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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Intuitive User Interface: A Customer Magnet

There’s no question that the user interface of any product can make or break its success. Even vehicles have always had some level of dependency on the driver experience – but within the past several years, the user interface has become a critical selling point. This isn’t a huge surprise in the luxury vehicle segment, but even the most recent releases of more mainstream or average-consumer models like the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee now come equipped with sophisticated technology that’s changing the consumer driving experience.

But it’s not just about vehicles. Any product that involves interaction between the user and the device offers some type of user experience. Whether it’s a simple push-button effect or a sophisticated control panel with data and flashy graphics, today’s consumers demand a more streamlined lifestyle and gravitate to products that offer robust user interfaces to make their lives simpler – yet more complex at the same time. User interfaces consist of a membrane switch, a sophisticated control panel that enables the user to program complex processes with a simple sequence of buttons.

User Interface Key to Usability

There’s a big difference between a product’s functional capabilities and its usability, and the membrane switch user interface is the key to bridging that gap. If a product is technologically advanced and capable of performing tasks like no other in its class has ever come close to achieving, it still means nothing if initiating those functions requires operational processes that are far too advanced for the typical user. That’s why there are components like Pannam custom membrane switches that are individually conceptualized and designed based on the product requirements and user demands.

There’s a natural positive association with the complexity of a product’s functionality and the difficulty level required for programming the device. But the right user interface can completely streamline programming for even the most technologically advanced products – making it possible to achieve more with less skill in both the end consumer and the B2B market. Healthcare devices supplied to the provider segment, for instance, can have more complex programming requirements than a device designed for in-home use, where accurate programming depends on the skill level of the patient or caregiver.

At the same time, medical devices are now capable of far more processes than they were just a decade ago. But custom user interfaces make it possible for nurses and even technicians to program these devices with minimal training. Likewise, medical devices for in-home use can now perform tasks that were once only possible in the inpatient setting – thanks to intuitive custom user interfaces that are easily understood by patients after basic instruction from a professional. The same user interface can make the difference between a product that’s completely unusable by individuals with certain disabilities and a product with proper customization for universal accessibility.

The user interface, literally, determines how practical the product is and whether it will be used to its full capacity in various settings. It’s the membrane switch that serves as the technological translator by transferring the user’s simplistic commands into a sophisticated program that enables the product to function as intended.

Target Your Demographic with Usability Levels

Product manufacturers must carefully plan and construct the membrane switch based on the capabilities of the typical user, or the target demographic when it comes to marketing. When the membrane switch, and therefore the user interface, is perfectly matched to the target’s skills and expertise, products are far more successful. That’s because more advanced users actually prefer more complex functionality. These users are perfectly okay with the need to be a little savvier about using their gadgets in order to take full advantage of that functionality.

But if the user interface is too simplistic for the target audience, those same advanced users are more likely to opt for a comparable product with a more complex user interface that’s in line with their capabilities – these consumers tend to feel like they’re buying a cheaper product when there are opportunities for more advanced functionality that are left out for the sake of making a simpler product.

On the other end of the spectrum, consumers tend to shy away from advanced user interfaces if their technological skills are lower than that which would make it easy to grasp the product’s functional controls. This means that a careful analysis of the target audience is required to produce a custom user interface that creates the perfect blend of maximizing the product’s functional capabilities while appealing to target consumers based on their technological savvy.

The membrane switch is an imperative part of any product design. The resulting user interface will either attract customers like flies or exclude certain segments of the target audience through usability and accessibility issues. And because today’s consumers are savvy, they intentionally seek out products that are said to have impressive usability combined with sophisticated functionality.

Nicole Enwright contributes, on behalf of Pannam, to a variety of tech and new gadget blogs to help users find the product they need.

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