Importance of a unified design

Tuukka Ahoniemi
Product manager
The importance of unified design in software is also seen in automotive products
With developers from different companies creating applications and software for devices, a unified approach is necessary to ensure a consistent user experience.

User experience (UX) is everything, and with people now employing a multitude of devices to control equipment, consistency of user experience is just as important.

But where are the keys to a quality, consistent UX buried? 

The first place to look is the operating system platform: Apple, Google and Microsoft have all invested and managed technologies to enable developers to please users on their platform. But where does ‘consistency’ live? Does any OS platform thrive because it offers the ‘same’ UX as a popular alternative?

Ubiquitous connectivity and touchscreens are adding more form factors, more hardware profiles, and more operating system fragments as enterprises surround their customers with services on more endpoints, trying to reach their end users in all parts (and screens) of their lives.

Consider the (formerly) slow moving world of TV. Video services providers of all types are rushing to make their content assets more valuable and competitive by delivering them (along with a UX!) on more and more endpoints. Streaming services have changed the way consumers are expecting to get access to the content - everywhere, anytime: TV guides are history.

Most DTV set-top-boxes still come with a traditional remote control, but many now offer the ability to control the device directly using a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet. This can have the advantage of being able to use a “second screen” to search for a new channel to watch, or check that a programme is set to record leaving the primary TV display unaffected. Additional value comes from search based on personalized, recommended (or advertised) content. Naturally, the smart-phone-accustomed end users can prefer the same phone or tablet UX over traditional remote control, making the TV eventually itself the “second screen” for the content being controlled over phone.

But developing and updating code for a set-top-box as well as multiple device operating systems, such as iOS and Android, can slow the frequent update schedule that customers are now demanding. Consumer electronics will need to keep up with a demanding pace of new product and feature introductions from the mobile industry.

In situations such as these, developers are increasingly relying on the cross-platform approach enabled by development frameworks such as Qt that enable consistent user experience and native performance across a multitude of devices. In addition, instead of adding a new feature or maintenance fix to all of these platforms separately (TV, Android, iOS, etc), the developers can focus on one code base entirely.

The same trend is also visible in the automotive industry: Automotive manufacturers are also looking to ensure high-quality user experiences across all platforms in the car, whether that is in the main entertainment system housed in the dashboard, the instrument cluster, HUD, or in touchscreen devices embedded behind the seats for passengers in the back of the car.

There is also a desire to be able to control the in-car experience on third party devices, perhaps through apps that allow content to be streamed from the infotainment system direct to the devices through in-built Wi-Fi technology.

Today’s automakers and suppliers want to deliver an in-car experience that keeps drivers connected and informed. An experience where they can leverage a range of devices, services and where drivers can extend their work and their home into their vehicle through the connected car, extending their digital lifestyle to the context of the car. Software technology is shaping the future of automotive and the user experience is what is in focus. The car is becoming an application platform itself and a platform is only as good as the content available for the platform. Getting good content requires efficient and lucrative developer offering.

When building in-vehicle-infotainment systems, many automotive manufacturers and providers face a challenge with managing their technical solutions. A solution that provides readily available components promising productivity and a high level of quality through world-class tools is key to making automotive development effortless. UX, hardware and operating system flexibility should be at the core, allowing OEMs and Tier1’s concentrate on adding end-user value instead of tackling technical details.

Developing a consistent user experience for a multitude of device platforms is often a headache for software teams and can cause delays to the roll-out schedule – especially when device OS updates can cause problems mid-way through a development cycle. Consequently, cross-platform approaches are likely to become increasingly popular with developers. After all, developers want and should be able to focus mainly on efficient content creation, not on the different development environments.

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