Many new products have more embedded smarts than your first PC. From touch and multitouch phones and tablets to gestural interface gaming systems and radio transmitters embedded in everything from passports to pets, the connections between people and technology are becoming stronger, even as the medium for doing so becomes less visible and tangible. These connections have created an expectation among consumers for a variety of better features and advanced GUI design on even the most mundane devices. These expectations are typically combined with the desire to skip over the instructions and simply start enjoying the experience. Reasonable from a consumer's perspective but more and more challenging from a GUI design perspective.
In our practice, our integrated UI design and ID team creates effective connections. We're integrating more and more sensory stimuli, from sound signatures and haptic feedback to traditional visual and tactile modalities. Combining stimuli creates opportunities for interface design to go beyond gui design and be more responsive, provide better and more natural feedback and basically augment and ease the user's experience.
Leveraging interaction tools is especially important when it comes to developing safety products. While it's always important to get interaction design right, there is no margin for error when it come to proper use of safety products. Recently we incorporated audible interface elements during the development of our IDEA-winning KidSmart vocal smoke detector for SignalOne Safety read the complete KidSmart case study. This is not a traditional GUI design project in that there are no digital graphics but the use of sound as an interface design element helped to make the device easier and safer to program and use.
KidSmart uses a parental or familiar voice recording to more effectively wake young children in the case of fire. Since the unit required voice-processing capabilities to record and play back a parental voice, we were able to integrate voice prompts and feedback to the consumer to ensure proper recording and setup.
In this case we were paying for voice capability anyway so leveraging the technology for setup as well as playback was a no brainer. But as the cost of similar technologies decrease it becomes easier to afford these multi sensory features. Which if applied appropriately can improve usability and the overall brand experience.
Developing effective physical-to-digital interactions is a unique challenge. As people and technology become more integrated, an integrated GUI design and industrial design approach will lead to additional successful multisensory product experiences.