Both the 2019 CES, or Consumer Electronics Show and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) wrapped up for the year in January. According to visitdetroit.com, the North American International Auto Show is the largest concentration of the world’s top automotive and technology executives, designers, and engineers who gather to debut brand defining vehicles and industry shaping announcements. The Consumer Technology Association, or CTA, states the Consumer Electronics Show is the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies, or the global stage for innovation. Perhaps you attended one or even both shows.

There appears to be a debate whether the NAIAS is really “the” auto show to attend in January. Since new cars now feature all kinds of technology, CES has become a major auto show as well.  Perhaps that is why the North American International Auto Show is moving its annual January event to June in 2020.  Although June seems very late for Automobile Trade Shows, Rod Alberts, the Executive Director of the NAIAS, says, “Our show is undergoing its most significant transformation in the last three decades. Detroit will continue to be a global stage for some of the world’s most significant and iconic vehicle reveals and host an unparalled international audience of media and key influencers.”

It’s clear there is a common theme that has caused the two shows to compete for exhibitors, and that is “user-experience.” For example, visitors to the NAIAS had the chance to experience the future of mobility with Toyota concept vehicles, including the “Concept-I RIDE,” Toyota’s ride sharing solution that Toyota USA’s Newsroom said will transform mass transportation into a personal and wheelchair accessible experience. Audi skipped the NAIAS, and was an exhibitor at the CES instead.  Audi’s online Media Center reported that Audi spotlighted technologies for their “in-car entertainment” that includes their new “Audi Experience Ride.” The Audi Experience Ride not only focuses on the driver, but also, the passengers, by incorporating virtual reality. Consumers are becoming so accustomed to using mobile and digital technology, that they are creating a demand for it to be brought into all aspects of their lives, including the automobile. According to the Business Insider, there will be around 220 million connected cars on the road by 2020. (Connected may provide access to smartphone apps, dashboard controls, or even engine diagnostics).

But why does user- experience matter? User-experience wasn’t always at the forefront of electronic designs, nor automobiles for that matter.  In the past, users had to adapt to the design, rather than the design adapting to the user.  Today, user-experience makes the difference to whether or not a device or a product succeeds, and as technology evolves, it brings both opportunities and challenges to OEM’s.

Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Nowadays, designers and manufacturers need to consider all aspects of the user-experience, including the look, the usability and function. This is where user-interface (UI) design comes in.  The user-interface is the means in which a person interacts or controls an electronic device. In other words, a user-interface maximizes the user’s experience.  A UI is the most critical part of a design. Feature-wise, a good user-interface provides a safe, efficient and user-friendly way for a person to operate a device, allowing for a smooth completion of any task.

When it comes to a poorly designed user-interface, the issues are noticeable. Take a look at the automobile- specifically, the modern automatic shifters. In an article posted on bestride.com called, “The Worst Shifter Designs of 2017,” Craig Fitzgerald writes that selecting gears is the most critical part of driving an automobile. Because it is so critical, he says the shifter needs to be simple and intuitive. In this case, how the driver interacts with, or controls the automatic shifter, refers to the user- interface, generally known as the PRNDL. The user-experience is the outcome of interacting with the shifter. For example, how long did it take to engage with the shifter, or find the correct shifter button? Was the driver confident the car stayed in Park? What notifies a driver that their car is indeed in Park? Was it easy to use in the dark? In other words, did it provide good tactile and visual feedback to the driver? Fitzgerald goes on to illustrate how certain car makers have tried to change the conventional look of the PRNDL, which, in some cases, led to consumer confusion, safety concerns, recalls, and even death. Cleary, the user- experience was overlooked in exchange for perhaps the appearance. The usability and functional components of the UI, or PRNDL were absent in these designs.

A Consumer Reports article from 2017, titled, “When It Comes to Automatic Shifters, It’s Proceed With Caution,” reads that “shifters used to be familiar, intuitive, and generally safe. Now that carmakers are striving for stylist differences, the results are sometimes confusing and potentially dangerous.” The article went on to say that Consumer Reports was deducting points from their “Overall Score” of an automobile if it has a shifter that is difficult to operate, or if it can be confused for other controls. They were also deducting points from their Overall Score if a tested vehicle did not automatically return to Park or engage the parking brake when the engine is shut off, or when the driver’s door is opened with the engine running. Based on those warnings, recalls, and concerns, some of those car makers have since incorporated the necessary tactical and visual features back into the automatic shifter designs, creating stronger consumer confidence, and recommendations from Consumer Reports.

So, if an automobile has gadgets or buttons that are too confusing or difficult to use, would you buy it? What about other devices you use for work or home? Would you design a user-interface without considering the user-experience first? Our team at DuraTech Industries understands that user- experience has a huge impact on your business or brand, no matter what industry you are in.  We also know that technology has changed the way consumers work, live and play, so we have advanced our capabilities to give your customers safe, efficient and positive experiences with your products.  From our In- Mold Appliques with back lighting options for UI’s like the PRNDL, to our In- Mold Electronics for medical devices, you can rely on us as your partner for user-interface design. Our User-Interface solutions include:

  • Membrane Switches
  • Graphic Overlays/Appliques
  • Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)
  • Keypads
  • Touch Screens: Capacitive and Resistive
  • In-Mold Electronics (IME)

Whether you just have a great user- interface design idea, or you’ve already built a prototype, we are here to assist you every step of the way towards full production.

CONTACT OUR EXPERTS to learn more.