Insight driven interaction design
If a product requires a manual or a tutorial, there’s a good chance that there’s something wrong with it’s design.
YellowJacket is a health and safety reporting and resolution software package which was commissioned by Mace – a massive global force in the construction industry.
The incumbent product required a day long training course and was the source of daily user complaints and help-desk calls. It was my belief that the existing workflow was overly complex and likely insensitive to the workflow requirements of its users: construction workers.
I advocated strongly for ethnographic research and user interviews prior to kicking off interaction design. As it turned out, understanding not only the context of use and workflow was critical but as well, the sensitivity of social issues and appropriate use of language were required to produce a prototype and interaction design for a successful mobile app.
Users who were tested with the Azure prototype completed tasks in less than half the time of the previous system. And no more day-long training course was needed.
Mace wanted to take their YellowJacket health and safety reporting and resolution software to market. However, while there was a belief that the solution was sufficient, there were many user concerns around functionality and ease-of-use. As well, based on an earlier consultancy that I had undertaken there was now a desire to move towards production of a mobile app component to this product; where reporting and notifications would occur on the mobile, and stats and data would remain on the desktop.
The current interface was utilitarian and unattractive – and the workflow was so obscure that it required a day of training to start using the product.
I maintain the view that if a product requires a manual, there is something wrong about its design.
I advocated for ethnography first, then production of a prototype and user testing to shake down usability issues and produce a user-validated spec fit for production.
- ethnography, site visits and user interviews
- analysis of data and reporting back to the project board with recommendations
- production and sign-off of an initial prototype suitable for user testing
- two rounds of user testing sessions with the prototype – and stakeholder reporting
- production of a final wireframe spec for developers
The project process
My work commenced by conducting a usability review of the existing software solution – and producing a hypothesis regarding the next version. Most significantly, this involved getting the product off the desktop and onto mobile devices.
Ethnography was key to understanding how the mobile app would need to function. A number of site visits and interviews were conducted with individuals from both Mace and its suppliers; project managers, safety officers and construction operatives. Pen Portraits of the users were produced initially, and as behaviours and tasks were discovered, these were further developed into personas.
Key stakeholders were engaged at Mace with the findings from the user interviews. Top level user journeys and interaction design concepts were sketched, flowcharted and agreed upon – and an HTML prototype was produced in Axure.
The prototype included key journeys and concepts and was driven through two rounds of user testing, stakeholder feedback and revisions prior to final product design decisions being made.
Outcomes / results
The final output for YellowJacket was a specification document which included visual design guidelines for the app. The design was basic, and high contrast for variable light conditions and indoor-outdoor visibility.
From my perspective, I was delighted that the two major problems which were present at the commencement of the project had been overcome:
Without being given any specific instructions, training or a manual, users could use the prototype on a mobile device to input and receive safety issues in less than half the time required for the previous system. Not only that, but they felt that the new workflow was aligned to their mode of use – and as well, that the language within the app reflected the way that they communicated issues amongst themselves.
No more day-long training course!