Smart BMS offers tools to help operators of smart buildings keep their systems healthy. Before adding functionality to their app, Smart BMS wanted to improve its foundation. They asked for help to address known issues.
Their users reported regularly getting lost in the app, and many struggled with the complex filtering system. I was hired to address these issues, and see what other usability improvements I could tackle in the 6 week timeline.
User feedback and stakeholder interviews revealed the app has two primary users.
Supervisors run the daily operation and maintenance of smart buildings. They make up the vast majority of users.
Executives number far fewer, but do make purchasing decisions. They are more concerned with the overall health of the system.
Supervisors often need to play detective as they troubleshoot maintenance mysteries. Solving problems requires understanding of how systems relate within the building’s walls. Is the leak on the 4th floor coming from the bathroom, laundry, or a broken pipe somewhere between? Has there been recent work in this area where we should check for problems first? Where should we drill to not damage sensitive equipment behind the same bit of plaster?
The old design allowed users to see details of specific assets. But, it required users to navigate elsewhere to see related work orders. Users must go elsewhere still to check if needed inventory is in stock. As users clicked around to gather information, they would often get lost in the app.
“People are constantly losing their position through the app. (There’s) too much jumping around, behavior is not what you’d want it to be.” - J.P., stakeholder interview
"Filters eat up the entire screen." - H.G., user interview
Changes to the IA reduce the need for cross navigation, helping users maintain their sense of place in the app.
1. The filters interface now displays in a side panel. This allows users to maintain sight of their data while they filter.
2. The new Detail view has tabs for related information, reducing the need for cross navigation.
The "Overview" tab on the Work Order Detail contains maps, schematics, and other important information. Other tabs house relevant service histories, task checklists, and associated inventory. Instead of navigating throughout the app, now users can access relevant data within the detail view itself.
1. Breadcrumbs were added to the header, to help users maintain context while navigating.
2. Icons label all work orders, so users know at a glance that they're working in the Work Orders List.
3. Tokens are introduced as a familiar way to express applied filters. Tokens clearly communicate functionality, benefitting both novice and advanced users.
4. Moving the filters into a side menu means that users can now see the list they're working with while they filter. Besides helping users maintain context, results of their actions are now immediately evident. This creates better opportunities to learn how the filters work.
I wanted to provide users with simpler methods of navigation than filters.
Users can tell Smart BMS which metrics they find most valuable. These metrics were regularly updated and emailed to users in the form of custom reports.
When users wanted to see more detail on report items, they needed to locate the same data from their email in the app. This seemed a bad experience, especially considering the navigation complaints of these users.
I suggested we bring custom reports into the app. Now users can click on linked report items and go directly to a detail view.
We also added links to recently visited work orders, assets, and locations to the home page. Users can now completely avoid filters when returning to recent work.
Users now had several ways to navigate without filtering. Changes to the IA limit the need for cross navigation, helping users maintain a sense of place. Visible results while filtering, breadcrumbs, and icons, all provide context for users. Finally, the addition of tokens and the redesign of the filters should make them easier to use. Not bad for 6 weeks work!
Among my final deliverables for Smart BMS were visual mocks and an 83 screen Invision prototype. The team is currently busy developing new components. Soon, my designs will guide the next iteration of the app.