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User-centered design at Fira

User-centered design

Author: Olli Heiskanen
Published: 26.10.2020

Design shines also in Sitedrive

The user what..? User experience, or UX, is created from UX designers’ work to make software more functional and easier to use for You – the Sitedrive users.

Ultimately, UX designers are problem solvers. They work as a link between the users and the software development team, collecting data on the work, needs, and issues that the users have. After discovering these, the designer can bring the solution to the development team with certainty that the products or features to be programmed will make the users’ lives easier – for real.

How does user-centered design work?

In order for Sitedrive to meet the users’ true needs, the development team needs to understand the users. After all, it’s not the designers or developers, but the users, who are really the experts in their work – in construction and schedule management. Often, though, while at a construction site, it might be difficult to name out a concrete solution to an issue, whereas it is easy to point out what the pain points are and what things slow down work. In this case, help is often found in the form of user-centered design – a design methodology which makes the user feedback and insight the starting point.

Design enables doing the development right the first time.

If product development isn’t done in user-centered way, the danger is to develop and publish features that do not optimally fit the construction industry. In this case, the fancy new feature might need to be re-programmed. This is an expensive and slow process, and most of all, frustrating for the sites. In other words, user-centered design enables doing the development right the first time.

Design in the Sitedrive User interface renewal

1. Issue identification

Everything starts from an idea on a new feature, or when it turns out that an existing feature or part of the product requires a re-thinking. For Sitedrive, we received wishes from our users to simplify the editing and publishing process for schedules. We approached the issue by interviewing Sitedrive users on construction sites so that we could learn more about their needs. Feedback was gathered from people working in as many different roles as possible. Based on the feedback, a plan was formed together with the development team on what to do with publishing schedules.

2. Concept design and solution proposal

Once the designer understands the issues that the users have, he or she drafts a solution proposal. This is done with tools that enable quickly visualizing the idea. For the Sitedrive case, we used a user interface prototype, which allowed us to test how the final product would work.

Image: The prototype is not a programmed entity – instead, it’s a set of images within which you can click to pilot the user interface

3. Validation, or solution testing

The visualized solution proposal is tested together with several users to get various viewpoints out. Sitedrive users were given a task to freely browse through the user interface and start editing the schedule. During the test, they spoke out what they felt worked well, and what didn’t. At the same time, the designer observed for any usability issues in the prototype, such as buttons that are difficult to understand, or functionalities at unintuitive locations. The Sitedrive prototype turned out quite successful in the tests. However, it was discovered that most users struggled to find the button to activate the editing mode.

4. Iteration

The feedback and observations are gathered together and analyzed. In the light of this data, the editing button in the Sitedrive user interface was re-located so that it was easier to find. In addition, the button text was changed to make it clearer.

5. Publishing the product

The goal is reached when the product meets the user needs.

Sitedrive faced some massive changes: the separate planning and tracking modes were removed to make editing and publishing schedules more straightforward. What’s important, though, is that the development doesn’t stop here. User feedback continues to be gathered from various feedback channels and the newly published features keep being improved. Few digital products are ever ready – instead, the development is continuous.

Image: 1. Issue identification, 2. Concept design and solution proposal, 3. Validation, or solution testing, 4. Re-design, or fine-tuning, 5. Publishing the product.

There are also other ways to develop features into a product. One option is to bring users and development team members together and design a solution in a workshop. This way, the solution proposal can be found fast, but even then, it must be validated before implementation.

It really pays off for users to participate in the different phases of the user-centered design. That way, they help to shape the product into a solution that better serves its purpose – that is, better serves the users themselves.

Sitedrive Release 10/2020 – UI renewal Sitedrive has been thoroughly renewed with a straightforward way to edit and publish your schedules. Read more
Sitedrive – product Digital schedule management together with site managers, subcontractors and all project stakeholders. Visual, cloud-based browser and mobile solutions. Read more
Postipuisto Residential, Fira Oy Data-drive to site management Leading with data is helping construction sites reach higher-quality handovers and Read more