As a part of one of my core classes at Georgia Tech, ‘Research Methods for HCI’, students were divided into teams of 5 and tasked to work with an industry sponsor on a given problem statement and formulate an evidence-based design solution.
My group chose to work with Unified Brands, a multi-national conglomerate under Dover – which produces commercial kitchen equipment, the same kind of you see in the Chick-Fil-A’s, Domino’s, and McDonald’s of the world.
Unified Brands came to us in hopes to understand how they could help service technicians improve first time fixes – a measure defined by them as the turn around time taken to fix a broken piece of restaurant equipment in less than 2 days.
Their R&D team had already started to look into this prior to our associated with them, and was evaluating Augmented Reality solutions to remotely assist technicians for faster fixes.
We decided to divide our research into two phases – a primary research phase where we understood the context of the problem, conducted initial stakeholders interviews, the service repair lifecycle, and audited existing solutions.
This was followed by a secondary research phase where we conducted 3 in-depth contextual inquiries, 6 user interviews, and then synthesized all of this data into an affinity map that helped us build personas, empathy maps, journey maps, and design ideas.
We identified our stakeholders, conducted formative interviews, mapped out the service repair cycle, and took a look at some of the important tech-based solutions currently present in their workflow.
We interviewed all of our stakeholders – service technicians, managers, and restaurant owners. Since we were designing for service technicians, we conducted two ride-alongs with them to better understand their daily environment and the challenges that they face.
This by far was the most valuable research activity we conducted, since it gave us an in-depth look into the workflow of a technician.
We synthesized the collected data from the interviews and contextual inquiries into an affinity map to help form insights and brainstorm design ideas to solve higher order problems.
Based on the affinity map, we generated the following insights by grouping similar notes under similar headings.
Personas & Empathy Maps
Based on our insights and observations from the research methods, we created three personas that captured the essence of our users and their characteristics. We also formed empathy maps to understand their needs and frustrations.
Given our research findings, we came up with three divergent design ideas that tackled the problem space. These spanned from fixing the service technician's workflow, improving client-technician communication to a training platform for mentoring young techs.
We conducted expert evaluation and peer review sessions to evaluate our three designs. A set of standard questions were asked to evaluate interest in the designs. We ended up choosing the design with the highest scores – Service Center.
High Fidelity Screens#
To evaluate this prototype, we conducted a remote un-moderated task-based usability study with 26 participants spanning across senior technicians, junior technicians, and managers. This was followed by a qualitatitve survey that asked participants to describe their thought process while performing the tasks.
Here's a brief overview of the process:
Explain the concept behind the app to the users
Ask them to perform benchmark tasks one by one
Prompt for feedback after each task regarding what went well, what did not
Analyse testing findings to find patterns within data
Iterate designs based on new insights
We gathered a mostly positive response to the prototype. Participants were able to perform the benchmark tasks with ease, and the survey allowed us to obtain qualitative data about user's thoughts while using the app. Here are a few highlights from the results:
We gathered a lot of helpful feedback from the usability study. Based on this, we formulated the following design recommendations:
Focus more on the daily job schedule, show more details about each job – location, estimated time of arrival to the job site, and suspected issue
The existing search functionality can be further extended to search for previous job history, searching by manufacturer & specific pieces of equipment, the location (by city, street name), and more.
Have flexibility on the calendar screen to switch between list view and a map view on the go. The map view could focus on showing a route between various service calls planned for the day.
Extending the current photo capabilities to include videos, and an option to add text, shapes, and free form drawings on top of the actual media to add additional emphasis on certain parts of the picture.
Have an option on the invoicing screen to include miscellaneous bills along with supporting photos
Often times, the reported and diagnosed problems are different. Hence, the app should allow technicians to create new tickets on the go. The calendar screen should have a ‘+’ icon that allows them to create a new service request easily through their phones.
The 'Audio Rundown' button can be renamed to ‘Get Problem Summary’ to make its functionality clearer to the users.
This was my first project since I began my Master's in HCI at Georgia Tech. It was a great learning experience working with my fellow classmates, all of whom come from varied backgrounds and complement each other's skill set. Being able to work with an industry partner definitely made the entire thing much more realistic than a traditional 'no-constraints' class project.
Research, research, and more research: This project involved over 8 different research methods to better understand our users. Spending this long on figuring out our users' needs helped us take razor sharp design decisions later on with the utmost confidence.
When in doubt, go back to insights: There were several times during the design process that we had opposing ideas as a team. What helped us pick the right direction was going back to the affinity mapping insights and refering to the user quotes from the interviews.
Test with enough users: While evaluating our designs throughout the project, we always pushed to get a varied sample for testing. This helped in making sure that our solution wasn't being directed by a small unrepresentative population and could be generalized for a scalable audience.