A UxDream: How We Do UxD at Critical Software

May 28, 2019

UxD is more than just getting to know your users; it's about falling in love with them. Find out how Critical Software works with clients to realise their user experience dreams.

User Experience Design

"Want your users to fall in love with your design? Fall in love with your users." - Dana Chisnell

At Critical Software we design and build tools for people to work with for industries such as aerospace, defence, energy & utilities, finance, government, healthcare, railway, space and telecoms. We create software that needs to be useful, usable and safe.

With this in mind, user experience and interface design focuses on having an understanding of users’ goals, what they need, what they value, their needs, capabilities and their limitations - such as how they see and read, how they process information, focus their attention, how they remember things and how they make decisions.

We must remember that we are designing complementary systems to the human condition, therefore we have to take into account psychological principles like memory, attention, perception and decision making. Not only users’ capacities but also their constraints.

In order to do that, we get to know users, their jobs and the activities they perform at their workplaces. We also often have them involved in the discovery and design stage of what we build, because we need to understand how they perform their jobs before building the system that they will use. Besides, it is important to take into account users’ previous mental models, how the user thinks the system works, and their business knowledge so we can design a solution that feels and behaves intuitively to them, increasing system usability and their efficiency.

As Don Norman, the UX pioneer who coined the term “user experience” said: “knowing how people use something is essential”. We try to bring users knowledge onboard as much as we can by talking and observing real people in their work environment. We need to understand who the users are, what they want and need to achieve, and in which environments our software be used.

We have several examples of this process of user understanding: from joining people in a battleship and trying to learn and understand their roles and routines, to joining a power plant and understanding users’ jobs within the bigger picture; right through to shadowing users in a bank while they were performing their daily tasks. We’ve even joined tank rides to understand the kinds of reality and missions faced!

However, sometimes going on site might be inappropriate or not feasible. In such cases, we try to bring users and experts to us so we can talk and learn with them about their jobs and work environments. This gives a sense what it is like to be in the users’ shoes.

In both cases, our user experience designers work together with engineers and our customers to understand what the current reality is, what is the desired reality, what issues need to be addressed, which features and workflows make more sense, and what constraints exists (legacy systems, protocols, rules, policies).

We take a collaborative approach to user experience design work. This means that we involve our colleagues from different teams in the design of our solutions. UX professionals collaborate with other team members such as Product Owners, Business Analysts, Developers and Testers on the deliverables they produce, because collaborators in different roles bring value to different aspects of the UX solution. The benefits of this collaboration range from eliciting design ideas and validating findings to removing potential blind spots.

We work across some of the most demanding industries, providing software and system services for safety, mission and business-critical applications and we care about providing clients with technology they can trust.

Understanding our users allows us to create useful, safe and usable solutions. This way, we make sure we deliver systems that fit the reality of our customers. Designing and testing with the real needs of users in mind reduces the complexity of processes and lets people focus on doing their jobs rather than worrying about how a system or interface works.

By falling in love with users, we better understand them and keep them top of mind when designing for them. So, remember – they might not think like you. Observe them and talk to them. Involve them in the design process. Own their pain-points and challenges. Take the time to know their needs and make sure you are designing for them.

by Margarida Carvalho

UX Designer

User Experience Design