In the summer of 2012, I worked at Autodesk Novi Michigan as a User Experience Design Intern. I worked on a 3D designing software in Design Lifecycle, and Simulation Department (known as DLS).
My job responsibilities include support projects by evaluating the usability aspects with existing customers and new user persons and to research about how to make the experience of using these complex workflows more natural. I contributed in work flow analysis, interaction design and conducted user testings.
Work and Process
To run these studies the following processes were followed in the given order:
Identification of the areas to be studies.
Heuristic evaluation: to narrow down the problem scope.
Recruitment of the users: We identified the users from different personas and then recruited them. Their recruitment was based upon their domain knowledge experience with the syststem and their time availability.
Studies were conducted remotely. Every study ran for at least for an hour to two. Their responses (voice + screen) were recorded. Also notes were taken by multiple individuals during these sessions.
After every study these recordings and notes were analyzed.
Actionable recommendations were made and communicated to developers.
The progress on these recommendations were tracked in weekly meetings.
Before finalizing a couple of newly developed work-flows for an upcoming release there was a need to test them with real users. So my first task was to find the crucial areas where these new workflows will be used most. I started learning the environment myself and found that there were some areas that might take a reasonable amount of time for learning for new users of the system. After identification of such areas, to support the best practices I conducted Heuristic Evaluation for these two work-flows using Jakob Nielsen’s ten usability heuristics to uncover the potential problems.
Recruitment of the users, task designing and conducting the tests
To recruit the participants I used a sign up survey. The survey was sent to users who showed their interest in being a part of studies for improvements through the system sign-up. Designing the tasks was one of the fun parts of the process for me. I designed tasks with incremental difficulty, where users were supposed to learn few new things about the work-flows and then use them all in their last task. The sessions were conducted remotely through GoTomeeting via screen share and phone and the users’ screens were captured through Camtasia.
Analysis and Recommendations
Following the sessions the captured notes were compiled into a single document and user quotes were divided into categories. Then the notes from every category were compiled into a high level to low level problems. Aside from notes, user quotes were used to identify the higher level problems.
Findings were discussed within UX team and were translated into actionable recommendations. They were divided into three section as per their priority:
Needs immediate attention or can be easily achieved in the current release.
Needs more resources and can cause delay of release.
Scheduled for next release.
The recommendations were communicated to development teams and their progress were tracked through weekly meetings. I also contributed in development of UI elements that were required by the system to make use of newly designed work-flows. It Refined UI that conveys the sequence of required actions to complete the task.
Notes taken during one of the testings-1
Notes taken during one of the testings-2
Interaction Design work
Reorganized top ribbon for default state
Panels are now arranged for natural work flow of 3D designing, makes it easy to learn. Prominent features are now available with big icons in default state and provides quick access.
Wireframe for the Joints window
Final Joint panel for new workflow.
Mini Joint panel for experienced users.
Highlights of final "Place joint" window:
Visibility of system status is shown by light blue highlighting of the active icons.
Easily recognizable icons were designed to show match between system and the real world.
Full user control and freedom. Active icons can be brought back to previous / advanced state can be achieved just by clicking on desired icon.
Work flow is clear by hierarchy of the icons. Minimalist design by using tabbed panel.
It also has an "Automatic" joint that detects the most common used joint between any two components.
Outcome and Skills developed
My contribution in development of these UI elements and in user testings resulted in improvement in existing interaction and increased delight factor for the work-flows. Also we met the required System Usability Score (4.5) for both the work-flows. My work also helped the team in building a miniature of a toolbar for new workflows that provided all the functionality in the context without accessing the top ribbon.
I also took the initiative of refining an UI window that allow users to interact with all the previously applied constraints of a part in a single window while assembling it. This will also provide a more clear visual understanding of the existing relationships so that they can make informed decisions.
I truly enjoyed my time at autodesk. This experience boosted my confidence as a designer and I learned a lot through collaboration and discussion with the team and especially with my mentor. My understanding of work-flow architecture increased up to practitioner level. I also got a chance to present my processes and findings to top level officials and other UX teams at Autodesk.