Developing a Mobile App? Put Your Best Face Forward!
In the Internet of Things (IoT), the mobile app that controls a connected product is the face of that product, at least to end users. For manufacturers accustomed to seeing their products primarily as hardware offerings, the IoT requires a dramatic shift in perspective. To succeed with users, manufacturers need to make IoT mobile app development a real priority in their connected products.
Here are some hints for how to think about IoT mobile app development—so you can put the best possible face on your connected products.
Design Around the User, Not Product Hardware
The ‘center of gravity’ for IoT product design is no longer the hardware. For connected products, users will rarely interact with the hardware product itself. The mobile app replaces the hardware as ‘the product’ in users’ eyes. So from the beginning to the end of your design and manufacturing process, manufacturers must make the IoT mobile app your focal point.
Invest Up Front to Save Later
IoT mobile apps are not easy or inexpensive to do well. Cutting initial costs or skimping on the user experience can damage your brand. Your connected product will be judged mainly by the quality and performance of your mobile app. Invest enough to do it right. Lack of adequate invest in your mobile app development can cause your entire connected product to fail.
Learn Directly from your Customers
With the IoT, you can find out what mobile app features your customers use, or don’t use, directly from the IoT usage data generated by your connected products. Track your mobile features, look for areas to improve or fix issues in future updates to your mobile apps.
Aim for MVP Rather than VIP Levels
A standard best practice for IoT mobile apps is to aim for a minimum viable product (MVP) version, especially with a first connected product. But most manufacturers, accustomed to differentiating their offerings based on how many cool features they can fit into their hardware, tend naturally to go for VIP status in their products. Resist that natural tendency for your IoT mobile app. Users do not need access to every possible property of your connected product. Get to market quickly with an MVP version of your app, then use actual customer usage data to iterate and improve your IoT mobile app in ways that you know will enhance its customer value.
Test to Win
You cannot build your hardware products as you’ve always done, then add a mobile app, run a few tests, and call it good. IoT products are complex interplay among hardware, IoT clouds, software applications, and the networks and communications pathways interconnecting it all. Be realistic about the time and effort it will take to test your IoT mobile app in the context of all the other aspects of your connected products. Also, be realistic about the time and effort it will take to correct and retest anything that does not work perfectly the first time.
Leave Room for Updates and Improvements
One of the big advantages of a connected IoT product compared to a traditional product is that you can continue getting feedback about your products and their use, long after they’re installed, allowing for continued updates and product enhancements. Design your IoT mobile apps with sufficient flexibility to allow you to incorporate features and capabilities that will add real value to your connected products.
Final Hint: Use a Comprehensive IoT Platform
The right IoT platform can shave months off your total development time, getting your products to market faster and less expensively than if you tried to master all the intricate technologies yourself. Such an IoT platform can also take care of making sure that important things such as security, interoperability, and scalability are handled holistically, from end to end.
In the area of IoT mobile apps specifically, Ayla Network’s Agile Mobile Application Platform (AMAP) can get you most of the way toward your final mobile IoT app design really fast, so all you (or an experienced IoT mobile app developer from the Ayla ecosystem) will have to do is the final bits of software programming to ‘skin’ the app with your company’s branding and product-specific features.
Make sure all your connected products put forth their best faces by making IoT mobile app design a priority—and building on a foundation such as the comprehensive, agile Ayla IoT platform.