UX/UI Designer at Elevat
10 - 15 employees
UX Design Lead, User Research, UI Design, Visual Design, Mobile, Front End
How can we help people in the Industrial IoT space make actionable decisions from the data on their machines?
Elevat is an Industrial IoT company. It may seem like just another bussword (trust me im tired of it too) but the value companies can get from data they may not know they have access to is huge. Working at Elevat is fun and hectic. Its a space where users are years behind on the technology they use. From research, they often don't know what solutions they need, or even how to articulate the issues they're facing.
Thats where I came in. I needed to design a product in an emerging space. Oh boy, here we go.
"How can we help people in the Industrial IoT space, make actionable decisions from the data on their machines?"
In Fall 2018, I joined Elevat as the first Designer on a mission to improve my Design chops, and help make a small IoT company a success. The company was comprised mostly of people who'd worked at Hitachi for a few years in their IoT division. They were all knowledgeble, talented people with plenty of helpful experience to help immerse me in the problems they were trying to solve.
Basically, the Industrial space is a challenging one to design for. Innefficiencies are abundant, and often, thats an accepted fact. Proficiency with modern applications and systems is lower than in consumer applications.
Some general questions users at Industrial companies may have are: When was my machine last serviced? How long has my machine been offline? How can I control my machine without being there? How can I increase my productivity? Hell, Where is my machine?
Many of these problems go beyond an IoT solution. Habits and users behaviors in this space are engrained, and hard to break out of. However most of the IoT products out there don't provide much value other than just being boring dashboards no one wants to stare at.
The above graphic shows the design process I went through during my time at Elevat.
When I joined, the old UI wasn't in great shape. The Information Architecture was jumbled, there was no visual heirarchy, and the grayscale...
Initial Research and Exploration
My first task as a designer was to truly understand the problem I was trying to solve. That problem being the current pain points in the Industrial Machine space. Forklifts, Backhoes, even Apple tree shakers were all machines I needed to understand. It took me about a month to talk to team members, and research different directions the industry was headed. I led brainstorming exercises to get insights out of different stakeholders. We asked questions like: What are some common pain points in the Industrial space? What kinds of people deal with these problems? In an ideal world, how would software like this work? These are some of our high level findings:
- In an ideal system, people don't want to do anything. Monitoring, then being able to make an actionable decision is ideal. Time is precious in this industry. People need to get immediate insight into their data, and make decions based on that. How many hours does this machine have? When do I need to change the filter? etc.
- Lack of visibility into how a machine is doing. Generally, people don't have any insight into when maintenance needs to be done, how the parts are holding up, and the inventory of those parts. The process of ordering parts is more reactive than proactive. Its all a scramble to prevent big breakdowns that cost thousands.
- There are multiple personas in a company. Those people care about different things. Sales, Marketing, Executives, and Engineers are just a few of the personas that are at Industrial companies. Because of the fast paced nature of the job, and low technological proficienceis, people generally just want things to get done and work.
- The industry is pretty far behind the latest design and software trends. Its common for companies to run decades old software and use excel sheets. Yea...
- Many companies manually log hours on machines and parts. Digitizing Maintenance is something e a lot of companies are excited about.
At the same time, we explored some conceptual direction and user flows for the redesign of the system:
Once a solid Information Architecture structure was decided on, I iterated quickly on many different designs for the Maps, Inventory, and Settings pages. Many meetings were held frequently to get feedback and outside perspectives on the designs. In about a 2 month timeframe, we were happy with a design we wanted to move forward with.
Thats more like it!
Understanding the Users Journey
Over the next 9 months, undetrstanding users became even more central to the design decisions. There were a number of ways the product could go, but I needed to do lots of research with end users to help guide the product design. I did a competitive analysis on the competition, held more brainstorming meetings around features with stakeholders, and did more user interviews.
What should our product focus on? Assets
All the data users want to know about their machines revolved around their individual assets. Location, maintenance, reporting, and other features could all be designed with assets as the foundation. Doing this makes the data more actionable, users understand the purpose quickly, and gives the platform more intrinsic value 👍
The design was always being iterated on quickly, with customers asking for new features and market research leading us in new directions.
I used Adobe XD to build prototypes and organize my designs. With the Creative Cloud as my home, me, my UX Design Intern (thanks Esther 😀 ), and a team of around 7 developers iterated around these designs. Interested customers wanted to see things fast...
Oh yea. Among other things, I made a style guide
Validations and Outcomes
Customers were excited when we showed them these designs. More importantly, they could see how the platform would integrate into their current workflows and solve some of the problems they're looking to eliminate.
The Industrial IoT space is still very far behind the technological proficiency of the consumer space, so getting companies to get on board will undoubtedly take years to fully adopt. Many companies run their machines until they break, or don't pay too much mind to maintaining their machines health.
Not only would Elevat be a good solution to improve a companies efficiency and reduce downtime, it would be a great platform to help control emissions on this planet we live on. Just a bit though.