “Internet of Things”, we are not just able to connect to our friends, family and work; we can connect to — and control — many of our possessions.

The effects of heightened connectivity on UI design

Designing user interfaces for a smart, connected world presents special challenges. First off, you have to keep in mind the wide range of devices that people use. Each device requires an interface design that makes good use of its hardware, but branding requires that you create a recognizable experience across all the devices. Consider these issues:

  • TVs, phones and tablets use different-sized displays, opening up the potential for numerous GUI usability issues.
  • Different types of screens show colors differently. Certain shades of bright red, for example, will look bold on a phone or tablet, but it will “bloom” on a TV screen, making your UI look sloppy.
  • If your UI relies on text, you may run afoul of different legibility issues. For example, tiny white text on a TV or video game screen is often unreadable.
  • TV remotes, game controls, mice and touch screens all work differently. A UI that counts on the precision of a mouse will frustrate touchscreen users. TV remotes are not good for typing in large amounts of text.

While creating interfaces for commanding devices can be challenging, it is very satisfying to realize your successful UI design as a linchpin in the complex connectivity of our modern world.