There is currently no mobile application for which engineers can use to calibrate control systems on the go. While large companies can build their own in-house applications to deal with this, small to mid-size companies don't have the resources. Say an engineer is testing the control system of a truck. He has to take his bulky laptop to the truck, connect it with a cable in the passenger seat, rest it on his lap, and see how the system reacts as a driver drives the truck. There are a lot of bumps and turns with this kind of scenario, and latpops are not designed for on-the-go experiences where there's a lot of movement. As the UX designer on the team, my job is to make for a better experience for the engineer who's on the go.
My personal challenge was that I had no previous knowledge in the engineering field. I didn't know what calibrating was, what a control system was, and I definitely didn't know how to design a control system calibration application! On top of that, no one on my team knew what a UX designer does (if you're reading this, I'm sure you've encountered this too). My initial challenges were to learn about the field, the users, and to convert New Eagle's current PC calibrating application into a useable form as a mobile application.
I started the way every UX designer should: by writing down New Eagle's goal for this app, who the users are, when and where the users will use this app, and what value we bring to the users.
"We want to develop an app that transforms the core functionalities of the RaptorCalTM calibration software for PC into a mobile version that can easily be deployed in the field by system engineers."
We met with a potential user (and New Eagle worker) every week. From these meetings we gleemed the types of users (and personas) for the app: the "expert" engineer and the "intern". (One of New Eagle's employees said my persona of the "expert" was exactly like someone he knew, so I knew I was on track!) We also found what functionality was needed to make a better experience for on-the-go calibrating. With the functionality now planned, we split the implementations of the app into three phases: the core functionality in phase one, polishing in phase two, and advanced functionality in phase three. These "phases" were general because we were working in an agile format and knew there would be multiple iterations and changes as we went along.
As I sketched designs for the UI on paper and created mockups using Photoshop, we continuously shared our progress with New Eagle to make sure we were meeting their business needs (something I've found important to do even as a UX designer). When something didn't make sense in the designs, which happened many times because of my lack of a background in the field, they made sure to tell me so I could correct it. It was the same with the prototype I created with Pixate Studio—by interacting with the prototype, they saw issues they didn't see with the static mockups, so they shared their critiques and I would make changes.
Over the summer, we worked from separate locations. I was in San Jose for my internship with Cisco while the other students were in differing states. Because I couldn't interview anyone while I was in San Jose, I focused on helping with the coding the UI in Java through Android Studio. I continued helping with the code after getting back to Ann Arbor. We presented the prototype to New Eagle as the core functionality came together, and from there made changes from their critiques. After that, we conducted usability tests with engineers to make sure it met their needs.