Integrated Services Incorporated (ISI) is an established company that offers an end-to-end software solution for operating quick lube shops, called LubeSoft®. LubeSoft provides networked point-of-sale interfaces and back-office systems for inventory and personnel management. ISI wanted to pursue a new rich internet application that would display real-time business metrics in the form of a car dashboard. ISI was already marketing the dashboard concept at industry trade shows; although customers liked the general idea, ISI stakeholders were concerned that the design lacked usability and didn’t display the right metrics.
ISI engaged with Devise in order to meet three key project goals:
1) Understand customers’ needs and define a coherent vision for the LubeSoft Dashboard product.
2) Design an attractive and intuitive Dashboard user experience.
3) Provide a clear specification document in a short timeframe for their Agile development team.
This 21-day project with Devise involved User Research and Product Conception services with a short Detailed Design phase. Read more for the full story….
Understanding Customer Needs
The Devise team began with a User Research phase involving rapid ethnographic research at four quick lube shops, observing the activities of Store Managers and technicians as well as interviewing them about their needs and motivations. They were also surveyed to identify the most important LubeSoft metrics for the Dashboard. Devise analyzed their patterns of use, behaviors and responses to create a set of personas that represent archetypal users of the LubeSoft system. Devise collaborated with ISI to validate the persona set and target the right personas for the first release of the Dashboard system. The team selected Tom, the Store Manager, as the primary persona and Eddie, the Owner, as the secondary persona.
These are abbreviated persona descriptions of the Dashboard’s main target users:
Designing an Attractive User Experience
The Devise team then applied a scenario-based approach to conceive a coherent and usable product design that incorporated the existing UI concept as a starting point. The car dashboard is an appropriate visual metaphor for the quick lube environment, but Devise deeply re-examined the underlying requirements and feature behaviors to ensure the system would be usable. The Dashboard involved extensive information design, both to identify the appropriate set of data elements to display for Tom and Eddie and also to visualize those data in an intuitive and attractive fashion. Bar graphs and spark-lines along with modernized gauges provide detailed perspective on current performance vs. historical trends.
These are some mockups illustrating features of the ISI LubeSoft Dashboard:
Devise clarified the nature of LubeSoft metrics by visually differentiating performance targets, which are sales levels the store is trying to reach, from warning thresholds, which are operating levels the store is trying to avoid. Performance targets are represented as green patterned regions and warning thresholds as red bars. Using different graphical styles for these metrics avoids usability problems associated with red-green color blindness, a vision deficiency affecting about 8% of caucasian males. To further support usability for busy quick lube managers and technicians, mouse use is minimized or eliminated through keyboard shortcuts, and the system automatically launches and refreshes itself.
The Devise team worked quickly to identify customer needs and create a compelling interaction framework. The framework was validated internally by ISI business stakeholders and deemed feasible by ISI technical leads before any specifications were finalized. Devise then promptly delivered a detailed Form & Behavior Specification that clearly defined system functionality as well as providing visual design details and comprehensive analysis of Dashboard data elements. The specification also documented quick lube customer research and LubeSoft personas for posterity. ISI’s growing Agile team has found ongoing utility in referencing this rich yet lightweight documentation.
Devise delivered on all of ISI’s project goals. The Devise team rapidly conceived a deep and broad product vision that acts on insights about LubeSoft customers and is both friendly and usable. The solutions documented by Devise also have provided ISI with months of feature development beyond the initial launch. Devise continues to support ISI with visual design as their sales team fields intense interest from both existing and potential customers for the attractive LubeSoft Dashboard product.