Monday 29 October 2012

UX - More Than Fluff

My day-to-day work tends to get split three ways between information science, information technology and control technology. But the one underlying thing that's common to all and massively neglected across all, is good User Experience or "UX" design.

Too often developers excuse horrific processes and user experiences to "getting things done," or commonly the lack of a user interface design is excused with a weak contrast of consumer and industrial - after all, you only design an interface for flashy consumer gimmicky software and instead you should dump your industrial and business interfaces on users from a-high (akin to a pigeon shitting on your shoulder).

Most of our control work is fixed within the SCADA and networking of plant systems, so more often than not, we're involved with designing interfaces that control large motors, pneumatic actuators and quite often high pressure steam. And yet the portfolio of products designed for this industry isn't frankly good enough to automate a kettle. As a result, we've had to work outside the box and draw from our years of experience building enterprise-grade systems (both hardware and software), to distill what's expected at the high end of IT and deliver it to the field (quite literally).

And yet it's a struggle to convince people that a rainbow colour screen with randomly placed information, weird animations that are linked to unrelated attributes and all running on a crapped out consumer Windoze PC is not the high of industrial automation.

It does frustrate me that more time and effort is put into the graphics and displays seen on films, then are ever put into the real-life counterparts. For what it's worth, we're trying to change this and introduce a level of user experience that matches the serious nature and importance of the systems involved.

For now, I'll leave you with these first class UX/UI designers:

Sunday 28 October 2012

Winter, the Project Motivator

Now that winter is slowly and cruelly creeping upon us, my lackadaisical project efforts have started to give way to a bit of focus. Over the next few weeks, there should hopefully be some big progress (and write-ups) on my projects, that include:

- RC Platform (aka UAV/Rover)
- RC Hovercraft Rebuild
- RC Boat Rebuild (set back slightly due to new hull damage)
- 28mm Model Building/Painting
- 4mm Plastic & Card Models (1/76th aka OO)
- Train Control System (LCB)
- Train Control Panel (DCC/Traction)
- 4mm Layout (1/76th aka OO)

Plus a big sprinkling of vac-forming, CAD work, panel building, Arduino hackery and lots more fun stuff. Oh and I'll also be lusting after 3D printers and CNC laser cutters. And robots.

Stay tuned.