Ten Must-Have Qualities of a Compelling UX Designer

The UX design domain is demanding and constantly changing because of the evolving technology trends and creative needs.

To cater to the dynamics of UX design, hiring the right UX talent is paramount. If you're a designer looking for a career switch to UX design, it's essential to understand what makes you a good fit to pursue a UX career.

As a recruiter, hiring a UX designer can be quite challenging with shrinking budgets but growing skill demands.

Even after getting some qualified candidates into the interview queue, what characteristics should you look for to determine the right hire?

Looking for these qualities can help evaluate a potential UX design candidate while letting your team provide relevant and constructive feedback to someone.

Aside from the apparent practical knowledge and skills that a designer needs on the UX principles, research fundamentals, and techniques, there's a flip side to the coin related to a person's traits and mindset.

This blog will discuss the must-have traits of a UX designer sought by every design-first enterprise.

Solving Problems

The secret to succeeding as a designer is to love solving problems in design. Designers must recognize that the present reality is changeable through reasoning and the right technique.

Great designers look at a problem from multiple angles and regularly question things. If something doesn't make sense, they'll ask more questions with a liberal frame of mind. They would also persuade the end-users to engage in the design.

A UX designer puts himself/herself in the end-user's shoes and goes beyond just checking off a task. They would probe further to understand the actual user need by testing the design in multiple environments.

They go even further to suggest alternate solutions or are quick to determine if a specific problem needs solving.

Prioritizing problems is another unique trait of a UX designer. UX designers are more of the explorer with the motto "never take the straight line," driven by curiosity.

A good designer is a continuous learner that is focused on holding the bull by its horns.

User-centric Disposition

A self-centric UX designer can never see the ocean beyond the shores. An empathetic designer always wins the end-user support and comes up with a successful design.

They must not fear criticism and be egoistic for the best outcomes.

The end goal should always be the best product for the end-user and for the business creating it.

Practical UX designers would understand where research, prototyping, and testing fit the design process and user's needs. They would add value to the user's digital design journey through generative vs. evaluative research.

An intelligent UX designer would listen to the end-user, provide valuable inputs, and empower the customer by applying user insights to their designs.

Here's what empathetic UX designers do.

  • Practice listening more.
  • Allow conversations to be as open and detailed as possible.
  • Empathize with people with whom your ideas may not align.
  • Validate others' viewpoints/perspectives with examples.

Strategic and Analytical Thinking

This includes the systems thinking approach, where they look at the big picture while working through details.

A design-conscious designer would demonstrate where a product fits into a design ecosystem in multiple scenarios. An analytical mind can solve problems faster and make ad hoc changes to a design based on customer demands.

Good designers explore the quantity and quality of ideas with information as a valuable asset.

They should be critical strategists who are visionaries in the design domain. They think of using proven patterns and interaction models before using new and untried ones.

A compelling UX expert always works on calculated risks instead of shooting in the dark.

The considerations to make while grooming an analytical mind include:

  • Set aside time to determine how data affects design.
  • Gain experience in providing design rationale.
  • Use patterns and user data to design digital products.

Communication 

In addition to being engaging presenters, an ideal UX designer must clearly articulate their design rationale.

Since communication is a two-way lane, customers look for UX designers who are good listeners.

Customers prefer subject matter experts who would answer their questions directly without reservation.

Team communication is another critical area that contributes to the success of design projects.

Here are some tips that would help:

  • Look for common ground and build a connection.
  • Listen actively.
  • Keep track of deadlines and work allocation.
  • Assign responsibility and accountability.
  • Ask the right questions.
  • Be genuine with communication.
  • Embrace the art of storytelling.

 Leadership

The one who leads the pack leads the design. Leading by example is a fundamental quality of a UX designer that is respected by all.

Leadership is a rare quality that is a necessity in many UX design teams. UX designers must lead a team to consensus instead of letting them hang by a thread.

They would take ownership not just of their actions and decisions but of the collective team as well.

Taking tough decisions and smart risks would entitle the UX designer to become a good leader at work.

A UX designer with crucial leadership skills would steer the ship in the right direction while being responsible and responsive.

Mission-oriented

Many UX designers start well but lose focus somewhere along the way in their design journey.

Catering to mission-critical projects open-mindedly is a great plus. Just focusing on meeting deadlines could kill the creativity of a UX designer.

The main ingredient for a mission-oriented approach is the passion for design and experimentation.

A UX designer must understand the core values of the company and its mission.

Pulling in the right resources, techniques, and people to enrich a design project comes with a mission-oriented approach to design.

Cultural Contribution

Setting into and representing the company values are essential traits of a successful UX designer.

Being culturally-oriented and paving the way for cultural unity through design is crucial in a global business environment.

UX designers must contribute unique skills to the team. This requires a unique blend of multiple cultures that inspire. A profound respect for corporate and personal culture will help a UX designer understand a person's background and merge it with a company's vision.

Through valuable cultural contributions, a UX designer can inspire the best in his/her team.

Innovation 

What is design without innovation? The real value for innovation in design is derived from its designer, who puts his/her best foot forward.

Sticking to elementary design principles and practices is essential. But, customers always look for something new or fresh.

Research is the primary catalyst to design innovation. Functional designs are born from innovative thinking from UX designers.

Having an aptitude for learning new things and applying them makes UX designers pioneers in their field.

User experience is a broad and cross-disciplinary domain. Continual learning and upskilling is key to mastering new design tools and techniques.

Copying a design is a subconscious tendency but coping with innovation needs a conscious application of knowledge.

Paying Close Attention to Detail

A UX design is all about detail and functionality, in addition to aesthetics and appeal.

A good design takes effort, concentration, and time. Detail-orientation gives designers the ability to dish out compelling designs in less time without much negative feedback from critics.

The resultant design becomes more effective while the risk of making significant mistakes is minimized.

Employers tend to expect deeper and quicker attention to detail from their designers. This trait helps designers churn out accurate and high-quality designs.

A right eye for detail is a gift that helps deliver ROI-generating designs in less time.

Developing attention to detail is easy with the following:

  • Use checklists often.
  • Iterate ideas and review work with the team more often.
  • Practice dividing big tasks into smaller ones.
  • Channelize your positive energies in the right design endeavor.
  • Practice shutting off distractions.

Collaboration

A UX designer's strength is his/her capability to collaborate because UX design is a team effort.

A UX family that designs together succeeds together.

Understanding colleagues, peers, and managers and responding to their needs help UX designers remove doubts, inconsistencies, and fears.

UX designers must gauge what their primary contributions are to their team.

A good UX designer would be a team player with a good understanding of vertical and peer communication.

This includes high levels of transparency in communicating with product managers, engineers, and researchers.

Being flexible at work and open to feedback are the two significant traits every manager looks for in a designer.

Dealing with conflicts and navigating team challenges would make for a promising UX designer capable leader at heart.

With team collaboration, you can:

  • Understand how others think and reason with a design process.
  • Understand how effective your design is.
  • Open up to new experiences.
  • Gather valuable inputs from experienced and skilled people.

Wrapping up

Being a UX designer is a lot of effort, but it's a rewarding experience.

To chase your dreams as a designer, we recommend mastering the design and the traits mentioned above.

You may never know how these qualities would inspire a genius design.

