I am working on an IoT system, which connects many different products via a gateway.

Now we had a big discussion what the user should be able to access when the gateway or one of the devices is not reachable.

A lot of data is stored in the user`s account, which, in both cases, is still available (e.g. current settings of a device, schedules, device history (when did it do X)) even if a device or the gateway is offline.

There are some people that argue that you should block everything when the gateway is offline. Not even let the user see his connected devices. And block the possibility to "enter" the device, to see its settings and history, if the device itself is not reachable. Other think we should just show basic information and not show (completely hide) all interactive elements, like all settings of a device.

Note: "Not reachable" does not mean that a device is not working - we do not know if it is working.

I have quite a different opinion on it.

I would be happy about some thoughts about this.

Thank you so much. Becky

  • Have you done any research on what your users expect they are able to access? Jun 4, 2019 at 4:53
  • Actually one of the things our users always mention is "We want more information". Especially more history data. For my it makes no sense to block it, when we actually have it.
    – Becky
    Jun 4, 2019 at 13:05

3 Answers 3


You don't know in advance what exactly user needs at the moment. Blocking the whole application just because some part is not working properly means that you decide for user what is better for him. First, you cannot do it for sure about what user needs now exactly. Second, you show no respect to user if you believe you want better what he needs.

Compare it to a restaurant. Would you close a stake restaurant just because you have no ice cream today? May be most of the guests will not even care if there is ice cream at all; they want to get a stake.

If some functions are not available at the moment, show that clearly to prevent disappointment. But if you can provide partial functionality, do that. This will be a very good user experience.

  • Nice answer, but it should be "steak" :-)
    – TripeHound
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:03

I would show as much as I can, for the following reasons:

  • Graceful degradation is a concept in engineering, which means that a system will fail in a "nice" way, sticking to its normal course of action for as long as possible.
  • Graceful failure, when it does fail, don't make it blow up in people's faces. For example, you could show the IoT devices in their last known state, or operate in read-only mode (or whatever makes sense in your context).
  • User satisfaction will probably be higher, if you adequately reflect the error state (gateway is down) and suggest a remedy, instead of simply shutting everything down.

Your colleagues may have a reason to do it this way, e.g. they might be concerned that the devices will end up in an inconsistent state if the users try to make changes while they are not reachable. This is an engineering problem that needs to be taken into account. Disabling all functionality would be the easy way out for them, but it comes at the cost of a degraded UX.

The most important argument in favor of preserving functionality is that at times users might actually be interested in the stuff that is still available (history or schedules), rather than in a real-time, live state of the device. If the UI still works, they won't be affected by the temporary problem.

  • Thank you this is very well structured input.
    – Becky
    Jun 4, 2019 at 13:16

Thank you so much for all your thoughts. This really helped me.

I agree. If one of my devices has done something 2 hours ago, why should we not tell the user. In other words tell him as much as possible about the status, so he can decide best which action to take.

Or why block the users to look at the settings of a device. The device itself still can be operational even with the gateway offline. So I want to know what it should do.

In my opinion it even could lead to more confusion and stress because the systems looks completely broken and the user has no clue if his devices are still included in the system or not etc.

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