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Common Challenges of UX Design for The Internet of Things


Internet of Things (IoT) is a new wave for transforming the way people complete their everyday tasks. It involves inter connectivity between smart devices, allowing them to share information with each other. It is an emerging trend for improving the quality of life as well as the productivity of companies. IoT continues to grow and is expected to go beyond laptops and smartphones in the future.

There have been predictions that there will be more than 30 billion IoT devices by 2020. Some common applications of IoT today include smart homes, connected cars, wearable, healthcare, and smart cities.

The evolution of the Internet of Things is happening rapidly, but more than one-third of these new objects and services are abandoned by their users after only 6 months of use. A primary reason for this is because the appropriation of IoT significantly depends on the UX design for the connected objects. It is a new technology that is more complex. It requires various devices and users, thus making IoT far from perfect. Bridging the gap between the digital and the physical is not easy. Figuring out the nature of IoT UX design is posing a challenge even to the experts. Keep reading to find out about the common challenges of UX design for the Internet of Things.

1. Lack of usability

UX Usability and IoT devices

How would you love it if you could switch off lights even when you are miles away from home? Or having your driver less car drop off your kids at school and pick them up later? Some powerful IoT companies are working hard to bring this revolution to reality, but as with many new technologies, it is experiencing some challenges. IoT’s main goal is to free up more time for users by automating various monotonous tasks. Currently, many of the IoT devices available in the market are not living up to the expectations of the users. Usability of the devices doesn’t rely on current knowledge and experience, and it also doesn’t use a traditional approach. Thus, understanding and using IoT devices to their limit has posed a significant challenge resulting in bad user experience.

2. Device connectivity

UX and device connectivity

Laptops and smartphones usually have network issues from time to time. What will happen if such a scenario occurs with your smart refrigerator or garage door? It might cause a lot of anxiety, which is something that most users aren’t ready to handle. IoT devices should be capable of working well both offline and online, and UX designers can’t make this promise yet. Another issue is that most IoT devices are energy saving devices, and they will not remain connected online all the times. They power off while not running, and go online on command, or after sensing your presence. You might also experience delays due to problems with an internet connection. A thing UX designers haven’t figured out how to go around it. Furthermore, there is also the problem with connectivity between the mobile app and the smart device where you have to wait for a few seconds or minutes before it can start performing a task. It can be frustrating, and you would find yourself doing tasks manually. Currently, IoT devices that are getting into the market are quite efficient because the individual units are few. A report by Gartner anticipates that more than 20 billion individual units will use the network simultaneously by the year 2020.

3. Multiple interfaces

UX App for Smart Devices

Another significant challenge facing UX designers is developing an open standard for IoT that supports inter-probability of interfaces. There are plenty of smart devices available on the market today. However, they cannot yet connect with each other nor work together effectively, which makes it difficult for users to control all their smart devices in one app. For instance, a smart homeowner will have a smart thermostat app, fridge app, car app, or garage app, all operating separately. The user will have to leave a program or the screen of one app to switch to the next. This challenge fails the main purpose of IoT – making life better. To live up to the expectations of users, IoT should provide inter connectivity between your smart apps.

4. Technology and UX design

Technology and UX design

Nothing changes at a faster rate than technology. You are always looking for the most recent updates for your gadgets and applications. Smart devices will need to be calibrated on a regular basis to be compatible with emerging trends which will require professional help. Another IoT UX design challenge is that it will be difficult to separate the useful information from the irrelevant while a lot of data is flowing from multiple sources. Synchronizing data flow between different smart devices will also be a difficult task. IoT UX designers are still working behind the scenes to solve this challenge.

5. The design consists of multiple layers

App Development Stages with UX

IoT devices have components such as hardware, application development, data collection, rules, actions, connectivity, and analytics that are added during various stages of development. For this reason, some layers are more visible while others are invisible. UX designers put focus only on visible components, which leads to the incorrect or delayed notification which affects the user experience.

6. Incompatibility of components

Incompatibility of components

UX designers rely on supplies from many third-party vendors to develop an IoT device. Supplies such as application processors, sensors, controllers, and platforms may not all come from one supplier. Expecting such pieces to work together to produce a seamless UX can be close to impossible. Furthermore, IoT devices might require repairs and updates at some point. UX designers will have to replace hardware or make some software updates which can lead to the incompatibility of components, making it difficult to achieve a positive UX.

7. Trust issues

Trust IoT devices

Not many people will trust new technology. And who can blame them! UX designers are the same trouble getting users to trust IoT devices data completely and integrate them into their business processes. In a highly sensitive environment, such as monitoring a nuclear plant, trusting the data that pops up on a smartphone screen might be difficult for the users. UX designers haven’t managed to build a 100% trust in the users as of now, but it is a work in progress.

8. Heterogeneous nature of IoT systems

IoT systems in Smart City

Currently, no IoT solution that can handle many types of data from various devices, and display such data on an array of user interfaces each with a different UX. Designers are struggling to provide a seamless UX for so many types of data, interfaces, devices, and end users. It also faces a challenge when these systems change. For instance, if a device is added to the system or replaces another. UX designers haven’t been able to accommodate the heterogeneous nature of IoT systems or the flexibility of the systems. Enhancing user experience across different interfaces is also another challenge. For example, the UX in a smartphone data display is not the same as that in a small display screen on the side of an IoT machinery.

9. Security concerns

Cyber security

Users can only have a positive UX if they can stop worrying about the data they share using an IoT device. The security of a device is always blamed on the service provider. They are responsible for the provision of excellent cyber security measures on any smart devices. With that in mind, IoT devices have experienced security breaches in many instances due to lack of experienced professionals who can help in handling, dealing, installing, and setting up of the devices. UX designers cannot guarantee the safety of data shared on IoT devices currently.

10. Glitches in the UX design

Glitches in the UX design

You can tolerate a web page that is slow to load or a poor mobile UX, but problematic smart devices or delayed response from an IoT will not be welcomed with a smile. Your children won’t be laughing when the smart toaster causes a delay or burns the breakfast. A glitch in the UX design is unforgivable. The designers for IoT in major companies should be working night and day to find ways to keep such challenges away from the IoT world.


IoT provides endless possibilities for connecting devices with apps and people. It is the next big thing despite experiencing many challenges like any other infant tech tool. It is vital to have a good user experience from the beginning. UX designers should, therefore, have the user as their priority while developing future products, and avoid releasing them without testing. Companies are working hard to turn these challenges into opportunities to ensure IoT devices continue to thrive. UX designers should rise above the challenge and incorporate features that compel users to migrate to IoT devices. They should ensure that IoT adds value to the end user and the benefits of the product outweigh its complexity. Furthermore, UX designers should work towards an easy and quick IoT setup that focuses on making connectivity a reality.

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