Though sometimes, because our hardware products have a lifetime warranty, the installed software eventually reaches an endpoint, at which point we have the opportunity to make updates or overhaul the software to help users overcome various hardware shortcomings.
When designing for user experience, what are the highest priorities for products like yours that are part of critical systems found in factories?
There are a lot of different priorities because we have a multidisciplinary team, and we focus a lot on addressing cognitive load. Because, I don’t know if you can imagine a factory, but when you’re surrounded by so much machinery, and everything is blinking and moving, and it’s very loud, we have to remember that our equipment is only part of the workers context.
So if we consider someone working at a station tightening joints with our equipment, we have to find what we can do to support them. For example, historically our products provided a lot of feedback, because someone thought “why not blink this lamp?” or “why don’t we show that?”, and our research showed that people don’t have time to look at all those things. I have asked users, “What do you think these blinking lights mean?”, and most of the time people didn’t know, because they didn’t have the time, didn’t care, or it wasn’t important for their process.
So a lot about UX for critical systems is understanding, “what is the minimal information a person needs to do their job right?” This requires understanding the context of use, that this critical system is part of their user universe, and that their safety is top priority. We also work a lot with learnability, so if someone needs to use some of our equipment just once every couple weeks, they don’t forget how to use it.
What have your collaborations with Avalon been like?
We have an in-house team, but when we have been offered consultants from other companies they have tried selling projects, in-and-out, which doesn’t suit my needs. My need has always been to find good people with a strong technical background, because they understand the technology, that it’s crazy complex, and Avalon has provided people with the right background competency, and the right project experience. I need someone that fits in with my team and can start producing, maybe not day 1, but day 2, so that has been my collaboration experience with Avalon. I actually started out as a subcontractor for Avalon myself!