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UX Designers Must Think Physical

What I learned creating Milo

By Hannah Sage


These days it’s so easy to get caught up in the digital that we need something physical to bring us back down to reality. Sometimes we can connect better with a physical product:

 Milo, a product combining digital and physical (https://www.vmbvoom.com/pitches/milo-1)

The experience of touching and feeling something isn’t the same as interacting with something online.

Digital /Analogue

Just think about the experience of reading a real book vs. a Kindle book — it’s a different experience though not necessarily worse or better.

Kindle Vs Book


The Kindle brings digital conveniences, enabling us to carry thousands of books on the move — conveniences that people are willing to pay for.
This has created a growing demand for products that combine the digital and physical, the benefits of which I found when creating Milo — an interactive way for young children to stay in touch with absent loved ones.

“We cannot ignore a growing customer demand for an integrated experience with physical products.” — DesignIt

I found things like Skype and FaceTime, although effective, don’t bring the same connection that a real product would. Milo is a product that a young child can physically hang on to and feel as their own special connection to an absent parent or loved one. Being tangible makes it easier for Milo to satisfy a child’s need for play, routine and family contact:

The Changing Role of Digital Design (Digital + Physical)

The growing demand for products such as Milo (that combine the digital and physical) is also leading the role of the digital designer towards change:

Image from Chui Chui Tan


If tomorrow, we are designing for physical + digital, digital designers must begin to think differently. This is because designing a physical/digitalproduct needs you to consider additional things a user will experience through physical aspects of a product:

Physical usage of Milo

  • Physical design aspects to consider:
  • Touch (temperature, edges, texture)
  • Smell
  • Appearance (visceral/behavioural/reflective)
  • Safety (temperature, size)
  • Ergonomics
  • Bridging the digital/physical divide

In addition to Milo, we see more and more combinations of digital and physical products every day — some more useful than others. However their success may depend on a shift in skills to blend digital design with industrial design, so make sure you start to consider both:

 Image from Jason Mesut

Thanks for reading

I’ve entered my product Milo into this year’s Virgin Media VOOM Competition in an effort to help get it to market one day. To make it to the next stage of the competition it’s all down to the public vote.

I would really appreciate it if you could click here and vote for Milo.

If you have already voted then thank you very much, I think it’s really fantastic to have gained so much support!

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