User Experience

Facilitating a positive experience between agritech hardware and software.

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Emma Campbell

September 21, 2022

Woman up ladder on water tank holding a phone and connecting to a gateway controller on the water tank.

In the agritech sector, hardware and software often come hand in hand. As a result, users experience a challenging combination of physical and digital touchpoints during the set-up phase. Creating a guided onboarding experience rather than a frustrating guessing game can mean the difference between an engaged customer and one already looking for an alternative solution. 

The relationship between your hardware and software is fundamental to the value you offer to your users and the type of experience they will have with your technology. In this article, we discuss the role hardware plays in usability, prioritising the onboarding experience and key questions to consider when developing your agritech product. 

The role of hardware.

With user experience, software often gets most of the attention. However, depending on the role hardware plays, it’s just as important to consider the physical usability. There are two common scenarios for hardware interaction. One is a ‘set and forget’ where the hardware is primarily used to transmit data points and actions. For example, with Halter’s Smart Cow Collars, users have very little interaction with the hardware once the initial set-up is complete. The second is where users must interact directly with hardware to perform a task. For example, Gallagher’s Weigh Scales require using both the touchscreen and the physical controls when weighing livestock. If the usability of the hardware is flawed, it can prevent users from reaching the actual value your product is capable of delivering for them.

Component integration is more important than the raw power of each individual component. The ultimate test of a product comes when humans confront it.
- Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group 

Prioritise creating a seamless onboarding experience.

When it comes to hardware and software integration, particularly for set and forget hardware, the focus must be on the onboarding experience. Ensure it’s clear at what part of the process the user should be configuring the hardware and when they should be configuring the software. Agritech users typically work under environmental and time pressure constraints, so if the initial set-up is complex, it won’t matter how brilliant your software experience is if they can’t even make it that far. Your goal should always be to create an experience your users are happy to recommend to others. 

If the means to collect this information is difficult or confusing, you risk users never being able to discover the true value proposition of your product.

Not sure where to start? These are the questions you should be considering for your agritech technology.

What does a guided experience look like?

When a user sets up hardware that connects to an online platform, is it clear what steps they need to complete to form the connection and in what order? Then, think about how you might deliver these instructions to your users. For example, you could provide a booklet with their purchase, have them follow a step-by-step online wizard, or maybe you can automate your hardware and software to prompt the user to their next step. The right solution will become more apparent the more you talk to your users.

Where will the hardware be located?

The location of the hardware set-up is a vital consideration for creating an optimised onboarding experience. For example, if the hardware resides in a field, will the user need to go back and forth between the paddock and their desktop computer for the set-up process? Or can they configure the hardware on location with a mobile app or move it outside once the initial set-up is complete? By physically going through the process yourself, you’ll start to understand your users’ perspectives and identify areas of opportunity.

What does the environment look like?

If the hardware or software requires regular interaction, the physical environment users will be in when working with your product will significantly impact the user experience. Influencing factors could include internet connectivity and weather. It helps if you also think about what is happening around the user while they’re interacting with your product. For example, are they also trying to manage a flock of sheep or preparing for the next dairy cow? Accounting for the environmental factors users experience when interacting with the hardware or software will allow you to be a step ahead of eliminating feelings of frustration, despite the surroundings.

What is the value?

Often, agtech companies focus on the hardware and neglect communicating the outcomes users can benefit from with the data they collect. For example, instead of selling weigh scales, you could sell the ability to accurately adjust drench doses to ensure animal welfare and save money from wastage.  

Although customers purchase the physical hardware, the data insights generated within the software represent the product’s actual value.

The hardware is usually the means to get the value; the real value lies in the data collected by the hardware and the insights presented in an online portal. You must ensure that the onboarding experience doesn’t prevent users from reaching that value.

The value your product provides lies in the hardware and software user experience.

At Bo Studio, we’re your agritech UX experts. We'd love to connect and learn more about your successes and challenges when it comes to the relationship between hardware and software. So send us an email, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

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