At Radiant Digital, we evaluate a designer with 1-on-1 interviews, team presentations, in-person work sessions, reference checks, cover letters, and emails. 

Above all, we work with passionate designers who check the boxes for these essential qualities.


Reporting Solution for Fortune 500 Clients

Reporting Solution

Radiant delivered numerous reporting solutions across the globe, including Fortune 500 clients. One of our clients in financial services must audit the various clients' financial statements, analyze the reports, and assess the risk. The process involves numerous manual steps, aggregating the data from multiple disjointed and discrete systems in various formats, including spreadsheets and flat files.

Our Solution

Radiant built the custom reporting solution with the following five critical foundational components:

  • Security & Regulatory Compliance: Highly confidential data must be stored and managed securely.
  • Efficiency / Productivity: The solution should focus on simplicity allowing the BVI workforce to be more efficient and productive.
  • Data Entry / Collection: Transactional & Historical Data must be aggregated from multiple sources and various formats.
  • Workflows & API Based Open systems: Should enable multiple levels of decisions & allow to interact with legacy & lateral systems.
  • Flexible Reporting and scalable solution: The solution should be dynamic and allow flexible reporting in addition to the canned reports. In the future, it can access multiple systems.

 

 

 

Radiant has built a flexible and straightforward solution that has the following primary layers:

  • The data layer enables the data ingestion from various sources, catalog the data and search the required data elements by different users. The solution initially started aggregating the data from 4 primary sources and expanded to dozen-plus resources from other divisions.
  • Reporting / Visualization layer to enable canned reports as well as user-configurable reports.
  • Security & Compliance layer to comply with SOC2 and other national standards.

Benefits

  • The solution allowed 100+ users to access canned reports and build custom reports to their needs.
  • The majority of the manual steps were removed in the reporting process.

 


Robotic Process Automation for a Large Financial Services Client

Case Study: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for a Large Financial Client

Radiant helped one of its financial services clients with process automation using industry-leading RPA tools. The factors that lead to effective automation of repetitive business process are:

  • Understand and analyze business processes and their bottlenecks through lean six-sigma principles.
  • Document and map process steps by applying proper queuing methods.
  • Automate steps locally using relevant scripting utilities.
  • Comply with role-based access controls along with system and data controls.
  • Enable users to create their bots through script-less automation tools.

A large financial services organization is transforming its securitization process that impacts the entire secondary mortgage industry.  Three large financial services institutions and a governing body required quality reporting on a program’s progress to have a common understanding, track and monitor the issues and make informed decisions from time to time. It was a three-year-long, half-a-billion-dollar program.

The quality reporting data has to be obtained from all three participating organizations that use five different tools: Two instances of HP ALM, Rally Dev, IBM Clear Quest, and Service Now. These tools support their custom processes and configure very differently, which resulted in the following challenges:

  • How to deliver meaningful reports to all three organizations and the governing body?
  • How to generate consistent, reliable, and timely reports?
  • How to secure a way of reporting with proper controls in place so that underlying data is not exposed to the outside world? It can have a devastating impact on markets.
  • How to absorb the changes and generate new reports at more frequent intervals?

Our Approach:

Radiant solved the problem in the following systematic steps:

Process / Data Normalization – We studied and analyzed the existing business processes of 3 different organizations and how the tools are configured in support of them. Since the business processes are tied to their other internal supporting processes, they cannot be changed without impacting the business. Hence, we developed a mechanism to fetch data from feeding organizations into a shared repository, which involved writing VBA macros, SQL scripts, and Python Programs that made seamless connections to all the tools in different organizations.

Six-Sigma Analysis to understand process bottlenecks – We analyzed and timed the 32-step process that took 4.5 hours to generate one weekly report to eliminate bottlenecks and reduce error-prone areas.

Automated Manual processes – Error-prone tasks were further automated to improve the accuracy of reporting and reduce the time taken to generate the report by 70%

Implemented Blue Prism to support more processes, implement controls to processes, support more processes, and support more intervals.

Summary

The Quality reporting is consumed by 300 stakeholders, including executives and decision-makers, and is carried out every day since February 2017 without a break, including holidays and furloughs of the client. Reporting errors are a rare scenario. New reports can be developed, implemented, and stabilized within a week. The necessity to support the late-night and weekend reporting was significantly reduced. This mechanism was humming along with process optimization and the implementation of Blue Prism.

The critical factors to success come with an in-depth understanding of business processes, applying engineering methods to optimize the processes, using the right tools and technologies such as python, SQL scripts, VBA scripts to automate small steps in the processes, documenting business rules for manual steps, tuning to the culture of an organization, securing infrastructure, establishing controls, and the ability to configure the RPA tool so that new processes can be easily supported.

Benefits / Facts

  • Manual errors in reporting were eliminated. However, controls were introduced to avoid data errors, but some manual checks are still required for foolproof reporting.
  • The Manual Steps involved in the process were reduced to 3 from 32.
  • The number of people required to support the reporting was reduced by 80%, from 15 resources to 3.
  • The number of reports increased to 20 with the same bandwidth of 3 resources.
  • The need for off-peak support was eliminated.

We learned how to leverage the culture, technology stack, and infrastructure of an organization to implement Robotic Process Automation. Please contact us to discuss our RPA expertise.

 


Digital Network Assistant Chatbot for a Large Telecom Client

Digital Network Assistant Chatbot for a Large Telecom Client

A large telecom client’s primary objective of this project is to help 10,000+ Network and Technology specialists across the globe ranging from circuit engineers to field operators who manage extremely complex provisioning, troubleshooting, and maintenance workflows under significant time pressure with a Digital Network Assistant.

The functional goals of this solution are: (1) Improved self-service capability, (2) Simplified information search, and (3) Easy Troubleshooting. Technical solution must enable users through a conversational interface on Web, Mobile, and Instant messaging platforms, and the Digital Network assistant must be available 24X7.

The functional scope of work of this project encompassed:

  • Use the conversational interface to assist users in handsfree mode
  • Integrate with multiple AI / ML platforms such as Google’s Dialog Flow, Amazon’s AI, etc.,
  • Enable creation of multiple Bots or multiple instances of the same Bot to serve different groups across the globe
  • Build an interface where business users without the technical background can create new intents and train the Bot with new skills

The technical scope includes:

  • Building a platform to centrally manage the data, intents, skills to avoid conflicts and redundancy
  • Building AWS infrastructure to manage and support Bot lifecycle
  • Building the components and action handlers to fetch the corresponding data and display the information through an interface
  • Building CI/CD pipeline to quickly develop, test, and deploy the new skills into production
  • Building a user interface to help business and operational users to develop and train the Bot with new skills with code-less development architecture

The operational scope includes:

  • Mining the skills of different groups and understanding the frequency of the usage
  • Prioritizing the skills for development and quantifying the benefits
  • Queuing the skills for development into Sprint Backlogs
  • Training the new users on how to leverage Chatbot in their day to day tasks

Our Solution:

A chatbot is a tool to retrieve information and generate human-like conversation. It is mainly a dialog system aimed to solve/serve a specific purpose. To accomplish this goal, it needs an interface where the user needs to request dialog or keyboard; it needs NLP service to understand and interpret the command; it needs action handlers to connect with applications and retrieve the information so that the Bot can respond to the request. Also, it requires secured connections; authentication and authorization; store the data, dialogs, intents; orchestration services to synchronize requests from different users; messaging platforms from where users can make requests; and channels of service.

