With iVolve Mechatronic Engineer, Callum Coe.
Machine feedback to mining personnel is more than just the norm on mining sites, it is a necessity for growth and security in the mining sector. Ensuring that software is usable and learnable across all operational levels requires constant communication with those on site.
iVolve engineer and member of the UX team, Callum Coe, has been working on Mine 4D, the extension of the iVolve FMS with machine guidance capability.
Experience & Expectation
It has been 35 years since the emergence of modern interfaces. Since then, people’s expectations surrounding a user experience with a device has changed. Historically, the mining industry has been focused on delivering features and functionality without a strong consideration usability.
A common practice is using technology to replace existing functionality e.g. replacing a physical gauge with a screen containing an identical visual representation of the gauge. We see things like this happen because users are already familiar with the existing gauge and its faster to replicate than redesign. However, the original gauge was designed with limitations, mostly mechanical, that do not exist for our new platforms (i.e. screens). This is just a small example of how opportunities to potentially deliver a more useful and valuable tool to users are missed.
Further to this, we have the newer problem of changing user expectations;
‘Our challenge presently is meeting user expectations and assumptions of software and hardware from the consumer space. Five years ago, people weren't carrying a high-performance computer, with a fluid touch interface in their pocket. So delivering software tools, and touch based experiences was simple because nobody had expectations… Now if I pass you a touch screen device, you’d expect to be able to pinch to zoom, and swipe to navigate for example. There are established user habits and expected behaviors due to a plethora of consumer products.
We can still deliver a product that has the required features, and deliver them in a way that is easiest for us as engineers. But to guarantee users engage with our product and get the most value out of our system – we need to be aware of our user’s expectations. We need to be aware of wider industry and technology trends, which are increasingly brought across from the consumer space,’ said Callum.
How does iVolve gather user feedback?
Gathering feedback from operators is an essential part of refining existing features and assessing the future needs of mine sites. iVolve engages in a variety of different feedback methods including integrating automatic (anonymised) data collection on usage into our new Fleet Management Software.
‘We can pull usage data from sites remotely and see directly how users are interacting with the software which helps us refine existing features and to some extent predict how new features might be adopted. But it still doesn’t beat talking to users and understanding what it is they’re doing,’ said Callum.
As well as this, iVolve frequently engages in a two-way communication process with the users themselves in an effort to gain a better of understanding of what job they are doing and how our product can assist them to do that job.
‘… As engineers we have a different understanding of what is simple and what is useful. The easiest way to get around that is actually talking to people who are using the product, not people who will be buying the product or selling the product - you need to talk to the people who are using the product or have used it before. You need to understand your users and their job.’ said Callum.
Providing ongoing support and resources for our clients is a top priority. iVolve’s UX team have created an abundance of user friendly resources that allow supervisors to demonstrate changes or updates to iVolve products all within five minutes at the beginning of a shift on site. For more information regarding iVolve products visit www.ivolve.com/contact/
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