UX TESTING AND RESEARCH
Life or Death UX
Every so often, we take on the responsibility of leading a project with life or death implications. Take, for example, the work we’ve done for Logos Imaging, designing and building software that runs portable inspection systems for bomb techs.
The basics of usability, listed below, take on a new level of importance in this domain.
Simplicity – Is the experience as simple as possible and tailored to the task at hand?
Affordance – Do the controls map to the result in a simple and logical way that is easily determined at a glance?
Feedback – Is it clear what is happening/what has happened?
Structure – Are features organized sensibly and clearly?
Consistency – Are the design patterns and language consistent throughout?
Tolerance – Does the application provide easy reversal of actions and/or the ability to recover from errors?
Accessibility – Is the application usable by all intended users on their desired device and/or environmental conditions?
Sometimes In Situ User Research is a Really Bad Idea
Embracing the tenants of user-centered design, we often conduct research in situ with the people we’re designing for. Contextual inquiry allows us to gain a true understanding of the tasks users aim to complete, along with the constraints of their work space. But it’s generally a bad idea to shadow bomb techs, and ask them questions as they’re working. So on this project, we instead relied heavily on event simulations and interviews with retired bomb techs.
Drawing on findings, we defined a corpus of mission-critical features, expressed as user stories, to inform our interaction design work, and deliver on bomb techs’ needs through a best-in-class application, LIA 8. We found that although the existing application, LIA 7, had a robust feature set, its dense UI hindered usability. Through our research, we developed an understanding of what features techs used most often in LIA 7 and which were hardly used (80/20 rule). This allowed us to clean up the UI substantially.
Building for Bomb Squads
The business case for investing in user-centered design often revolves around driving increased revenue through better conversion and retention rates, or reducing costs by achieving greater efficiencies and higher levels of customer self-service. But this project was all about reducing risk by providing greater visibility of potential threats allowing the technician to focus purely on the task at hand. Helping bomb squads save lives is not only some of the most rewarding work we do, it’s also a major crowd pleaser during career day at school.