A Chatbot requires an interface to integrate with and all the plumbing to connect and retrieve the information on the surface. Hence designing and building the framework is essential to implement Chatbot to serve its purpose.  The following figure illustrates the Chatbot framework.

 

 

The solution was built on the following best practices:

  • Decouple the dependency between User Interface and NLP Backend – Every NLP comes with its own interface. It is in an organization’s best interests to develop its own interface and access NLP service through APIs. This helps easily changing the NLP service without much hassle.
  • Save the intents and dialogs within the local database – This improves the performance and keeps it independent of the service provider.
  • Design for multiple Bot Instances – Enterprises may either use one instance to cater to different business lines or use different instances with different names. Hence it is better to design for multiple instances.
  • Develop different services – When different Chatbot instances are required, it is important to develop different services for Training, Testing, etc., to comply with multiple versions of different instances easily.

Benefits:

  • Our solution reduced the time taken to complete the provisioning research tasks from 20 minutes to less than 3 minutes
  • Our solution helped users to train 180+ skills in a period of 90 days, which resulted in significant productivity
  • For the financial year 2019, our solution saved $13M

 


Meeting end-users where they are through Contextual Inquiry

Given the overarching function of user experience research (UXR) in bringing end-users' needs to design conversations, a research method based on direct observation of current workflows offers a powerful way of understanding those needs. Contextual inquiry is such a method; it involves direct observations of and conversations about workflows with subject matter experts or other workers who perform the work that a product is designed to improve. The purpose of a contextual inquiry is to understand how a process or workflow works “in the field.” Rather than how it is supposed or believed to work by rule-makers.  Contextual inquiry differs from the standard usability test. The researcher observes and asks the participant to talk through existing processes rather than testing the intuitiveness of processes or usability of features.  Contextual inquiry and usability testing are complementary, with the former being used before or at the beginning of the design process. The latter is used well in the design process when a prototype has been developed.

Bubble graph comparing contextual inquiry to other research methods.

When to Conduct Contextual Inquiry?

Because contextual inquiry is useful for exposing pain points and needs in current processes, it is a beneficial method to employ at the beginning of a project's design phase or even in a pathfinding research project.  Incorporating contextual inquiry at the beginning of the design phase is very useful in refining an existing idea or concept to ensure it will help its intended users or customer base.  A pathfinding project occurs when research is conducted earlier in the project, and the findings on user needs and pain points are used to decide what to build at the concept level.  For example, a company wanting to make a parking app for couriers might use contextual inquiry to dial in the idea to be optimally suited for parking needs.  Alternatively, the company could do pathfinding research that incorporated contextual inquiry into exploring how documents and other essential things move between its client and their customers. Then, use the findings on needs and pain points to decide if the company should build a parking app or an app that makes electronic document transfer easier, eliminating the need for parking of paying couriers mileage.

In addition to using contextual inquiry at the beginning of or before the design phase, a UX or CX team can incorporate it into UXR for a redesign project.  The unit can discover the pain points of using the current version of an application, platform, or other product as part of the next iteration process.

Benefits of Contextual Inquiry 

The specific benefits of incorporating contextual inquiry into a research plan include the level of detail in the data (thick data), a people-centered approach, and its high-quality insights on how workflows or processes work in real settings.

Thick Data: Contextual inquiry yields data with fine-grained detail for two reasons.  First, the qualitative nature of the observation and interview data gleaned from contextual inquiry means that the researcher can dive deeper into each participant's unique experience rather than fit that experience onto limited answer choices in a survey.  Second, contextual inquiry incorporates direct observation of a work setting and process means that the research findings are more profound and more richly informed by context.

People-centered: The need for empathy and a partnership model for a contextual inquiry to work assures that it centers the researcher on the people who are the target audience of technology rather than on the proposed technology itself.  This research method's nature means that researchers are thoroughly grounded in potential users' full context and will keep their needs front and center when they link back with the product team.

Real Settings: The “in the wild” field setting of contextual inquiry ensures that it captures how things are done, rather than how they are supposed to be done according to executives’ understanding or SOP.  Think of a contextual inquiry as equivalent to getting to know a nature park or city by actually walking around and exploring, not assuming one knows the place simply because one reviewed the map.

How to Conduct Contextual Inquiries

At a basic level, one conducts a contextual inquiry by observing a process from start to finish and concurrently talking about it with the person who uses the process.  Kim Salazar from the Nielsen Norman group outlines a “master and apprentice” model. The SME or other potential user is the master with in-depth process knowledge who instructs the researcher-as-apprentice through showing and talking about the process.  Usually, the contextual inquiry takes a “think aloud” approach, where the participant describes each step of the process while doing.  The researcher asks questions along the way and may prompt with reminders to think aloud as needed.  The UXR session may include a concluding interview after the process is done to ask about the overall attitude toward the current process and surface perceived pain points that may not be apparent from observation. Another variant involves a more passive approach of quietly observing the process and holding the interview questions until after the procedure is concluded.  If possible, it is better to make a contextual inquiry as a team of two.  The first researcher acts as the moderator and runs the session.  The second researcher acts as a note-taker, and the digital recorder troubleshoots issues and asks follow-up questions if need be.  Methods of turning the observations and dialogue into data include writing detailed notes, video recording, still photos, or another device if appropriate.

Example of a contextual inquiry session.

Principles for Conducting a Contextual Inquiry

During a contextual inquiry session, it is essential to keep four principles in mind.  These principles are context, partnership, mutual interpretation, and focus.

Context: As the name implies, the context of the workflow is critical to the contextual inquiry.  It is imperative to collect data in the site where the work is done, not in a lab.  The ideal approach is for the researcher to travel to the site and be physically present during the UXR session.  If physical presence is not possible, then virtual presence may substitute via screen share or a virtual tour (more on these approaches later); it is also possible in some cases to collect data via sensors to complement the interview portion.

Partnership: The ideal partnership between researcher and participant stands in contrast to more traditional data collection methods such as surveys.  Instead of the researcher having complete control of an artificial situation where the participant is treated as a mere datapoint without agency, the researcher must engage the participant in a mutual learning and sharing experience.  The researcher should be flexible and receptive to hearing what the participant has to say, even if it is not strictly according to the interview guide's script.

Mutual Interpretation:  The researcher should develop a shared interpretation of the workflow or process with the participant.  This is where “think aloud” and the conversational aspect of the method takes on great importance.  A researcher should also periodically interpret what the participant says back to the participant to ensure mutual understanding.  Remember, the participant is the expert on the workflow.

Focus: the researcher should have a clear idea of the project's overall goal and what research questions or problems need to be answered or solved to ensure that the findings are relevant.

Anatomy of a Contextual Inquiry Session

A contextual inquiry session has three parts, the introduction, the interview itself, and the wrap-up.

Introduction:  The introduction is where the moderator introduces the research team, describes the session's purpose, and outlines what information they hope to glean from the session.  It is best to start by thanking the participant for taking the time to share knowledge about the workflow.  The moderator should also give the participant a chance to ask questions before launching into the next phase.  The introduction is key to building rapport between the researcher and the participant.  It should conclude with a transition that describes the interview stages and what the researcher will do or ask for next.

