How to approach User Interface design for Hardware-Interacting Software?


In today’s digital landscape, user experience (UX), including user interface (UI) play a pivotal role in the success of software projects. As customers increasingly demand seamless, intuitive, and visually appealing applications, investing in top-notch UX services has become essential. 

This is especially true for projects where the software enters into integrations with external devices, where the user has to interact with the hardware interface in addition to the software interface itself. Such projects require an out-of-the-box view of interaction and user experience from a whole-system perspective.
We asked DaGmara Hasse, Design Director at Softgent, to share her thoughts on designing user interfaces for projects where hardware is a key component of the system. Here they are:

Designing a user interface so that the subjective level of user satisfaction and experience of working with the whole system is satisfactory is a complex challenge
In addition to the standard goals of optimizing the path of steps leading to a goal, one must also consider the environment in which the software user interface is being used. When designing user interfaces for software that interacts with hardware, it is certainly worth paying attention to the following aspects:

  • Most importantly, make the interface clear and intuitive, allowing users to easily understand how to interact with the equipment. I usually use familiar and logical icons, labels and controls that effectively convey their purpose. I try to avoid ambiguity and always make sure that users can easily understand the functions of the system and how to operate the connected equipment.
  • It is also important to provide users with immediate feedback when interacting with software that controls hardware components. We have several options, among which visual or audible cues seem to be the most effective way to confirm that users’ actions have been recorded and are having the desired effect on the hardware. Real-time feedback helps users feel in control and promotes a sense of confidence in the responsiveness of the system.
  • Sometimes a hardware system contains physical controls (buttons, switches, knobs, etc.). In this case, I always try to make sure that the corresponding digital controls in the software interface reflect their behavior and appearance. Consistency between physical and digital interfaces helps users understand the relationship between them and minimizes confusion or cognitive load when switching between them.
  • When I sit down to design an interface for software interacting with hardware, I try to identify the basic functions and features of the hardware system at the outset and prioritize them in the interface design. I try to emphasize the most frequently used controls, settings, and information, ensuring their easy access and visibility. It is also a good technique to minimize complexity by hiding secondary features or options, providing a gradual reveal to prevent overwhelming the user with unnecessary choices.
  • I try to consult widely on my projects. For this purpose, I use several tools that allow me to prototype and present the designs in such a way that the end user can go through view typical usage scenarios. Feedback gained during such consultations is invaluable and allows you to base your choices on the opinions of the people who will be using the system. This is the most powerful and my favorite method in the entire user interface design process. It’s a little like role playing game, you need to step into someone else’s shoes and imagine how everything feels like.

At Softgent, we take a comprehensive approach to our engineering tasks, which is why we provide know-how and expertise in many fields and at all stages of software development. Interaction with DaGmara’s team is a mandatory part of our feasibility study process and design and development phases. Software development engineers are active in the development phases of the project, where they are supported by independent validation experts. Our technical support and product maintenance department will provide assistance in the production phase and in handling end-of-life events – that is, EOL and EOS.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to see how our experience and interdisciplinary expertise can help you with your projects.

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