UX Awards

The Premier Awards for Exceptional Digital Experience

Re-imagining Atomic Force Microscopy Details

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Infragistics disrupted the field of Atomic Force Microscopy by re-imagining an interface used by scientists and lay people.

My colleague, Kent Eisenhuth, and I were asked by Keysight Technologies, the world’s leading electronic measurement company, to redesign the software that controlled their line of Atomic Force Microscopes.

Originally created for the scientific community, the application had a very steep learning curve that required years to master. Part of the problem was that the application presented all of the microscopes functionality, to all users, all of the time. In addition, the application was designed around the standard, multi-window, Microsoft desktop design language, meaning that completing a single task meant having a LOT of open windows.

As a result, zero percent of new users were able to successfully use the application, experienced users required years of training and powerful functionality remained hidden in plain sight.

Keysight needed to decrease training time, allow experienced users to focus on scientific research rather than learning a new interface, and open up the technology for use outside the traditional academic areas of physics and chemistry.

After an intense period of research to understand the workflows and mental models of academic users, support technicians and new, non-traditional corporate users, the redesigned application provided a solution that eliminated novice user training while simultaneously incorporating new functionality and a unique design aesthetic.

Why this project is worthy of a UX Award:

Originally created by and for the scientific community, Keysight Technologies’ Atomic Force Microscope software had a steep learning curve that required years to master. Our design needed to support the workflows of multiple types of users. Physicists and chemists with a long history of using the application, and in some cases helped design the original version, needed to be able to transition seamlessly to our new design. New academic users and technical support staff who were familiar with the purpose of an atomic force microscope but not with the application that controls it also had to be considered. Finally, we were designing for a new group of commercial users, who would only be using the device for specific, industry¬ related tasks, rather than long ¬term scientific research.

From a strict design perspective, we demonstrated to a very traditional user population the value of a true design process. We provided alternatives to the poorly designed software they currently use, and delivered a useful, usable and visually striking piece of scientific software. From the perspective of the business, we eliminated the need for novice user training, demonstrating 100% novice user success rates, up from 0%. Experienced user training, which typically took place over a number of years, was also substantially reduced, allowing researchers to focus on their work rather than learning a complex interface. And finally, we were able to incorporate new functionality, making the application more valuable to experienced users while keeping the interface simple and intuitive.

Submitted By: Infragistics

Client Name: Keysight Technologies

4.5/5 (10)

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