Interview:  Starting with a brief instruction to show the research team the process and think aloud while the moderator asks the participant to do a “walk through” of the typical workflow of interest.   The moderator should ask questions about any step that they do not understand and may also give gentle reminders to think aloud if the participant forgets.  After the process is completed, the interview may conclude with questions about the participant’s overall impression of the process, particularly pain points.  The interview complements the observation phase by surfacing thoughts or emotions that may not be apparent in the observation phase.  In all phases, the researcher(s) should do more listening than talking.  Before proceeding to the wrap-up, give a broad-brush summary of the whole process or the process's purpose to ensure mutual understanding.

Wrap Up: This phase starts by informing the participant that the interview is concluded and the session is coming to a close.  This is the time to thank the participant once again for taking the time to share insights and build a better product.  It may be appropriate to ask if the research team may contact the participant for future sessions.  In B2C projects where there is an incentive for participation, be sure to give it to the participant or provide the information on how to redeem it.

Contextual Inquiry as Part of a Mixed Methodology

Depending on the business goal and research problem, the contextual inquiry may be used as a stand-alone method or as part of a broader mixed methods approach.  Examples of contextual inquiry in mixed methodology include:

  • Embed contextual inquiry in a broader ethnography of a workplace, working group, or organization.
  • Complement data on app usability from the system usability scale (SUS) with a contextual inquiry of a typical “day in the life” of a workflow or process.

Contextual inquiry adds rich data about user experience to data streams from other qualitative UXR methods and quantitative data on overall trends.

Venn diagram of how Contextual Inquiry fits into UXR Methodology.

Considerations for making Contextual Inquiry in an Enterprise Setting

While contextual inquiry in a B2C, a customer-facing context may be used to build or redesign a product to market to external customers to improve workflows. The specific goal of contextual inquiry for enterprise software or other internally oriented project is to enhance the process of serving external customers.  Making contextual inquiry in an enterprise setting involves special considerations, including an operational focus, the importance of internal stakeholders, the importance of getting buy-in from the right people, and the tyranny of time.

Operational Focus:  The project for which contextual inquiry is used to collect data could be focused on a wide array of work processes beyond marketing and sales, including production, operations, logistics, or administration workflows.  The final solution to the business problem might have commonalities with other projects. It will still be unique to a specific enterprise's business problems, unlike a customer-facing solution, which may be mass-deployed across many external customers.

Internal Stakeholders:  A UXR project in an enterprise setting may involve many internal stakeholders, including executives, functional team leads, and individual contributors.  These stakeholders may be concentrated in one active area or vertical or spread across several.  It is crucial to identify how the proposed technology may meet or conflict with each group's needs.  Identifying pertinent stakeholders and mapping them to the project's overall business goal is vital to generating buy-in for the project and contextual inquiry from critical stakeholders.

Buy-in:  One advantage of doing UXR for an internal enterprise client is that the recruitment effort is contained to a more limited subset of people.  A corollary to this statement is that buy-in from key stakeholders is crucial to a successful contextual inquiry.  Suppose an executive or functional leader does not see the value in the method or the research. In that case, it will be tough to get the necessary signoffs and introductions to get access to relevant SMEs to participate in research.  Unlike recruitment in the general population, if crucial stakeholders say no, there is no-one else you can ask to participate in research.

Tyranny of Time:  A major blocker to making contextual inquiry in an enterprise setting is the tyranny of time.  Everyone is busy, and participating in research takes away from participants’ performance of actual work duties.  Contextual inquiry takes logistical time and effort to set up and often needs more time for data collection than filling out a SUS or even semi-structured interviews.  It is vital to make a case for the added value of contextual inquiry to justify the time needed to do it well.

Adapting Contextual Inquiry to the Covid-19 Pandemic

The current global COVID-19 pandemic and the concomitant need for social-distancing make traditional, in-person contextual inquiry is difficult or impossible to do.  While this situation is a significant UXR blocker, it also presents an opportunity to learn about and experiment with digital methods of contextual inquiry, e.g., video conferencing apps like Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, etc.  Though video conferencing makes it difficult to perceive analog, physical parts of workflows, it works well for focusing on digital steps and movements such as screens displayed, clicks, and mouse hovers.  It is still possible for participants to “think aloud” and talk about the research team through what they are doing.

Due to the virtual nature of UXR in the current situation, screen-sharing of processes and workflows has become significant.  There is an opportunity to focus on the user journey through a workflow for online work processes.  Video conferencing software also provides a chance to obtain high-quality video recordings of screens during work processes.

In some cases, screen-share data can be complemented with a virtual tour of a workspace. In which the participant turns his or her camera on and records while taking a workspace walkthrough.  A virtual tour is beneficial in the following situations:

  • The workflow involves physical and digital processes.
  • The participants use multiple devices or screens to complete the tasks.
  • Any other situation where the physical setting or other aspects of participant surroundings provide useful context to the workflow.

Wrapping up

Contextual inquiry is a powerful method in a UXR toolkit to ensure a product team builds the right thing to meet users’ needs, thus maximizing the value proposition of the product being designed.  One might think of UXR as shaping the headwaters of a river to go in the desired direction, with the successive stretches of the river being design, development, testing, and deployment.  Even in an Agile environment, employing research early often ensures that each iteration improves the technology to be made.  Contextual inquiry is a very effective method for optimizing the impact of UXR.

Radiant Digital has used contextual inquiry effectively on leading digital products and solutions.

Call us to learn how you could apply this during your next UX project.


Crafting your AR content strategy while scaling AR in your enterprise

Augmented Reality "Adds to your World" is a technology that overlays digital information on top of physical assets. This Digital Information can be in the form of schematics, instructions, annotations, and performance or condition status.

For anyone to experience AR, all they need is a digital display device like a smartphone, tablet, or wearable devices like the Microsoft HoloLens or the Magic Leap headset.

But how does AR work?

It's key to understand how AR works, and the various AR use cases before delving into crafting your AR content strategy. An AR system works as follows:

Diagram

Description automatically generated

The camera on your phone or AR HMD captures the users' environment. The AR software interprets the images from the camera in real-time and calculates the positioning of virtual content.

The appropriate Virtual content is fetched from local storage or cloud servers and sent to the display device.

Augmented content is superimposed in the camera frame in real-time. The AR technology recognizes the object that you see through the camera view and overlays relevant digital information on the device's screen.

You need AR authoring software to develop AR content, but let us save this a little later in this article.

AR use cases

A list of use cases that have been successfully deployed across several industries has been already discussed in our earlier published article "The Deployment stage of the AR maturity model."

Here is a shortlist of the use cases where AR has shown significant promise;

  • Healthcare: AR helps doctors, clinicians, and healthcare industry professionals to learn complex tasks.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing companies use AR for field service, maintenance of complex equipment, and product marketing.
  • Tourism: Travel and tourism companies use AR to provide immersive experiences of destinations to potential tourists, a "try before you buy" kind of experience to market the tourist destinations.
  • Retail, Interior design, Home décor': Retail businesses can allow their customers to experience their products using AR virtually.
  • Beauty products: Hairstyle and face makeover AR apps promoted by leading beauty care brands use AR to enable their products' virtual try-on.
  • Gaming: Pokémon Go demonstrated that a game developer could effectively use AR to create fun interactive experiences.

