BLADED: WIND TURBINE DESIGN APPLICATION
Project - Completely redesigned experience for ageing desktop application
Product /service - Application used by wind turbine engineers to simulate stresses and strains on new turbine parts
Duration - 1 year
Team - UX designer, developers, domain expert advisors
Activities - Research, user journey mapping, product story mapping, IA, UX, UI and visual design, prototyping, usability testing
Deliverables - Personas and workflows, Product story map, mockups, Axure prototype, WPF prototype
Outcome - Whilst the concept has not progressed to development, it has set a new standard for user experience with the development team. The understanding of users and innovative ideas it delivered, as well as the training the team received, have noticeably improved UX for subsequent releases of the Bladed application.
Upon starting the project, my first task was in-depth user interviews to establish personas, map work patterns and appraise how and why the product was in use. There was little prior knowledge within the development team nor contact with users, so this required a comprehensive study. The team were also without any clear idea of the product's IA and after 20 years of organic development this had grown complex and cumbersome. I also mapped this in order to understand the product fully.
The development team were planning to move from an old VB6 UI to a more modern WPF one, and I took the opportunity to challenge assumptions about the product's IA and UI. Through collaborative workshops with developers and users, we explored alternative designs. These mockups show new navigation ideas for exploring components in a wind turbine.
Research showed many cases where the product was cumbersome and time consuming to use, prompting some users to create alternative tools in Excel or attempt partial automation through their own code. Understanding the source of these frustrations, learning from their alternative tools and incorporating beneficial ideas back into the concept became a regular occurrence. Above, a Balsamiq mockup for one such instance.
High fidelity mockup below in Adobe Illustrator, exploring how a new visual design for the UI could draw attention to critical information through colour and layout. Recognising that many user-created tools used visualisations for clarity and error-checking, we explored a new 3D visualisation component which was prototyped in WPF
Testing usability of a new screen design within an Axure prototype, above. Over the course of the project, the interactive prototype proved an effective way to test new ideas with users and would allow them to assess whether new navigation controls or screen layouts would save them time or be more usable than the existing product.
Two Axure prototype screens below, showing examples where introducing 3D wind turbine visuals could allow users to more easily comprehend and assess the complex structures they were designing
Whilst the concept has not progressed to development, it has set a new standard for user experience with the development team, and has served as a 'concept car,' helping steer future development and introducing many innovative new ideas that have found their way into later releases of Bladed. The understanding of users and well as the training the team received, have noticeably improved UX for every release since.