UX is the new UI: The user is king in great IIOT design

UX is the new priority in manufacturing software

Senior Factora consultants participate in a 3-day course covering both the principles of advanced UI and a number of case study projects to hone their skills.

IIOT technology has evolved to the point that self-serve solutions are easier to configure, with your own display mash-ups and data analytics.

Who needs that data scientist? Or system designer? No one!

Uh oh, not so fast. There’s a flipside to this build-your-own-world. You still need good design and data management to make the content meaningful. But now, that role has been pushed out to the end user. The flexibility of the new self-serve technology is both its strength and its weakness.

Factora has delivered strong capability in UI (User Interface) design over the past 20 years. We’ve seen, repeatedly, the improvement in operator take-up and plant performance that comes from systems with an intuitive interface.

Over the past twelve months we have been expanding our UX (User Experience) skills to meet our customers’ needs as they deploy IIOT technology. A number of Factora consultants have completed UX formal training, reviewing the principles and discussing the latest advances.

UI vs UX – which is which?

But first, a review for those who find the distinction between these two confusing – as many do.

  • UX is the big picture, the blend of design, usability and architecture. It means designing for users, for people, making the end-to-end experience intuitive and thereby pleasant to use.
  • UI is what you see, the front-end look and feel. The UI implements the UX design.
  • A UX can work effectively with a terrible UI! You can have an application with a stunning design that is painful to use (good UI, bad UX). You can also have an application that has a poor look and feel, but is highly intuitive to use (poor UI, good UX).

Moving past UI to UX

Manufacturing software evolved its approach to design as technology advanced. When displays were simply about graphics (tanks, valves motors), UI was the main design criteria and skillset. Today, as new capabilities around big data and advanced analytics evolve, software firms are hiring UX design and data scientists to create their applications.

Most major companies that use advanced analytics now have their own data scientist resources – an nearly unheard-of practice only five years ago. In the same way, as data sources and displays of many new and legacy systems are connected into a common IIOT display framework, UX skills are needed to develop a common user experience – rather than replicate multiple disjointed screens in a single frame.

UX at Factora

At Factora we work with UX design companies to train our delivery teams in the methodical approach to UX design. The good news is that UX is a science, not an art. You can train people. It’s just a different approach to the engineering-focused classic UI approach. It considers more factors; it raises the bar.

Factora engages with many customers in designing and blueprinting IIOT solutions. These customers come to us because:

  • They want to leverage our experience to get it right first time
  • They lack the resources for this aspect of the IIOT build-your-own-world
  • They’ve tried doing it on their own and have been unsuccessful. Just recently I was speaking to a company who had been trying to build their own IIOT displays for nine months – without a defined UX and standards approach! Not surprisingly, they were going in circles, building aggressively but not able to complete anything. We are now helping them on their journey.

Conclusion

Interested in learning more about UX? I can recommend:

  • This enjoyable video on The Norman Door
  • This article, which includes an excellent, comprehensive list of what UI and UX are all about.
  • This article from one of our UX partners, recommending you “think beyond just creating another app for that, and instead design something that is literally better integrated into their environment.”

And if you’d like to discuss UX in regards to your current or planned systems, or just have a discussion on the topic, feel free to reach out to me directly.