Hardware Development and UX Design: Top Electronics Considerations

May 23, 2019 Cadence PCB Solutions

List of hardware development and UX design considerations including interface, navigation, structuring, design, HCI, user research, usability, and accessibility

Back in the days before video games became the rage that they are today, there was a simple toy that most kids were just as crazy about. Well, even some adults enjoyed swaying their hips and trying to keep the hula hoop from falling to the ground. Although this toy was not that sophisticated—actually just a plastic hoop—it remained popular for quite a while. Fads, such as this come and go...except for the exceptional ones that end up as permanent fixtures in the human cultural tapestry.

In the area of product development, there always seems to be new concepts or strategies that promise to improve design and manufacturing processes. Most of these usually have some merit, but then there are the exceptional ones, such as lean manufacturing, that end up transforming the way we build products. The concept of user experience (UX) design is a strategy that has been welcomed by many product developers as a means of incorporating user feedback into the development process.

Are hardware development and UX design collaborative processes that can be integrated together? Should you adopt UX design as a part of your hardware development process for PCBs? As we answer these queries, let’s delve deeper into what UX design is and how it may be used for circuit board development.

User Experience and UX Design Methods

Before exploring UX design, it is informative for us to make a distinction between UX design and other terms that may be more familiar.

 

  • Usability: Usability is the term used to refer to the ease of use of a product. It includes how the user perceives the product’s efficiency and learning curve, as well as the ease of recalling how to use the product, the amount of pleasure derived from its use, and how foolproof it is.

  • User interface (UI): The UI is the instrument or means by which you interact with the product. For example, a website is a UI for interacting with an online movie database.

  • User experience (UX): UX encompasses all aspects of user interaction with the product, including physical, emotional, psychological, and other aspects. UX includes the product’s usability and its UI.

 

The best user experience meets all of the user’s needs and provides a sense of elation in ownership and use. Achieving this objective requires that you employ UX design methods and techniques.

UX Design Methods and Techniques:

UX design includes a few phases. The first being gathering information from as many sources that can provide useful input as possible.

 

  1. Product strategy development

  2. SWOT analysis

  3. Competitive audits

  4. Value proposition development

  5. User and stakeholder interviews

 

The second being analyzing and streamlining the results so that a plan of action can be developed.

 

  1. Heuristic evaluation

  2. Brainstorming

  3. Analyze tasks    

 

And a final phase being implementing the plan to arrive at the minimum viable product (MVP) that provides the best user experience.

 

  1. Route product roadmap

  2. Test

    1. Focus groups

    2. Concept testing

    3. Usability testing

    4. Accessibility audit

    5. A/B tests

 

This may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through. Keep in mind, though, that just as the user experience is product-specific so too is UX design. Draw from the common methods and techniques for UX design listed above to develop a regimen that best suits your product.

 

A Venn Diagram showing how to find the minimum viable product (MVP)

The concept of minimum viable product (MVP)

 

When and Why to Integrate Hardware Development and UX Design

Providing the best experience for the users of the product should always be a high priority for any hardware development. Therefore, as a designer you are always a stakeholder. One determinant of the UX design tasks you need to perform is whether your role as a stakeholder is primary or secondary. For example, if your board is a part of the UI then it is important for you to incorporate direct user feedback into your design decisions.

On the other hand, if your PCB is an internal device that impacts the system’s functionality, but does not interact with the user directly, then your concerns are primarily with the physical performance and interconnections of the board within the system, which does not require emotional and psychological user input to optimize. The following table should be helpful in determining what type of techniques you should employ for UX design for your hardware development.

 

UX DESIGN TECHNIQUES

DIRECT UX

INDIRECT UX

Analyses

Product, competition, tasks

Tasks,

Stakeholders

Full development team, users

Design and manufacturing teams

User feedback needed

Physical, emotional, psychological aspects

Functionality

Tests

Interviews, user groups

User group (usability)

 

For direct and indirect UX design your hardware development will typically be an iterative process requiring multiple design revisions and board manufacturers before a final design that satisfies the MVP model is achieved. Therefore, it is imperative to strive for optimization of the PCB development process, which includes your design and contract manufacturer’s (CM’s) manufacturing.

How to Optimize PCB Development for UX Design

PCB development optimization is dependent upon your design process. Following the steps below will help ensure that your hardware development is optimized for your UX design.

  1. Incorporate available user information and feedback

  2. Ensure that your CM’s design for manufacturing (DFM) guidelines are utilized

  3. Liberally employ DRC checks during design

  4. Ensure your components are consistent across schematic, layout, and BOM

  5. Make sure your design file(s) are complete and accurate.

 

The steps above are best implemented if your PCB Design and Analysis package is comprehensive and incorporates advanced capabilities, such as front-to-back integration, constraint management and scalability to quickly make changes as you proceed through development as found in Cadence OrCAD.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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