By Bruce Breeden, Field Service Resources
Optimizing the user experience is critical to implementing technology and achieving business results.These are practical design elements to optimize the user experience.
- Mobile Device of Choice and for the Specific Task
While tablets and combo laptops have come a long way, there is nothing like the “right tool for the job.” If your products require Windows-specific functionality for troubleshooting and the right cables, adapters, and connectors, there is no sense in the tech having to constantly rig up a 7-in. tablet to a bunch of external devices to do their job. In contrast, providing an effective tool for fast and efficient data collection may be best done on just a phone and its native capabilities. I advise my clients to consider a device toolset. The technicians need to have the best tool for the job. Like doing a repair, we now need specific devices to optimize the task we are asking the technician to conduct. It’s OK to have multiple devices if they provide complementary functionality.
- User Interface
It’s hard to describe a bad interface, but we know one when we see it. Visuals and workflows must be well designed. Nothing turns off or disengages a valuable field service technician more than a bad UI. Please involve your field techs in the design of the screen flow and listen to their input. This is helpful not just for their experience while doing their job, but in the context of the broad consumer experiences they have with apps in general. Priceless!
- Field Experience Drives Design
Much like UI, the technology and user experiences (including a direct customer or channel partner) needs to be designed and thoroughly tested in the field, not just in the lab. Establish a structured method to do this to add formality and proper tracking. This content and process step will serve well in change management, training, and overall success with the technology and users.
- Simple is Better
Don’t make the mistake of including every variant to the process and complicating or adding screens. Allowing for these “what ifs” adds unnecessary screens and data elements for the user. It’s been said that writing a short memo or document is much harder than a long one. Successful user experience design requires this skill.
- Graphics and Color, Pictures
We learn and understand best by graphics and pictures. Too much text adds needless stimuli for the viewer and erodes user acceptance.
Field service continues even without a consistent cellular or network connection. Ensure your design includes the ability for the tech to work in the offline mode until signal is restored.
- Leverage the Data and Computer Intelligence for Intuitive Design
Too often, I see more text and user choices that can be prevented if smart or conditioned responses are part of the app. I call these “lazy apps” that require the user to constantly choose and add more keystrokes. Conditional responses are very helpful to new employees learning a process and a system.
- Integrating Native Device Capabilities
It’s been proven that, with smart phones and the wildly popular use of Instagram, we are all photographers. The user experience requires the leveraging of native device capabilities to simplify steps and add process capability – GPS coordinates, images, speech to text, IM, etc.
- Weather and Environmental Considerations
While in the field, note how and where the devices and apps are used: sunlight, extreme temperatures or moisture, various forms of transportation (large truck, plane, UTV, marine, etc.) using PPE or weather gear, and nighttime use. All these environments must be considered in both device selection and app design. Frequently, device and apps require hands-free mode to collect data, input information, or conduct maintenance.
- Log-In Authentication and Mobile Device Management
Often regarded as an IT concern, the user experience can be enhanced with seamless operation of the user’s log-in across multiple platforms and by providing a better technical support experience with both applications in effect.
Following these steps will ensure your next technology implementation is successful and lasting.
Bruce Breeden is the founder of Field Service Resources, LLC and author of the book, The Intentional Field Service Engineer. Bruce works with FSO leaders to improve operational performance, lead digital transformation programs, conduct FSE and manager training, and implement mobile technology platforms for field service and inspection organizations.