PLM user experience expectations of the Google generation
October 11, 2016
A good modern user interface performs well on any device anywhere, including smartphones with poor bandwidth. Why should we settle for anything else when it comes to PLM?
Why user interface should get more attention in enterprise systems
Per the Google Research Blog, a study shows that slowing down the search result page by as little as 100 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches a user performs. Furthermore, users execute fewer and fewer searches the longer they are exposed to slower page loading times, and performance of a page is directly proportional to the user abandon rate. Other studies show that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
In 2015 Google confirms that more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers and the fact that mobile is becoming an important aspect when designing web content is real. Mobile internet users expect a web browsing experience comparable to what they get on desktop computers and show no understanding of limited bandwidth and weak mobile CPU’s. Users believe that web pages should just work regardless of device. Because of the mobile trend, Google updated the search algorithm affecting search ranking of all pages since 2015 to also include page performance and mobile friendliness. The updated search algorithm was quickly given the name “Mobilegeddon” by webmasters and web-developers. “Mobilegeddon” quickly affected the web and gave a good boost to those who could adapt but also some lost revenue for those who could not.
If the same rules would apply to PLM, investments in perfect processes and functionality risk being flushed down the drain just because usability expectations are not met. Users might avoid using the system as far as possible and find other ways to do their job.
What are the most common mistakes when designing a PLM user interface?
The most common reason for users not liking a user interface is poor performance. No matter if the UI looks good, if it doesn’t perform, the users leave.
Forcing the user away from their favorite device or browser is another common mistake. By doing so the usage is kept down to a minimum. It’s not uncommon that companies use “PLM secretaries” just for entering input data from engineers that have lost patience with the system.
Making the interface to complex is also a common problem. Adding to much information, buttons and choices prevent users from finding the information and tools they are looking for. A common fix is to provide extensive training programs on how to use the system, and that normally comes with a large cost in lost productivity and expensive training preparations.
What are the characteristics of a good UI?
A good modern user interface performs well on any device anywhere, including smartphones with poor bandwidth. It does so by limiting the number of packages (requests) and package size send over the network. A lower network footprint is for example achieved by technologies like client side rendering, where data is send and rendered on the client side instead of shipping the full rendered information over the network repeatedly. You can compare it to sending a lightweight drawing with express mail and manufacture on-site instead of shipping many heavy parts and assemblies.
Another characteristic of a good user interface is that it works well on multiple devices and browsers so that the user can choose his or her favorite, or whatever is available. It does so by adapting itself to the device or browser it’s used on. This is normally achieved by the responsive capabilities of HTML5 and CSS3.
A good interface does not require training! It achieves this by providing a clean and intuitive interface based on web elements and building blocks that the user recognizes from other sites and applications.
How to further improve ENOVIA UI’s?
TechniaTranscat´s “Value Components” in “Helium Mode” provides all characteristics of a good user interface described above. In fact, it is built with performance and multi device support in mind. These components are perfect additions to the standard ENOVIA user interface, for example when there is a need for mobile applications, simplified user interfaces for casual users or when the network latency is high due to long geographic distance between the users and the application servers.
With “Helium Mode”, companies can set up high performing and responsive user interfaces for multiple devices and browsers by simple configuration. It is quick to install, faster and does not affect upgradability of the system.
Moreover, a modern well performing UI to PLM based on Helium Mode can in most cases be configured to be so intuitive that it removes the need for training.
Contact me if you are curious about Helium and the TechniaTranscat Software, read more about our products here or watch the Release 2016.2 Webinar where I show Helium among other new things in the latest version of Value Components, Integration Framework and Tools:
Anders has more than 10 years of experience working with PLM and have been turning problems into solutions with a wide range of customers from Seattle in the west to Tokyo in the east. He currently works as a Business Development Executive TechniaTranscat Sweden.