Altera - Complex Software Redesign - Eye Studios

Altera – Complex Software Redesign

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Altera is a standalone clip-based metadata management software designed to archive, reorganize and automate the daily workflows of technicians in the film industry.

Introduction

Client

Launched in 2020, CineDev is a professionally founded software development company focused on the film/television/media industry.

The partnership with our client has resulted in the design of three software, of which Altera was the first to be released.

The software is for MacOS and is part of a complete suite dedicated to media & entertainment technicians.

Problem

The software had entered the development phase without first going through a Design process.

This led to the Eye Studios team having to tackle the problem in several directions.

The client’s product team worked closely with us to conduct the design as best as possible.

Our client’s parent company had other companies in-house that contained target users.

This allowed us to get quick feedback during the research phase directly from our client.

Goals

The main objectives that guided the design process were Usability and Performance.

Improving the usability of the product by applying best practices that would make the overall user experience more positive.

Performance aimed to redesign the experience based on the user’s goals and simplify the flow in accomplishing the main tasks.

In terms of usability, we focused on the 4 main macro areas it contains:

  • Comprehensibility: How easy is it for users to perform basic tasks the first time they encounter the software?
  • Efficiency: How fast can users perform the main tasks?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make during use? How can they best be handled for learning purposes?
  • Integration: How does this product fit into the user’s life? How does it facilitate integration between other software and users?

User & Audience

The target audience consists of film technicians who mainly use the software on set.

It is used in moments of transition between scenes, when operators are short of time and need to complete actions quickly.

It can also be used in the studio during post production.

UX Insight: since the use can take place under different lighting conditions, outdoors or indoors, in the studio or on the move, we decided to make the software in a Dark version and in a White version.

The starting point of the software we found is represented in the following screenshots.

Research

Task Analysis

The first phase of designing complex software requires an understanding of what the main tasks are that users perform.

Note: The Discovery part, which led to defining which functionalities needed to be included, was conducted by the client’s Product Team.

Task analysis can help us understand how a user performs a series of tasks to achieve a desired goal.

By analysing user tasks and contextualising them in the user experience, we identified key functionalities that in their flow solved the main problems.

This allowed us to create the information architecture and menus to ensure a smoother experience that allowed the user to quickly switch between tools.

By understanding the users and how they needed to achieve their goals, we identified these key areas.

When analysing the type of project that users conduct using the software, they all had in common the presence of a large number of files.

Each file, according to its type, had to be easily distinguishable from the others within the software.

In order to achieve a clear distinction, we adopted a subdivision with identifying icons, which distinguish the types directly from the list of files present.

Competitor Analysis

This type of software has no direct competitors to date, as the features within it are fulfilled in different ways and with different tools.

Competitor analysis focused on the study of the main use cases of the individual functions:

  • How does current software manage the creation of new projects?
  • How are users used to visualising and interacting with numerical tables?
  • How is the information architecture of the software used organised?
  • How are files managed in current software?

The answer to these questions allowed us to integrate different methodologies and best practices to achieve a smooth user experience.

It is important, before creating a new user route, to develop a methodology for analysing existing routes, to understand how users meet their needs nowadays.

Design

In this section, we present some of the design choices made by analysing the UX Research data.

Primary functions always available

Insight: During user tests, users always concentrated on the main functions carried out on the majority of projects.

Solution: The main actions, which were previously scattered in different areas of the software, have been enclosed in the upper part of each table.

This makes immediate and easy user access to the most frequently used tools.

User integration

Insight: Within the companies using this software, there is a need for communication between insiders and outsiders.

In this case, the non-experts did not use the software on a daily basis and therefore needed a summary document that was easy to understand.

Solution: Together with the customer’s product team, we created the function of exporting a PDF document (or other common formats for structured data) containing the necessary information for internal communication.

Error Management

Insight: Research shows that when a new application or system is introduced, users prefer to start using it immediately, well before reading technical documentation or guides. (This phenomenon is known as the active user paradox).

In the case of complex software development, where users have to perform chains of actions in sequence, it is important to give the user direct feedback with appropriate error management.

Solution: Adding a notification centre is an error log that is always available to the user, and various signals and alerts that warn the user of what is happening in the event of unexpected events.

Takeaways

Design Complex Software

When we talk about complex applications, as defined by Nielsen Norman Group, we refer to:

Any application that supports unstructured objectives or non-linear workflows of highly specialised users in specific domains.

Error Management

The paradox of the active user leads the user to want to use the software directly instead of reading documentation or watching tutorials.

When designing complex software, it is necessary to give great importance to the error management that may arise during use.

Pop-ups, alerts, icons and logs of user actions are excellent tools to use.

A good user experience is itself the best tutorial.

Transition between multiple users and workspaces

Software used within companies structured for non-linear processes often requires the relationship between different types of users: technical and non-technical.

This leads to the need to design a user experience that best supports the transition of information between different users.

As you can see above, we have been working on a functionality that allows software data to be exported in formats commonly used by all other non-technical users.

Contextualising

In the Analysis and UX Research phase, try to understand what are the concrete use cases of the application you are building.

Literally, what will be the situations in every user’s life where they will use the product you are designing.

In our case, we noticed that most of the software commonly used by the target users had a dark skin interface (usually called Dark Mode).

But in the case of using this software, technicians often find themselves using it outdoors, where the reflection of external light on the computer screen can complicate its use if the interface is dark.

This led us to design the light mode of the software as well.

Let's talk about your idea

Let's talk
about your idea

Request

After sending your request we'll get in touch within 24h

Meeting

We schedule a meeting to discuss your idea

Start!

If our proposal fits your need, we’ll start working together on your project