USABILITY CONSULTING AND DESIGN
Redesigning Grid Management for Smart Cities
Utilities depend on SEEload, Lockheed Martin’s Demand Response Management System, to reduce energy demands on the grid, enable smart cities, boost reliability, and optimize utilization. Lockheed Martin, in turn, depends on Spire Digital to optimize the usability of the SEEload system.
Following a comprehensive RFP process, Lockheed Martin awarded the SEEload UX/UI Redesign Contract to Spire. We were thrilled to accept the responsibility of redesigning a demand response management system critical to the nation’s infrastructure.
Spire has a 20-year track record helping engineering-driven organizations enhance their user experience. Designing and building web-based software systems that help trained professionals — from bomb techs to civil engineers — perform mission-critical tasks more effectively is central to what we do. We often find that users are forced to compromise their ideal workflow to adapt to the design of a system. We focus on the converse: Designing systems around the needs and ideal workflows of the user.
Design Thinking (AKA the Scientific Method for Everything Else)
We take a design thinking approach to our UX work, drawing inspiration from the scientific method while operating on an accelerated timetable.
Phase 1, Observe and Inquire: Our process on the SEEload Redesign began by uncovering business goals and end-user context to create a “picture of the world” and a “portrait of the customer.” In parallel, we quickly obtained a thorough understanding of what the application does from a features and requirements standpoint, focusing on inputs and outputs. This phase was characterized by rapid observational learning and inquiry with primary users and subject matter experts. These sessions transpired in the environment and context in which the application is used. Our team has spent countless hours learning from industrial users, from commercial aircraft mechanics to steel manufacturers. In this project, our UX team had the opportunity to conduct in-situ user research in the surrounds of massive power stations.
Phase 2, Generate Hypotheses: Observation and inquiry led to the formulation of hypotheses. These hypotheses manifested as assumptions around how the system should be redesigned. We did not take these assumptions as truths until they were tested.
Phase 3, Design Tests: We worked collaboratively with our client to prioritize assumptions to test with users, while our designers selected the most appropriate idiom, pattern language, and controlled vocabulary to express those assumptions. We actually conducted two types of design at this stage: we designed a prototype, and a methodology for testing it. In doing so, we identified what variables should be measured and determined how that data would be obtained.
Phase 4, Run Experiments: The Initial prototype was built and the testing loop was initiated. Both qualitative and quantitative user feedback was interpreted and prioritized in-line with new features and enhancements to the product.
Phase 5, Iterate: Regular, tight feedback loops over the course of the user experience exercise enabled features to evolve into usable, useful, and desirable experiences for Lockheed Martin’s users.
Looking to the Future
Through the experience of working together on the initial project, Lockheed Martin and Spire have committed to deepening the partnership, attacking additional problems through the lens of design thinking.