Switching on a faster and safer system

Seeing the need for automation in the oil and gas industry, our oil field product manufacturer client was looking to improve the UX of their digital switch system. Interested in providing an engaging user experience that would resonate with their employee demographic, they hired SEP. 

We helped our client be the first to bring an automated system to market. Not only was the new user experience an improvement over competition, but some users reported up to a 10x improvement in the time required to run the system.

Desktop

What We Did

Dual-Track Agile, Desktop Development, Evaluative Research, Prototypes, Journey / Experience Mapping, Personas, MVP Definition / Scope Control, Product Ownership, Visual Design, Design Strategy

Tech Stack

Qt, QML, GitHub, Javascript, C++

Opportunity

Our metal manufacturer client provides software and hardware tools for the oil and gas industry. Not much in the industry is automated and there is a lot of room to innovate. Our client wanted to upgrade the UI of their digital switch system used in hydraulic fracturing. A digital switch system activates a charge and detonates an explosion. 

Their previous solution, based in Microsoft Access, made it difficult for users to do their work efficiently. Our client brought us on to provide a rich, engaging user experience for a diverse range of operators and help them be the first in their industry to offer an automated solution.

Solution

We kicked off product discovery to reduce risk and create visible learning opportunities with our customer. This time was invaluable for us to gain a shared understanding of our client’s complex domain. Since the user experience was highly important to the success of our client’s product, we chose a dual-track agile approach for this engagement. Designers and developers worked together iteratively throughout the project. This approach allowed the team to get early feedback on designs.

Previously, users interacted with software on one device, then separately interacted with accompanying physical hardware. The software we built allowed the user to watch progress on the software while waiting to interact with the physical equipment. Our design challenge was to make it clear when the user needed to activate the levers on the equipment reducing the need to split attention. Due to the high cost of failure if operating the switch is done at the wrong time, we had to ensure our design got it right. We introduced many error recovery states to allow users to react quickly to make decisions if it was done incorrectly. 

Over the course of our engagement, we evolved the product from manual operation to automated, as well as scaled from firing one switch to a string of multiple switches. We maintained the same simple user experience despite functionality that grew in complexity.

As the needs of the product grew, our high speed, collaborative process allowed both SEP and our client to make quick decisions and implement features that best served their users.

Result

Our client is the first to bring an automated digital switch system to market. Not only was the user experience an improvement over the previous product, this new mode set our client apart from their competition. The new digital switch system is safer and easier to operate, and is reportedly providing some users up to 10x improvement in the time required to run.

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