The significance of content in AR

While AR has tremendous potential to create substantial business benefits, enterprises face a few challenges while scaling AR. One key challenge is the lack of high-quality AR content. This can manifest in low visual fidelity of the content, improper functionality, lousy user interface, awful tracking, and recognition, leading to a break in immersion in the AR experiences.

This results in poor user experience; moreover, the experience is often not immersive enough for the users to appreciate the value it brings to them.

Analysts cite that the absence of high-quality 3D content compels AR users to create their objects and environments in their AR applications.

Crafting your AR content strategy

To rapidly develop and deploy high-quality AR content for your audience while being in the "Connecting stage of the AR maturity model," the following steps can be adopted by enterprises;

  1. Define your objective? – You will need to define the goals of your AR application clearly. Is it a product showcase for retail customers? Or is it a sophisticated training solution for employees, or is it a marketing solution intended to excite your users about your product? The objective will provide clear direction as to the type of content and authoring platforms needed to develop the AR content.
  • Determine the type of source content – Several source content types that can be utilized for AR content authoring;
    • 3D CAD – CAD models from various CAD software like Catia, Solid works, etc., can be imported into AR content authoring platforms to create AR applications.
    • 3D point cloud generated by scanning including the latest Lidar scanners available on the newest iPhone and iPad – 3D point cloud can be generated using scanners that can then be converted to 3D polygonal mesh models imported AR content authoring platforms.
    • 3D polygonal models from DCC tools like 3DS Max, Blender, Maya – Artists and designers in your enterprise can create 3D polygonal models from DCC tools that can then be imported into the AR content authoring platforms.
    • 3D polygonal models downloaded from various asset stores like Unity Assets store (assetstore.unity.com), Unreal marketplace (unrealengine.com/marketplace), Reallusion marketplace (marketplace.reallusion.com), Sketchup 3D warehouse (3dwarehouse.sketchup.com) – several high fidelity free and paid models are available in these stores for immediate purchase and use. Always check licensing terms and conditions when using assets from these market places.
    • 360 deg images and video, 2D images, videos and documents – any images, videos, and documents that are needed to be shown in the AR experience you are creating can be imported into the AR content authoring platforms.
    • Volumetric video – some AR content authoring platforms allow importing volumetric video content for AR content authoring.
  • Determine the AR content authoring platform - Given the importance of high fidelity AR content and the amount of work it requires to create such content, robust tools/authoring platforms are needed for creating augmented reality content.
    • One of the best AR authoring platforms we work with for various enterprise AR use cases from training, field service, equipment maintenance, and marketing is the Worklink Create tool from Scope AR.

Worklink lets you create AR content that's customizable. It is compatible with ARKit and ARCore and allows one-click publishing to any AR device of your choice, including AR HMD's. It supports image tracking, object tracking, source content like direct 3D CAD, 3D polygonal models, images, animation, scripting using a visual programming interface, videos, 360 deg videos, and a 3D point cloud from reality capture systems, etc. These features make Worklink a suitable AR content creation tool for a wide range of AR use cases.

  • Another platform that is easy to use and worth mentioning is the Vuforia Studio. Vuforia Studio is part of the Vuforia AR platform from PTC. It is a powerful AR platform with a drag-and-drop AR content authoring environment that is scalable and allows easy viewing of AR content. Its IoT and analytics capabilities make Vuforia highly suitable for industrial AR use cases.
  • Determine which devices you will deploy your AR content to – It is crucial to determine the display device used by all your users within the enterprise. Some AR features may need the latest mobile devices with depth sensors; it may not work on legacy devices. Mobile AR is cumbersome to use as the user may find it difficult to hold the mobile device in their hand while experiencing the AR content. AR HMD's are very expensive to buy and hence costly to scale. After careful consideration and exploring various devices in the "explore stage," you may have the right knowledge to make this critical decision while scaling AR in your enterprise.

Conclusion

Augmented reality content authoring platforms for content creation can undoubtedly help you to build your augmented reality application. However, exciting content is only one part of AR app development, although an essential factor. Developing an AR application involves much more, e.g., finding AR developers, procuring the right infrastructure, formulating a practical development approach, and managing the project well.

AR application development can be complicated in the beginning. We always recommend organizations follow all the stages in the AR maturity model to allow the best chance for AR to succeed in your enterprise.

The Radiant Digital AR team has built a large number of AR applications. Our team features many expert AR and VR developers who have used all the above tools and platforms and others such as Unity, Unreal, and most important, AR hardware and software technologies.

Contact us to learn more.


Delivering First-Class UX with the Visibility of System Status

Often in UX design, transparency and feedback affect a users' experience and how they engage with a system. Periodic feedback and system knowledge help users feel more in control, which supports better decision-making. The visibility of system status relates to communication and transparency, which are critical to user-system interactions.

Looking around for signs helps users manage tasks and time efficiently. For example, our phones and laptops display the remaining battery life to charge them when necessary. Similarly, email inboxes indicate how many unread emails lie in the mailbox and which ones are high priority.

Visibility of system status in UI is the first of Jakob Nielsen’s Ten Heuristics. Every UX designer follows these principles to ensure that their design is feasible, responsive, and user-friendly.

The system status should keep the user informed on what’s going on within the system with proper feedback at appropriate intervals. When users understand the current system status, they can determine the outcome of their prior interactions and the next steps.

Predictable interactions foster trust in the product and the brand, so UX designers prioritize the system status heuristic.

Definition

Visibility of system status defines how well the system state is conveyed to its users. This could include a dialog window, notification, an ‘appear and disappear’ text, and other mechanisms.

Why implement System Status in your design?

Knowledge is Power

Changing a system status with action requires knowledge about its current status. With this, you can overcome any gaps and decide what to do next to reach your goal. A lack of information always translates to a loss of control, resulting in diminishing trust in your design.

Staying in-the-know Means Better Control

Effectively displaying the system status encompasses proper communication with the user. After every system interaction, the user should be given a response from that system, informing them about the result and whether it is good, ineffective, or something that could impact other processes/tasks/outcomes.

Appropriate Feedback

Users need to understand if their interactions with the system were successful or not. Further actions can be taken based on the outcome of a previous one. The system should convey the outcome in a visible and comprehendible way.

Appropriate feedback is the most fundamental way of doing this. It keeps users informed of the current status and steers the interaction in the right direction. This saves effort and time when the user performs the correct actions instead of those, leading to confusion and error. Such feedback can include a change of color when the user clicks on a button or a progress indicator for a running background process. These feedback mechanisms show the user that the system is working, reduces uncertainty, and increases errors, such as clicking a button repeatedly due to a lack of system response.

Influence User Action

One key factor in displaying system status is predicting user behavior and guiding them to the next step. Doing this can influence the right actions while providing trust and security between your users and your product. On most e-commerce sites, communicating stock availability for a product influences their buying decision. When the stock is low, customers can immediately ensure they don’t lose a chance to purchase the product. Communicating if a user qualifies for free shipping or a specific deal can encourage additional purchases.

Communication Creates Trust

Understanding the system’s state helps users rely on the system to act as expected based on circumstances. The predictability of the interaction strengthens trust in the dynamics of the system and the brand.

