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Top 5 industrial UX trends for 2022

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From modernization to no-code tools and data visualization, here are our top trends for industrial UX development in 2022.

We’ve only just said goodbye to 2021 – with supply chain delays, remote work, and team resiliency still ringing in our ears – and in many ways, 2022 seems like more of the same. Some people have returned to the plant, vendors are adapting to the lack of silicon, but the pandemic and its impacts continue to influence our lives.

Despite these challenges, there are opportunities to be found in the current industrial manufacturing landscape. Advancements in tech forge ahead and user expectations continue to evolve for Industry 4.0.

Image of industrial worker with webinar title: "Building embedded products for today's industrial markets"

In 2022, there will be a further blurring of the lines between user experiences (UX) for industrial devices and consumer technologies. Balanced with the need for cost-effective and connected platforms, here are our predictions for the most important industrial UX development trends in 2022.

1. Modernization is a must

“87% of industrial equipment manufacturers say digital transformation is a top-three priority and 71% confirm that global economy concerns are pushing executives to turn digital transformation initiatives into results.” - Industrial equipment manufacturers are becoming future ready now, Avanade (PDF)

Connectivity and globalization are key drivers for the modernization of industrial equipment but the impact is most felt by users. Due to their simplicity, ease of use, and emotional connections, everyone wants a smartphone-like experience on their shop floor. While industrial modernization projects tend to focus on features, performance, and safety, it’s important to include UX and GUI development principles to minimize these issues:

  • Unclear and confusing GUI navigation and control
  • Longer training times and slow user adoption
  • Confusion or obfuscation of safety alerts and controls
  • Disconnected experiences between devices in the facility
  • Lack of personalization
  • Minimizing or ignoring bias, cultural, and socioeconomic factors (this CareerFoundry article explains more)

It’s also critical to consider new GUI hardware that can offer better performance in memory and graphics, and save on power for industrial-based wearables.

The push for more efficient hardware systems is reflected across the entire embedded software market:

“On the basis of function, the standalone system segment is anticipated to register remarkable revenue by 2027, which can be credited to the strong demand for special-purpose hardware like FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) and MCUs (microcontroller units).” - Embedded Software Market 2021-2027, Top 4 trends enhancing the industry dynamics, Global Market Insights Inc.

2. Collaboration becomes critical

“Collaboration is crucial to UX; after all, our users will never interact with our static artboards or UI prototypes.” - The State of UX in 2022, UX Collective

Working together effectively has always been a mainstay of the UX design and software development processes but this year, with the pandemic pushing everyone to Zoom calls and online tools, industrial GUI teams need to be online-first in almost every way.

This includes cross-discipline collaboration, as modernization and other GUI development projects require alignment in thinking and execution between UX designers and embedded developers.

“The problem with [traditional] workflow is that the user experience (UX) is designed without direct testing and feedback of the GUI application on hardware. This makes it challenging to uncover potential issues with the design, performance, or UX of the application until significant work has been put into development.” - How to Improve Embedded GUI Development Efficiency Using a Collaborative Workflow, AMETEK Crank

3. More support for data visualization

“Several user interface (UI) and data visualization design trends are beginning to impact industrial automation, including concepts such as using real-life pictures, aesthetic minimalism and sophisticated typography. Effective UIs are needed for local human-machine interfaces (HMIs), site-wide supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) displays.” - How to accelerate data visualization, Control Engineering

The increased presence and adoption of cloud manufacturing, IoT, remote systems, and big data analytics are leading to more data-oriented operations that require visualization techniques and systems that improve decision making. Gone are the days of one control interface connected to one machine, now we’re seeing sophisticated touch panels that manage an entire digital manufacturing system, and integrate with sites around the world.

The challenges in these Industry 4.0 systems include collecting, analyzing, and reporting on all the data being gathered but the purpose remains the same: Summarizing large data sets quickly for a user to take action.

Some ways of doing this effectively include:

  • Using bar charts, line charts, and graphs to make data more digestible
  • Providing dashboards for quick-access summaries and visualization
  • Allowing users to search and explore data, with customizable options for quick access to frequent reports
  • Balancing contrasting colors between GUI elements to help users process information quickly

4. Increased adoption of no-code tools

“The low-code approach also lowers the barrier for traditional manufacturing companies that are on the outset of digitization and looking to harness IoT opportunities to optimize processes, but are daunted by the complexity and development resources involved. Low-code/no-code can fast-track the development of automation and industrial applications.” - A deeper dive into no-code manufacturing in the skills-shortage era, Smart Industry Forum

No-code or low-code tools support the development of software without requiring the user to know how to code or use programming techniques. With the shift to remote work and an increased skills shortage, industrial manufacturing teams will look towards these types of tools to decrease their reliance on specialized expertise and increase their rate of production.

For example, AMETEK Crank’s Storyboard is architected to allow the UX team and designers to perform their work without having to know the details of back-end application code and logic, and vice-versa. Designers can import their Photoshop and Sketch files, modify GUI assets, and simulate the application in parallel with the embedded developers programming and integrating the main application with hardware – all without interfering with one another. This type of parallel development helps the overall product progress independently of either team, and allows it to scale to different platforms and operating system environments with minimal effort

Using Storyboard to go from a Photoshop file to running target hardware in 10 minutes

5. Industrial wearables development grows

“The global industrial wearables market size is expected to reach $8.40 billion by 2027 from $3.79 billion in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 12.4% from 2020 to 2027.” - Industrial Wearables Market Outlook, Allied Market Research

Fueled by innovations and practices in the consumer segment, the development of industrial wearable devices will be a key market force in 2022. There are three reasons why industrial GUI manufacturers are hopping on board the wearables development train:

  1. Increased productivity – Advanced wearable interaction techniques and voice commands enable more seamless workflows for industrial users, and allow them to work independently of a centrally-located computer or display screen.
  2. Increased operational efficiency – every minute of downtime leads to lost revenue and wearables open the opportunity for more efficient detection, reporting, and remediation of service disruptions on the line.
  3. Increased safety – by offering information-rich displays and the potential for hands-free or minimal gesture-based interactions as close to the body as possible, industrial wearables reduce distractions for technicians and operators in hazardous environments.

The common theme between all these industrial UX trends is increased recognition and support of industrial users in 2022. As we’re at the height of consumer savviness towards technology and user experience, it only makes sense for industrial equipment manufacturers to cultivate empathy and collaboration in parallel with increased connectivity and features.

Image of industrial worker with webinar title: "Building embedded products for today's industrial markets"