User experience design for custom made manufacturing equipment
Howick Engineering is a well established business that has been manufacturing high technology machinery for over 30 years and is dedicated to providing customers with the best light gauge steel framing solutions.
Software Solutions Lab approached me as a freelance designer to design an application for Howick's custom made tablets to control their machines.
- Tablets are installed on very large machines, at eye-level
- Tablets and machines are use on a manufacturing floor
- Tablets are to be used by workers in situations where they may be wearing gloves or have dirty and greasy hands
- Screens often crack in specific areas, so the placement of important features on the screen needs to be considered
- The buttons need to be big and clear to avoid making any possible mistakes. Any errors by the user could be very costly
- Navigation should be very simple. Since people who work on these machines may not be tech savvy
- Workers need to focus on the job being done and not be distracted by the interface
- Workers should be able to switch between tasks as fast as possible. There's no time to waste in this work environment
User experience, interaction and visual designer.
I was responsible for designing an easy to use application for people who worked on these machines. Knowing my users and their environment was crucial to this project.
I created the end to end design, from research and data gathering, to wireframes and visual design.
Design goals and objectives
- Must work well in a large scale manufacturing environment
- Easy to use
- Clear colours and labels
- Minimum risk for errors
After research and understanding the end user, we broke down the project into small tasks and designed it screen by screen. Wireframes of each screen, or task, were sent to the client for their feedback. The client was involved every step of the way and always had valuable feedback.
User testing was carried out with the people who were working on the machines to make sure our product was usable in their specific work environment.
After wireframes, I created a style guide. The visual design needed to be clear, consistent and easy to understand. Choosing colours was challenging. In order to have a usable product I needed to put accessibility and colour contrast on the top of my list.
We decided to have labels for the main icons and a tooltip button on the top of the screen. This button would show/hide labels for less important buttons, to avoid clutter on the page.
The end result of this process was a custom made tablet featuring the newly created interface and workflows. The tablet was installed directly on custom manufacturing equipment and tested to ensure that it worked flawlessly in an engineering workshop environment. Having successfully met all the required design and end-user requirements, the equipment is now being sold world-wide and used out in the industry daily.