Users should be informed about actions with consequences for mutual consensus required from a legal perspective. Any external event or time-based outcomes impacting the system state should be communicated clearly. For example, errors or interruptions during a system process need to be displayed effectively to the user for appropriate or remedial action.

Types of System Status Indicators in UX Design

While there are many creative system status indicators, here are some prominent ones used by UX designers today:

Progress Bar

This element is commonly used when a user uploads or downloads a file from an online or offline source.

A status window with a progress bar tells us how much progress has been completed or how much time is remaining by showing percentage (%), number file, or a bar. It also indicates process interruptions by an event or errors during the upload/download. The user can take corrective action at this juncture to restart or continue the process.

Here, the system provides enough feedback in a reasonable time after pressing the UPLOAD/DOWNLOAD button.

Image for post

Image Source: Medium.com

An advantage of this design heuristic tool is running backend processes in the background while the users continue with other tasks. The user interruption level is low while the information level is high.

Pop-up 

A pop-up is a window or bubble view with self-explanatory text with/without an image. It contains action buttons or other elements that appear over the existing user's interface. Some pop-ups dim the interface behind to ensure that the user recognizes that the pop-up has appeared.

Keep in mind that pop-ups may prevent users from continuing until they resolve the issue indicated in the pop-up window. This is effective as a warning; it asserts the user performs some corrective or critical action. Conversely, pop-ups can be overly intrusive to a user’s workflow. It is recommended that pop-ups be used sparingly and only when necessary.

Pop-ups can be critical or non-critical. Critical pop-ups can impact system operation or status, while the non-critical ones are more informative.

Critical Pop-up
Warning Messages - Win32 apps | Microsoft Docs

Image source: Microsoftdocs

Non-critical Pop-up

Image source: wishpond blog

Notification Banner

A Notification banner usually contains some text that appears above a colored background.  It generally appears from the top of the user’s viewport. These banners can sometimes be animated and slide into view.

They function similarly to pop-ups but do not dim or disrupt the user’s screen view. These banners also have a dismissal option where the user can make them go away or hide them.

Notification banners are effective and non-obtrusive to a user’s experience. However, these may not be as attention-grabbing as pop-ups.

Sometimes, a user may not notice that the banner appeared at all, so they are best used when you want to inform the user in their best-interest about a change or action that has already happened but is not very critical.

The message that appears in a notification banner can be dynamically set to change based on a time-based trigger. Many e-commerce and banking websites use this mechanism to update the user on policy, process, and status changes.

During COVID-19, notification banners have been the most-used system status tools on business websites and portals.

How to Create a Website Notification Bar to Keep Visitors Informed

Image Source: OptinMonster

Informative Text 

This type is used when an error occurs during form creation. Perhaps a user is creating an account on your website or configuring their settings. If a field is filled out incorrectly, colored text can appear near the form to inform a user about the validation error. This type of text keeps appearing until the user resolves the error and does not let the user move forward.

Image Source: wowmakers.com

Usually, informative text is associated with an action like submitting, continuing, next, or canceling, which is captured through a button. You’ll see this while installing an app for the first time.

Image Source: tubikstudio.com

Informative text can be used to denote errors and success as well. Tooltips are great examples.

Image source: appcues.com

Different color schemes like green for success and red for errors can be used for text display.

Image Source: isabelcastillo.com

All of the examples mentioned above are great ways to promote user interaction with a UX design. Banners can be used to inform users of limited-time offers. Colored text can alert users of unique interactions, and pop-ups can encourage users to sign up or subscribe to a service.

Final Thoughts

Visibility of system status is a tenet that promotes a high-quality user experience.

At its core, this heuristic enables open and continuous communication, which is fundamental to successful UX designs.

Uninformed users become poor decision-makers and will find difficulty in discovering their next steps towards task completion. Users also won’t figure out if their actions were effective and error-free without some system feedback.

The key is to let your users feel they are pivotal to interaction without blindfolding them or keeping them guessing.

At Radiant Digital, we help you implement this design heuristic and help your customers see the ‘bigger picture’ in your UX designs.


Accelerating Innovation and Transformation of Legacy Applications

The continuous digital revolution calls upon enterprises to abandon the crumbling, almost ready-to-expire legacy systems and replace them with more agile modular applications and database management systems.

New-world programming is an enterprise norm today that delivers cost-efficiency and faster time-to-value. Modern-day applications provide better support for multi-device compatibility, resource reusability, cross-platform functionality, and seamless integration with other business systems.

Leveraging emerging technologies for improved quality, responsiveness, and productivity help outperform the competition in an always-connected digital economy.

Every organization has legacy applications that are mission-critical but need a significant makeover. However, the need to keep up with changing compatibility, higher availability, better compliance, and performance market demands has made these applications expensive and ineffective.

Legacy applications are less scalable, tightly coupled, and less adaptable compared to modern-day apps. This limits the cloud's solutions, where almost every other modern-day app runs with advanced IT capabilities.

Here are some compelling reasons to consider modernizing your apps.

  • Evolving market expectations and trends demand more responsive enterprise applications.
  • Changing business dynamics and business policies rely more on cloud implementations.
  • More agility and faster release for specific functionalities and modifying the business process/product/rule irrespective of the development cycle.
  • Reduce Total Costs of Ownership and maintenance.
  • To meet executive demand for significant insights and operational visibility through analytics that aid data-driven decision-making.
  • Businesses need to continuously deliver the best customer experience at all touchpoints with quick and error-free app services or improvisations.
  • To support business growth with scalable solutions that leverage automation.
  • To sustain competition through innovative and differentiated app functionalities.

Many companies have had critical failures with their app modernization efforts since it usually impacts their current operations and the overall underlying system.

Radiant Digital helps you meet business objectives and justify investments with app modernization strategy and support.

We focus on reducing technical complexities, improving resilience, fault tolerance, and replacing obsolete, end-of-life software components with newer technology and a unique approach, including the following steps.

This blog will give you better visibility on why app modernization is so essential to your technology-driven initiatives.

What is App Modernization?

Application modernization is the process of changing, refactoring, remodeling, or modularizing the existing legacy applications to improve their internal architecture, capabilities, design and functional features, technology stack, or code quality.

It involves reviewing the end-to-end current system state using either the top-down or bottom-up approach. It requires a dedicated team of resources, reverse engineer through the business processes, understand and document every integration, system performance bottlenecks, what and why it was developed the way it is today.  The reverse engineering process helps to define and shape the architecture and direction for App modernization.

It is the transition of existing enterprise applications to new approaches like cloud computing, Microservices, and Containerization to achieve the following:

  • Speed-to-market
  • Rapid Innovation
  • Flexibility
  • Cost-savings

This is done by improving the velocity of new features delivery, exposing the functionality of the existing applications consumed via API by other services, and migrating applications from on-premises to the cloud for optimized performance and better IT strategy.

The Results of App Modernization

What does App Modernization include?

  • Cloud-native development.
  • Migrate legacy core business apps.
  • Replace with software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.
  • DevOps - CI/CD automation.
  • Application integration.
  • Re-platforming and infrastructure transformation.
  • Microservices-based Applications
  • Serverless Architecture

Types of Enterprise Apps that can be modernized

Key Drivers of App Modernization

While there are many reasons why legacy enterprise applications need a digital makeover, here are some of the most significant ones.

