Product design can mean many different things to different people, depending on your circumstance and your perspective. In this article we have looked at it from both sides, creating a product that will help others create their products.
You may already know we are creating a Computer Aided Design (CAD) application for the iPad called cado, the first we believe that will actually deliver an effective interface coupled with functionality that allow users to fulfill all of their creative and productive needs; remote from their desktop.
If you don’t know about cado – have a look at the development video.
So lets look at our product design process in delivering cado.
Our design process started with identifying the need for a CAD app on the tablet format when we couldn’t find a good alternative already available. From there we moved onto the project brief which outlines the functions we wanted to see in the application, with various categories ranging from essential to ‘nice to have’ and those for future iterations.
The next step was agreeing the formats, functions and storyboard to define the scope of the project. At this point we needed to recruit the right people to be able to develop the code for the program, and this proved to be one of the hardest parts of the entire process for us. It took almost 6 months of interviewing, testing and trawling on contractor websites before we found our Developer, who is now part of the team at Orange Juice Studios.
One of the things we realised very early on in the process is that people who would purchase this application would expect it to just work, and work well. The way in which it worked, how efficient the coding was or the thought processes behind the design decisions would be superfluous to the user – the majority would not be interested in those distractions, but rather how easy it was to use and if it did what it claimed to do.
That meant the user interface is critical to the success of the application, the way in which the user will draw, select functions, interpret and use visual or audible feedback requires as much thought as the code development. Here is a typical example of the process we went through. During our development we anticipated the need for a co-ordinate system on the drawing space; this began the design process of where to locate the visual feedback of the system, accounting for when the user would need it in the drawing process, ergonomic factors for the user using their left or right hand, landscape and portrait orientations of the hardware whilst ensuring is was cohesive with the look of the rest of the program. A simple task you may thing, below are some of the design iterations we explored before settling on the final option, exploring the location of the X & Y coordinate bar, and what is visually looks and ‘feels’ like.
Figure 2 Decision made to have the Co-ordinate button on the right hand side and double rows to save space. Also X and Y description is added
Figure 3 Experimentation with colours
Figure 4 Co-ordinates are given more room for legibility, and made to feel ‘pressable’
Figure 5 Some more exploration on the theme
…….. Phew! We’re getting there… promise!
Figure 6 Some refinement of text positioning
Figure 7 Text is given some hierarchy
Figure 8 A little pixel adjustment for aesthetic balancing, and voila! The end result
So, now lets look at how tools can influence product design.
Being a CAD program, by definition there were a selection of functions that were essential to be called a CAD program. Further to that, various design decisions were taken on what other key features and functions we wanted to include which would assist the user.
Drawing is an exercise where the importance of tangible feedback is sometimes overlooked. A great example of this is that most designers and draftsmen always seem to prefer a certain instrument for their craft. This may be a lead pencil or pen of choice; HB, 2B, 4B, Biro and Rotring pens of various thicknesses and certain types of paper to sketch their ideas. We believe this is based on a mixture of feedback, tactile experience and accuracy. Given the constraints of the touch screen hardware, some of those elements were either not possible or out of our control, hence the ones we could control became that much more important, the most important being accuracy, visual and audio feedback.
Another perspective to consider is how we use tools such as cado to influence our design process. By interfacing with hardware through the touchscreen device, we feel there is a benefit in the tangible feedback, latency and accuracy of the drawing device and program. However this is balanced by the potential of the hardware hampering or impairing the design process by providing incorrect or un-useful feedback. Frustration does not take long to set in and the program or hardware is quickly resigned to the bin.
So what would product designers want with CAD on a mobile hardware platform? Well we think this will give the designer the freedom to sketch on the fly and reduce time moving from sketch through to full CAD mark ups. It’s the step between hand sketching and CAD drafting at your workstation that we feel this CAD tablet program will fit in.
Have a look at our website and be sure to subscribe to be kept informed regarding release dates, pricing and included functionality – we look forward to hearing from you.
About the author: Vimal Bhana is an engineer and the co-founder of Orange Juice Studios