Today I sat down with CloudCar’s Senior UX Designer, Monica Farrar Miller to learn more about the upcoming Open Mobile Summit and her panel discussion.
What is the Open Mobile Summit?
It’s the Biggest B2C Mobile Event in America for Mobile Product, UX Design and Mobile Marketing Executives.
Let’s see, the website says, “Digital product, mobile marketing, UX and Design executives will meet at the Open Mobile Summit on November 29-30 in San Francisco. Now in its 8th year, this event draws together the most influential B2C brands, mobile-first companies and app-idols. It’s the definitive mobile consumer event, no other conference gives you such a complete view of the mobile world.”
Ooo well that sounds exciting. Have you been before?
This is the first year they have included Design.
That must make it more exciting to go?
Yes, well I think Product and Design really go hand in hand… the power of a product’s functionality falls short without really good design. From my perspective, the most successful products come out of a triangle of equal contribution between Product, Design, and Engineering.
Yes, all three with the same focus. Focusing on User Needs, Best Approach, and Execution. In my experience, one without the other just doesn’t work.
Let me take a step back… What is your background?
Well, prior to CloudCar, I was at Amazon and I worked across several hardware products; on their phone and on multiple tablets. I worked on their Apps and Services Team, which included email, calendar, contacts, messaging, and dialer applications.
What is your role at CloudCar?
I am the Senior UX and UI Designer and I’m responsible for the driver facing UI design across all of our products…
So this is in the head unit?
Yes, the drive experience which includes, interactions involving media, navigation, communication, to name a few… I am responsible for creating seamless, driver-centric experiences across various interaction models, voice search, recommendations, notifications, and so on.
Is there a difference in designing for cars?
Well if you think about it, it’s not just a user. It’s a driver.
It’s super important when designing for the car to have a driver centric approach. You really have to understand that when you’re designing for in-vehicle products, all the things you are bringing to a user is secondary, because their first priority is driving.
Is that challenging?
It’s shifting the way you think. The more you focus on human safety, the more challenging the interactions are, but it’s also very exciting, it opens the space up for new interaction paradigms.
The products we build are also different. Our approach to connected car technology is what sets us apart. We focus on content versus apps.
You mean the content that comes from the apps though, right?
Yes, all of the content you are accessing from your apps… we just eliminate the steps where you first have to think about what app to open, then search for your app on the phone, then access it. We focus on access to content with limited interaction… namely touch and voice.
So you’re not just making a screen look cool and user friendly…
It’s more than the look and feel, there is a lot to do with safety. You never talk about safety when you talk about designing for mobile. But in a car, your physical safety is #1.
And that’s just for the driver. From the OEM perspective, you’re extremely concerned with brand. When a user buys a certain brand of a car, you must have that brand’s experience. Even in its technology.
And if I think of products that are bound by their branding, I think of cars.
Absolutely. I mean people buy cars because of the car’s brand. Brands are everything in the automotive space. Their products are basically built to emulate their brand. A driver buys a car because they can see themselves in it and it feels like a reflection of their personality.
People by cars because it feels like them.
Exactly. Car companies are catering toward a very specific audience with a specific look and feel, and that must also be reflected in their technology. CloudCar really focuses on the idea of content not apps. The app architecture is not conducive to a driving expensing but more than that, pulling in content allows us to customize, or “brand”, the information regardless of its source.
So is that what OEMs are shifting toward?
I think traditionally OEMs felt that they needed to develop their software internally in order to maintain their brand. This results in the software development being subject to the same long dev cycles as the hardware… which then causes them to fall behind on service integration. But with our platform, we allow the OEMS to maintain their brand, their look and feel, and still get all of the content users have available on their phone, but in a safe, driver centric experience.
So as a car tech designer, that’s another challenge?
Really CloudCar as a platform company, is agnostic to which OEM we work with. We want all of them to access content safely… the challenge as a designer, in that environment, is that you’re not only designing specific look and feel, you have to be able to architect the content in a way that is flexible to different access points, and delivery mechanisms based on different head units, in each car model.
Your role really has to take into account so much more than basic design.You really have a niche specialty then?
Although it has it’s challenges, it’s also quite exciting as there are a lot of paint points for the driver as well as for OEMS. There is a LOT of room to grow. And that is an thrilling place to be.
It sure is. Can you tell me what you’re working on now?
Most of the specifics of what we’re building remain confidential, but in a nutshell, we’re focusing on cloud based services and how to get them in the car, without OEMs forfeiting ownership, maintaining OEM branding and, all the while, creating a driver centric experience.
What do you see in the future?
There’s a lot of buzz going around the automotive industry in terms of artificial intelligence. You have autonomous cars, and that means the infotainment experience in the car will drastically change. The driving may go away, but there could possibly be in essence, a driving assistant which will then be even more important… I mean, it could let you know if you have a flat tire and will have already scheduled a tow truck and hired an Uber. It will take care of itself and you. It’s just a matter of time until it gets there, many of the pieces are out there, it’s just a matter of bringing it together in a sensible way.
I’ll be speaking on a panel discussion called: Developing a Cross Platform Strategy: Designing Beyond Mobile and Desktop The discussion will be centered around the number of screen-oriented devices being used by consumers. Phones, tables, desktops, connected TVs, home hubs, and cars.
Anyone in the mobile space should really come. It’s chalk full of amazing speakers and panels. And I think it will be really fun.