Changing Business Dynamics

There is an increased need to accelerate digital transformation to deliver new capabilities quickly and cost-efficiently.  Instead of adopting new technologies and business models, if you are stuck with your old software, you are letting new growth opportunities go unnoticed. The first step for businesses that look for innovation is application and process modernization.

Hidden costs of Legacy Applications

Any feature or functionality that is obsolete is an unyielding investment. Operational and maintenance costs represent just the tip of the iceberg. The following hidden fees form the sources of legacy software expenditure.

Refactoring your existing legacy applications provides access to greater functionality at minimal costs that arise due to investments in third-party applications.

Outdated Security 

Security provides IT resilience (e.g., backup, disaster recovery, high availability, and continuity planning) to protect data and ensure continued business operations in the event of a disruption. According to the HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey, almost 70% of businesses today are still exploiting some legacy apps. Legacy applications are usually less resistant to cyberattacks, harmful programs, and malware because cyber attackers get familiar with the code and its vulnerabilities.

Modernized applications in the cloud provide ubiquitous access to top-of-the-line safety features and quick updates. They collectively secure the environment from external threats and accidental data exposure.

Change Management Hindrances

Legacy systems have large codebases with complex functionalities. Their monolithic nature makes changing or replacing one system module difficult. A small update might create a wave of system conflicts.

Thus, any legacy system changes require time and effort associated with high expenses. Additionally, legacy systems need vast amounts of documentation.

Modernizing legacy apps helps automate change implementation in an agile environment with lesser errors. This reduces time, effort, and cost.

Need for Better Operational Efficiency and Standardization

Using legacy apps in a diverse environment requires standardization to ensure seamless performance. Agile methodologies in app modernization can speed up the provision of IT services by at least 30%. Thus, initiating modernization focusing on continuous delivery helps integrate product development with IT operations with DevOps. App modernization promotes automation and operational transformation to improve team efficiency.

Integration Challenges

Legacy software platforms are seemingly challenging to integrate with third-party APIs to access a few capabilities like user authentication, data sharing, and transactions. A significant amount of custom coding is required for connecting legacy software to a third-party tool or service.

There is also the risk that the final integration won’t work as intended. App modernization makes apps integration-ready by default.

Infrastructure Issues

Legacy systems need a specific technical environment, including hardware, which is more difficult and expensive to maintain. They are usually built to-be-deployed and function optimally over on-premise infrastructure.

This keeps the infrastructure maintenance spending high and lowers performance. Legacy data is scattered across several databases and storage resources. Gathering and systematizing legacy data is thus necessary for space optimization.

Benefits of App Modernization

The following benefits prove that legacy-system modernization is vital to overall business digitization.

App Modernization Market Trends

The growing need for business agility, faster time-to-market, leveraging big data technologies in the connected era, and cloud computing is the significant component of many businesses' application modernization strategies today. This is driving great opportunities in the services market.

The App Modernization Services in high demand include:

• Application portfolio assessment

• Application re-platforming

• Cloud application migration

• Post-modernization services

• Application integration

• User Interface (UI) modernization

According to Forrester, companies seek “innovative development services for enterprise apps, which will drive adoption (and spending) as companies start tearing apart core business apps and modernize them with innovative analytics, machine learning, IoT, messaging, and database services created in the cloud.”

Application Modernization Approaches and Techniques

Legacy modernization approaches have specific techniques applied to upgrade obsolete applications.

  1. Modernization techniques impact different aspects of your legacy system. Encapsulation, Re-hosting, and Re-platforming affect the technology platform.
  2. Refactoring and Re-architecting are used to solve problems in the technology and architecture domains.
  3. Rebuilding and replacing help in changing and adding functions and features to existing apps.

Challenges in Adopting Application Modernization

The top challenges of performing app modernization include:

  1. Teams may be unwilling to adjust to operational changes. Motivation, training, and coaching would entail additional risks and costs.
  1. Simultaneous app modernization for multiple legacy systems may need high efforts and a larger time window for each system.
  1. Initially tailored for the specific platform functionalities, legacy code can lead to irrelevant and erroneous code that needs replacement. It is essential to ensure that while migrating, the underlying software will comply with the new data interchange rules and client applications and support resources requirements.
  1. Since the system is outdated, it leaves businesses with the absence of information or the required skills for data migration.
  1. Hosting apps in the cloud while retaining some apps on-premise may lead to inefficiencies and operational silos.
  1. During the modernization process, sometimes, the entire business process may come to a standstill.

As an innovation-led enterprise, Radiant Digital has helped many customers in their digital transformation journey with our App Modernization Services to address the challenges mentioned above.

Here are some of the common mistakes we’ve helped enterprises avoid in their App Modernization journey.

Our Key Focus Areas during the Preliminary Analysis of Modernization

Radiant’s 7 Measures of App Modernization Success

Enterprise App Modernization Journey with Radiant

Wrapping Up

According to IDC, "More than half the global economy turns digital by 2023 requiring new species of an enterprise to compete and thrive."

To meet the new digital economy's demands, organizations have to give up on outdated software and modernize their core technologies. Enterprises will see real transformation only when they embrace modernization as a one-time project and a continuous cycle.

Connect with us today to experience the rewards of App Modernization.


Technical Writing Delivers More Than Just Editing

Many subject matter experts (SMEs) reach out to technical writers once a document has been drafted to help edit and prepare it for delivery. However, an experienced writer can provide valuable project support from the moment a documentation need is identified.

Collaborate for Client-specific Results

Any successful project requires close collaboration. Even if a technical writer doesn’t have a background in a specific subject, a strong technical writer will have the ability to identify, organize, and synthesize pertinent information more efficiently than SMEs. Partnering with a technical writer early on can take much of the burden of managing a documentation project off SMEs, freeing the SMEs to focus on providing key inputs that only they can provide.

Plan the Project Requirements

From the project outset, technical writers can provide insight for project execution from previous experience. Working with the SMEs, technical writers can clarify the document's goal and determine the objectives required to reach that goal. From there, the audience is defined. The audience makeup informs the breadth of content needed and the complexity of language used to convey the content.

Hands-on Information Gathering

Technical writers turn into private investigators when it is time to gather information. Writers will set up interviews with SMEs to ask questions designed to acquire the relevant information. A lot of questions. Using direct, open-ended, and even seemingly simple questions, the technical writer helps an SME fully connect with their head knowledge. Depending on their day-to-day involvement with the topic, it may be second nature to them, and they could accidentally leave out basic but critical information. For insight on knowledge capture and cognitive task analysis, see the blog and webinars by Sheila Mitchell, Ph.D., on the Radiant Digital Insights web page.

Technical writers can dig through existing documentation and perform research online or through other available resources to improve how they ask questions, help fill in gaps, or improve their understanding to produce a more accurate and complete document.

In addition to gathering words, a technical writer can help locate images, design new images (possibly with the help of a graphic designer), and can collect any required screenshots, as applicable.

Organize for Understanding and Execution

While technical writers may have experience with the project's topic, they do not live and breathe it, so they provide a valuable outsider’s view of the information. This allows the technical writer to see the information, so the SME does not—a new angle—and logically organize the document to serve the specific audience and task best. Does the audience need to learn to use a software application? Does the audience need to follow a Health, Safety, and Environment process to avoid environmental damage or legal repercussions?

