Solution fit and flexibility: why Falkonry product teams invest time in redesigning their UI

Solution fit and flexibility: why Falkonry product teams invest time in redesigning their UI

A series on product improvements at Falkonry – Part 1

By Jeegar Shah – Sr. Director Products,  Falkonry

 

When designing a complex product that has all the bells and whistles under the hood, it is imperative that the user experience be all the more simplistic, streamlined and intuitive.

As any product evolves to encompass new ideas and optimizations, there is a tendency to display the prowess of your algorithmic horsepower to your users by giving them YAF (Yet Another Feature). This is all dandy for developers that have an exploding cache of Github repos and code checkins as they try their one upmanship on their colleagues with cumulative pull requests. But this is often a nightmare for customers who are asymptotically approaching their steady state of product usage and now have to deal with YAF – when they never really asked for one.

At Falkonry, our overarching objective is solution fit and flexibility. We believe that the promise of bringing OT (Operations Technology) efficiency lies in the ability to empower subject matter experts (SMEs) with the tools to make timely and effective decisions. A YAF may exactly help you achieve the opposite. Falkonry is committed to making AI-based pattern recognition an easy-to-incorporate component of any operations-oriented solution. With the addition of every algorithmic richness and IP, we enforce a mindset of looking back at our footsteps to remind us of the silhouette of an army of SME’s that will be following the same steps and pausing every so often to ask each other the question “Did we just throw a YAF?”

If you were to ask Wikipedia about UI, this is what you’d get:

The user interface (UI), in the industrial design field of human–computer interaction, is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The goal of this interaction is to allow effective operation and control of the machine from the human end, whilst the machine simultaneously feeds back information that aids the operators’ decision-making process.”

This does nail the idea and get the message home if one were to pause and stare at the words “interaction between humans and machines,” “effective operation,” “control of the machine from the human end” and “operator’s decision-making process?”  In its simplicity, this sentence shows paramount the obligation of every developer to their users. And while we are always in our overdrive YAF mode, it’s often a forgotten and overlooked afterthought.

In the first of this series on product updates, we would like to share some recent product UI upgrades that were motivated and principled-based on the following clear objectives:

  • Enabling better user navigation in a complex product environment
  • Replacing tab-based process workflow with story-based intuitive progression
  • Intuitive sliding views and overlays against multiple mouse clicks and windows
  • Minimize vertical scrolling by respecting the most coveted UI commodity – vertical space
  • Consolidating settings in an overlay for quicker user configuration
  • Redesigning the layout to have tighter correlation between controls and displays
    • Model revisions are now displayed next to facts to show the coupling between facts and their relationship with different models
    • Signal and temporal pattern views with control knobs alongside
  • Ability for user to configure the “Views” dashboard to hide “feature and display noise” for quicker decision making
  • Ability to learn and store user preferences

The original tab-based approach which required the user to position themself in the progression of process workflow has been replaced with a single pane that has sliding overlays, which are intuitive and surface at the appropriate time in the progression of the analysis.

The landing page for every user is a list of the assessments created by the user for the last datastream.

  • Configurations are now pinned to a utility at the top right
  • Controls for “Accepting data” and “Live monitoring” are adjacent to each other
  • All assessment-related functions are now on a single pane

For every assessment that a user chooses, model revisions and facts are displayed side-by-side. This allows the user to look at the facts associated with model revisions to get more context on each model.

Once as assessment has been chosen and model revision made active, the next intuitive step of the process flow is to look at the signals and the temporal display of patterns. The Views overlay slides in from the right, giving a sense of progression of the analysis.

Within the Views pane, the user now is presented with a list of possible assessments they can choose from, such that they do not have to navigate across tabs.

Given that the sole purpose of the Views pane is for the user to focus on the temporal patterns, the user can now configure the dashboard to turn on/off the condition statistics to better utilize the vertical space and minimize vertical scrolling.  The Episode Inspector which is a key tool to get a focused and detailed view of different assessment conditions gets automatically upgraded, and incentivizes the user to use it more often.

The View Range has been further simplified to encourage the user to easily narrow down on specific time periods of interest. A reset button further helps the user to switch back to the original time range, while having the option to snapshot various time ranges within the “New Range” button.

In future versions, we will focus on snapshotting user settings, model revision settings, and cataloguing the configuration of assessment views. And yes we, like most developers, like to pull in features under the hood, but we will stay true to our commitment of not overwhelming our users by proactively working on keeping the UI simple and intuitive.

The second post in this series will focus on our new and improved PI agent that works as an integration agent in conjunction with OSIsoft’s PI Server historian.

While this is short summary of some of the UI design principles that we at Falkonry have adopted, we aim to continue down this path to create simple and intuitive user experiences so that the SME’s can focus on doing what they do best. Clearly, our objective is not to overcomplicate OT with more IT; we hope to play our YAF’s selectively and carefully.