Easy to Use
Mobile applications should be easier to use and take less time to complete than paper forms and documents. Otherwise successful adoption is unlikely to occur. Retriever builds applications that are designed for the mobile field worker, not office based users. It reflects the workflow of the user whilst capturing all information needed by corporate systems. Not only should the application be easier to use than paper forms, but it needs to support all of the work types and processes. Field workers should only see and work with data that is relevant to their current work. This is achieved through the use of customized workflows at both the job and form level. For every function that is added or changed in the Retriever Field Service Management application, we test the usability by ensuring that it satisfies the 5 E’s. Is it:
Easy to Learn
The order in which a field worker performs their work should be reflected in the mobile application. For example, if a Job Safety Audit needs to be done before starting any work, then the application should enforce the completion of this form before the worker is allowed to progress further.
Different types of work needs different work flows. Retriever makes it easy for the application to accurately match existing business processes. For example, a maintenance job may require the field worker to select an asset and then complete an asset tasking form related to that asset type. In contrast, an audit or inspection may require an inspection form to be completed, and therefore the asset ‘module’ is not presented for that job type.
With Retriever Formbuilder customized forms can be created that include workflows based on question answers. Different questions can be displayed that are dependent on an answer from a previous question. Or a whole page can be made visible when a particular answer is given. For example, if a question such as “Is additional work required?” is answered with ‘Yes’ then a new page can become visible that records answers related to the additional work.
The flexibility of work related workflows, in conjunction with detailed workflow within the forms, gives the field worker an application that follows their existing business processes and presents the right questions and information at the right time.
The term usability does not only mean ‘ease of use’. There are other aspects that need to be satisfied. The definition of usability in the ISO 9241 standard is:
The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use
This definition can be expanded by including 5 characteristics which must be met for the users of the product to accept it:
Effectiveness is the completeness and accuracy with which users achieve specified goals. The Retriever Field Service mobile application ensures that all required information is collected. For example, a user can be prevented from completing a job if mandatory information has not been entered. The missing information is flagged so that the user can finalise and close the job.
Efficiency can be described as the speed (with accuracy) in which users can complete the tasks they have been assigned. Within Retriever, the work and information screens are configurable for different job types. This means that only the relevant information is presented to the user. Customised forms built with Retriever Formbuilder are designed so that particular questions are only presented in response to specific answers, reducing the need for unnecessary scrolling.
An interface is engaging if it is pleasant and satisfying to use. With this characteristic the user interface and experience come in play. This does not necessarily mean that it should follow the latest trends, but the visuals should use the appropriate colours, fonts, placement and gestures that makes sense to the field worker’s experience and expectations.
The application should prevent errors caused by the user’s interaction, and to help the user in recovering from any errors that do occur. When implementing new applications or new functionality in an existing application it is easy to follow the positive use cases. But negative use cases happen and even if a business process does not allow something to happen, or the likelihood of this to happen is low, it still can (and will!) happen. The application should take into account these negative use cases and gracefully allow the field worker to correct this and complete the job without issues.
An interface which is easy to learn allows users to build on their knowledge without having to invest significant effort. When new functionality is introduced it needs to be integrated seamlessly with the existing functionality. This will increase the chance of the new function being adopted successfully. The use of the same icons for saving or cancelling an action is a very obvious example, however the way a new part is created for example, should be consistent with an action such as creating a time entry.
More on the topic of usability can be read in this article: http://www.wqusability.com/articles/more-than-ease-of-use.html