Autodesk Software Product
My project was to design, prototype and test a future version of an Autodesk product. The product was to be released 5 years down the road and we were looking to redesign the product completely. The product supported many complex 3d interactions so figuring out user workflows and interactions were my primary focus. The visual design was not a focus for this phase of the project.
I was responsible for prototyping and testing initial features of the product and worked with UX designers, developers and project managers at various points throughout the project.
Design exercises (Week 1-3)
To completely redesign a complex software, we needed a starting point. We went through a series for design exercises to figure out the workflows to prototype. The design exercises were with a team of UX designers, developers and project managers. We typically spent time writing or sketching ideas on sticky notes and then putting them up. We then used methods like dot voting, rose thorn bud to narrow down on ideas. The 5 personas we identified for the product are architects, MEP, structural engineers, fabricators, contractors and owners. The end result of all the sessions were 3 major workflows and initial paper prototypes for what the workflows could look like.
Session 2 - current and upcoming technologies and ideas for how the product can support them
Interactive Prototypes + Iterations (Week 4-6)
I created interactive prototypes based on the paper prototypes we came up with. I built these prototypes using Axure, Photoshop and SketchUp and identified the tasks users would need to perform on them during testing sessions. It was important to identify the tasks because the prototypes needed to have enough functionality for users to be able to perform those tasks.
While creating these prototypes I was presenting ongoing process to designers and developers and making iterations based on feedback from the team.
Task 1 - Replace all fixed windows with sliding windows
Task 2 - Draw a wall and add a layer to it
Task 3 – Resolve a collision between a column and a window
Usability Testing (Week 7)
I created tasks, a script and focus group questions for the first usability testing session.
We had four users scheduled for the session.
Two customers who have used other Autodesk products but not the current product being redesigned
Two customers with high skill and experience using the product being redesigned
The usability testing was open ended. Users were given 3 tasks to perform on the prototypes.
A focus group was conducted at the end of the session.
Observers and note takers collected data on user insights, challenges and suggestions.
Iteration (Week 8-9)
Analyzing the feedback we got from the testing session played a big role in the iteration process. We had a team activity where we grouped common themes that came out of the session and discussed them. I explored new ideas and redesigning some of the exiting workflows based on these themes.
Usability Testing (Week 10)
I had another testing session with the updated prototypes. The tasks we had users perform remained the same.
Some key takeaways from this session were
Users found the collision detection feature useful but had concerns on the accuracy of the analysis feature.
Drawing a wall could be simplified with less clicks
Replacing windows was an easy and users liked the animation. Adding a way to lock windows from being replaced would be helpful.
Iteration (Week 11)
I iterated on the prototypes again based on the feedback above. By going through multiples rounds of testing and iteration I was able to refine the ideas further.
Complexity of the software
The software supports many complex structural calculations, 3D manipulation, extensive customizability and features. Designing for a software of such high complexity was challenging.
Limitations of prototyping tools
Existing prototyping tools support 2D interactions but have very limited 3D interactions. Mocking up a software that is primarily based on complex 3D interactions took considerable effort and time. I used this as an opportunity to get creative, learn a combination of 3D modeling and wireframing tools.
Testing a prototype
While testing the prototypes, users compared it to the functionality of the actual software. Due to the complexity of the software, the prototypes were created for only specific tasks. This limited users from freely exploring the tool.
Iteration was a key part of the project process
This helped refine the project further and improve the design. Sometime this involved going in a different direction from what we originally planned but the outcome was worth the extra effort.
It’s all about the user
Usability testing helped drive the direction of the project. User feedback played a huge role in discovering promising ideas and finding flaws in the software. After each user testing, the designs were further refined.
Listening to different perspectives
In the design sessions, we had brainstorming sessions with not just designers but also engineers and managers. I also presented the progress of my prototypes to structural engineers, architects, software developers, UX Designers and project managers. Getting inputs from a wide range of different perspectives helped improve the project, find flaws and push the boundaries.