Intuitive UI. Really?

Spitfire Management recently released V2017 of its Spitfire Project Management System. One goal in this version was an easier-to-use, more intuitive UI (user interface). While we think we achieved the goal of making the software “more” intuitive, the truth is that whether a user thinks an interface is intuitive or not depends largely on that user’s experiences.

According to Everett McKay at UX DesignEdge, a UI is intuitive when “users understand its behavior and effect without use of reason, experimentation, assistance or special training.”  Mr. McKay then goes on to define Intuitive UI as one that has an appropriate combination of

  • Affordance- clues indicate the interaction
  • Expectation- the result is predictable
  • Efficiency- minimum effort is required
  • Responsiveness- clear, immediate feedback of success is given
  • Forgiveness- mistakes are not big deals
  • No Frustration- users are satisfied

What Mr. McKay does not talk about is just how varied users’ prior knowledge (from experience in the real world or other software) is, and how challenging that variation is when designing an intuitive UI.

As an example, I have encountered frustration in both video games and phone apps because I couldn’t figure out how to do something I wanted to do. My millennial sons, however, always seem to know: “just click here…”  When I ask, “how do you know that?” they shrug, “That’s how it is in other games/apps.”  So, because they have grown up using applications that have increasingly put the onus of learning on the user (through trial-and-error more than documentation), my sons quickly try things and learn how to do everything possible in any new app. They now find most apps very intuitive.

On the other end of the spectrum, I find a number of Baby Boomers who struggle with the idea of “just click here”.  They ask, “how would I know to do that?” If you ever see the words click here followed by a hyperlink, instead of just the hyperlink with its implied “click here”, you know that either the author or target audience is less comfortable with current technology.

So how to improve our software to be more intuitive for most users while not being confusing to any users? It isn’t easy. A survey asking our users to identify which icon best conveyed the idea of “click here to expand and get to more details” proved that there is no clear consensus on such matters. People who are used to certain software will say one thing, and people with different backgrounds will say something else. We are never going to be able to be 100% intuitive for all users.

Still, we do think V2017’s click-to-edit and click-to-filter functionality will prove to be intuitive once users realize that “just clicking” now allows them to edit or filter quite easily.

If you’d like to see our new interface yourself, contact us for a demo of the Spitfire Management System V2017.

 

The 3 Most Important Tools in Project Management

Project Management is such a huge topic and everybody has their own perspective, but each Project Manager is primarily concerned with three essentials:

  • Get the job done right
  • Get it done on time
  • Get it done on budget

And if you are a Project Manager, what are the three essential tools that you need to achieve those goals?

Number 1:  Project Plan – Statement of Work – Job Description – Contract

Whatever you call it, you need that written confirmation that defines the job. As a Project Manager you need to be acutely aware of what the job is. Don’t embellish it. Don’t diminish it.

In the Spitfire Project Management System, this signed agreement is available to you anytime, anywhere from any device. Being catalogued in a web-based product, your files are accessible from your workstation, your tablet or your smart phone.  You can just open your browser and enter the URL to your Spitfire site. If your company is using cloud storage (Box, Drop Box, etc.), your Spitfire files can be accessible in your cloud storage site. Cloud Storage is great functionality, but it lacks tracking and monitoring of changes—two functions that Spitfire provides for every file you upload to Spitfire. By integrating your cloud storage with Spitfire, you get the best of both: sharing files in the cloud and seamless file management tracking changes and versions of your files.

Number 2: Budget 

Breaking the job down into its cost components is essential to knowing if the job is even possible. Without a budget, you do not have a map for getting the job done.

Spitfire does monitor and track your budget, but it also gathers data from other functions and displays it line by line alongside your budget. When you view your budgeted dollars, you’ll also see the dollars already spent and the dollars already committed to subcontractors or suppliers. Your Spitfire Budget gives you the whole picture, not just your original planned budget, but your current budget and all of your actual and committed expenses. When you open your Project Dashboard, you see your budget numbers vs. your Actual + Committed numbers side-by-side, and you have the tools to drill-down and see all the details for those numbers.  It’s your roadmap with all the side trips, toll booths, and pot holes along the way.

Number 3: Change Order

Change is inevitable. This is the Project Manger’s survival tool. Without it, you cannot achieve the essential goals of “done right, on time, and on budget.”

When changes happen, this is your get-out-of-jail-free card. Most jobs, even ones with meticulous plans and budget, run into a change. It could be a new city ordinance, or a discontinued product, or even a customer with a color choice. And Spitfire is where the you can manage and track those changes.

Spitfire’s Change Orders are flexible. They can handle the usual up-charge to your customer, but they can also handle an internal, non-billable change and schedule change. The Change Order will also update your budget and create Sub Change Orders, too.

For Project Managers, Spitfire handles all three of the PM’s Most Important Tools. If you would like to schedule a free demo, contact us.

Communication

One of my sons is a .NET developer (a.k.a. software programmer). He recently told us about a task he was given that proved challenging and time-consuming. But he used some problem-solving skills and completed the task, feeling pretty good about his accomplishment. He then sent an email about it to the appropriate persons. Afterward, his supervisor surprised him with high praise—not for the job itself, but for the well written email!

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Experience Matters

I was tickled the other day to hear from an old colleague via Linkedin. She kindly reminisced about how in bygone days I taught her something about SQL, and now she is mentoring others. While I remember working with this person, and distinctly recall that she was worth the investment of time to explain things to (which is high praise, as there have been too many who have not reached that bar), I cannot recall what it was that I might have helped her learn. It was just normal, professional experience stuff.

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