Technical writers will organize each document depending on the required task and the capabilities of the audience. While documents can be similar, a cookie-cutter approach is rarely the best solution.

Complete and Concise Writing

A technical writer is, as the title implies, a writer. A technical writer that organizes and writes a document helps reduce the time required to edit the document. Often an SME’s role does not require much writing that will be published for a mass audience. This sometimes results in SMEs creating documents that are verbose or that are unnecessarily complex. While writing, a technical writer removes extraneous information and determines where additional information or clarification is needed to produce a concise document that meets all identified objectives.

Content-focused Reviews

Using a technical writer to gather and build the document can accelerate and improve the review process's quality. The document will begin in a cleaner state allowing the reviewers to focus on content correctness and completion, not if a period is missing or a diagram is misaligned. Those reviewing the comments won’t have to wade through comments about errors that should be caught during proofreading.

Technical writers keep communication lines open throughout the process to efficiently organize multiple reviews by multiple reviewers while maintaining version control. Reviews start with the SMEs closest to the project and expand to a larger but limited audience. Depending on the scale, timing, or importance of the document, the technical writer can set up review workshops. Here, key personnel reviews the document with the writer in real-time, allowing an open discussion of questions, concerns, and comments. Any pressing issues can be addressed more readily and more completely than in a series of emails or calls.

Finalize and Deliver

When stakeholder reviews are complete, and all comments are accounted for, the technical writer then performs a final review of all the document aspects. This review includes links to cross-references and websites, labels for figures and tables and their references, the table of contents, formatting, and all of the regular proofreading items. They can then package the document in the required format—Word, InDesign, PDF—and deliver it as specified in the project requirements—email, save to a shared drive, upload to a CMS or a digital asset management application.

“Just Editing”

Does all this mean that a tech writer shouldn’t be used for editing? Absolutely not! When a technical writer edits a document, they will still follow the same process—on a smaller scale—as they edit.

Before beginning, they will learn the objectives, goals, and audience of the document. While editing, they will proofread the document to fix the standard issues—spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.—but will also review for clarity, completeness, and organization. They will work closely with the designated SMEs—asking questions and making suggestions—to help ensure the document serves the intended purpose.

Summary of Benefits

A technical writer on a project team can:

  • Closely collaborate with SMEs and project management
  • Provide insight for project execution from previous experience
  • Determine the breadth of the content and the complexity of language
  • Allow SMEs more time to focus on their daily job requirements
  • Include input from more SMEs
  • Provide an outsider view of the information
  • Organize information for the specific task and audience
  • Reduce the time required for writing and editing
  • Accelerate and improve the quality of reviews

Conclusion

The flexibility and versatility of a technical writer can help with any technical communication project. Whether SMEs have already written a document or the information still needs to be pulled from the heads of a knowledgeable staff member or whether this is the first or the thousandth technical document, a technical writer is a valuable asset to include on the team. Radiant Digital and its team of experienced technical writers are ready to help your company meet its technical communication needs.


Making AR more realistic with Depth Sensing

As augmented reality (AR) applications become more commonly used in the technology world, users expect increasingly sophisticated experiences comprising impressive visuals and interactions that are adaptive and aware of the users’ environment.

With the expanding processing power and popularity of mobile computing devices such as smartphones, tablets, AR HMDs, AR is becoming more accessible in the consumer market. This has led to an inundation of digital data that calls for learning about different content influencing AR and streamlining disparate types, including 3D and codified AR content.

For the AR experience to improve, virtual content should behave realistically in its physical environment. The user should be able to interact with it naturally and intuitively.

Advanced AR experience creation techniques like Depth Sensing (implemented by organizations in the Connecting Stage in the AR maturity model) enable the next-level of real-time information. This significantly improves how users can interact with their environment where virtual content is placed.

Technology capable of understanding user interaction and their environment was expensive or restrictive. However, newly released depth sensors & LIDAR sensors on the latest Android & iOS mobile devices and devices like the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap provide developers with a low-cost and widely available real-time depth-sensing.

They help AR applications understand the three-dimensional (3D) environment they are operating in and support new ways to blend the natural and digital worlds.

The Need for Environmentally aware AR applications

Image marker and natural feature registration algorithms have been used to create AR experiences. Computer vision algorithms on mobile devices enable the detection of these markers but have no awareness about the targets that exist in the environment. This lack of understanding can cause the virtual content to seemingly float above real objects or appear inside them, or occlude objects it should appear behind, breaking the illusion that the virtual content exists in the real world.

Early attempts at environment awareness required manual modeling of all the real objects in the users’ environment and online localization of the camera to ensure virtual objects interacted with real objects appropriately. This method is both time-consuming and inflexible, as any changes in the environment would require recalibration.

For making AR experiences more realistic, obtaining proper environment awareness is essential. This includes features like correct occlusion (i.e., digital objects’ ability to appear behind real-world objects that make things feel like they’re actually in your space), collision detection, realistic illumination, and shadowing effects, etc.

Though these features are not necessary for augmented reality, it has been shown that applications that include such cues can establish a stronger connection between real and virtual content.

Fig 1: Environmental Awareness with depth tracking

The Significance of Depth Information

With advancements in imaging technologies & techniques such as contour-based object segmentation, depth information from stereo cameras and time-of-flight cameras, online SLAM, depth from motion algorithms, etc., acquiring the relevant information from the scene needs no offline calibration. The system can correctly process the environment even when objects change or are added and removed.

Fig 2: AR on Hololens with depth sensors

With depth sensors coming into action, AR content can be enhanced with realistic physics, surface interactions, environmental traversal, etc.

Depth sensing can unlock new utility use cases. For example, the remote assistance solution that enables AR annotations on video calls (enabled by platforms like Scope AR’s Worklink) uses depth sensing to understand the environment better, so experts worldwide can more precisely apply real-time 3D AR annotations for remote support and maintenance.

When organizations enter the leading stage in the AR Maturity model, implementing depth sensing as part of their AR content strategy will enable;

  1. AR content to be more personalized and adaptive.
  2. The emergence of Enterprise AR standards to allow systematic content reuse and improved cost-efficiency.

Implementing Depth Sensing in AR experiences

Using AR Core, Google’s developer platform for building augmented reality experiences, or AR Kit, Apple’s developer platform for building augmented reality experiences, developers can enable mobile devices to create depth maps using a single RGB camera to make the AR experience more natural. Depth sensors on HoloLens and Magic Leap AR HMD’s allow more natural and realistic AR experiences.

Several low-cost consumer mobile devices with depth sensors are available to enable environmental awareness and natural interaction. This has opened the competitive market for engaging AR experiences leveraging the device’s capabilities to examine a three-dimensional volume within the task space and realistically compositing the virtual content in the environment.

Final Word

As Augmented Reality enters the broad awareness stage among consumers worldwide, it’s not just the researchers. Still, enterprises, developers, and product marketers globally are all too enthusiastic about the new opportunities and transformation that realistic AR will bring to mainstream use cases.

However, it is crucial for organizations traversing through the connecting and leading stages of the AR Maturity model to implement intelligent AR depth-sensing applications that broaden the path for immersive innovation everywhere, to check all the boxes.

Radiant Digital is an AR-led enterprise with crucial proficiency in depth-sensing technology for AR applications. Make AR a genuine game-changer for your business by connecting with us today.