“I want a blue line between these sections,” says the UX designer. Into the spec doc it goes: “add a blue line between these sections to improve UI.” It seems simple enough until several stakeholders and contributors interact with the little blue line at different times in the product development process.
“Will it be sky blue or royal blue?” asks marketing. “Should we make it dotted, dashed or solid?” The team agrees that a dotted, royal blue line is best.
With the internal back and forth resolved, it’s the supplier’s turn to ask for design clarifications. “The resolution of our hardware makes dotted lines look fuzzy unless they’re at least five pixels thick, and the line gets distorted at the bezel if it extends to the edge of the screen.”
Now it’s back to internal discussions. Marketing lobbies for hardware with better graphics to bring the original vision to life. Procurement wants to know if there are savings to be had by using a solid black line. The supplier offers a friendly reminder that this iteration isn’t accounted for by the original contract, so now might be the time to renegotiate.
When this collaboration nightmare becomes more like a recurring dream, it burns resources, delays time to market and ultimately shows in the quality of the product. A streamlined process for product development must clarify communication between stakeholders.
Designer to Supplier – Where’s the Disconnect?
Collaborative frustrations can yield feelings of tension every time there’s a handoff of information or responsibility: especially from designer to engineer and engineer to supplier. The real problem isn’t the other teams but the gap in collaboration that separates the teams. Written spec docs become like one long game of telephone:
- The market demands features.
- The designer ideates.
- The engineer implements a technical plan.
- The supplier executes the plan to deliver a product.
Stakeholders work at different physical locations, often sharing information about visual designs in a text-based format. The finer details get lost in translation until something as simple as a blue line can get blown out of proportion.
Model-Based Development, Functional Specs and Clear Collaboration
Model-based development gets product designers and engineers on the same page. Advancing from written spec docs to model-based graphical user interface (GUI) development solutions eliminates ambiguity, clarifies requirements and reduces rounds of back and forth. Functional specs—in the form of GUI models—replace written spec documents, so everyone is looking at the same blue line. It’s right where it belongs: between the two relevant sections on the GUI model.
Everybody benefits from not having to discuss the blue line ad nauseam.
- Designers retain more control over the product’s look, feel, quality and branding. See how a top automaker takes control of their cluster designs.
- Engineers aren’t stuck in the middle of the telephone game between designers and suppliers.
- Suppliers gain clarity on what they’re expected to deliver, which reduces guesswork and wasted effort.
Rapid prototyping of GUI models accelerates iterative design among internal teams. Stakeholders in various physical locations can collaborate with tight feedback loops. Usability testing can start earlier in the design process, which eliminates supplier-side iterations down the line. Innovative processes for software design, requirement development and code generation create a ripple effect throughout the entire product development lifecycle.
Software Requirements and Hardware Selection
Model-based development yields GUI models which become functional specs to show what the design will look like once implemented. When the engineers can see exactly how the blue line is supposed to look, they can determine which hardware is required to get the right look.
If a design will only look good in high definition, the supplier should expect to use premium hardware that will perform as expected. For simple GUIs that don’t require a lot of fine detail, the supplier should know to use the budget chipsets instead of trying to upcharge for anything unnecessarily advanced.
Bringing implementation closer to the design phase prevents unforeseen problems at the deadline. If a high-end human-machine interface (HMI) design is likely to strain the hardware’s memory and bandwidth, it’s better to find a solution earlier. For example, a low-power code solution can help prevent memory and bandwidth constraints from becoming problematic.
Internal vs. External Iterations
Even with streamlined collaboration, occasional conversations about blue lines and related topics might be unavoidable. The good news is that those conversations can be brief and conclusive instead of confusing and ongoing. Internal stakeholders quickly align around a functional spec in their internal meetings. Once everything has been accounted for in a fully functional spec, the design is set and ready to go to the supplier.
With this process, any external iterations will be implementation-specific and unrelated to redesign. Delivering a turnkey design to suppliers saves them time and resources—all they have to do is execute a design that has every detail accounted for in the model. This is how products get to market as designed, on budget, and ahead of schedule.
Next Steps: Improving Collaboration to Build Better Products Faster
Model-based human-machine interface design helps designers express their visions clearly. Engineers can see the design, so they know exactly what is required in the technical implementation. Suppliers receive a functional model instead of written instructions and even have clear guidance about how to select the appropriate hardware to execute the final product.
A truly comprehensive collaboration solution offers a string of tools to cover the entire product development process. For example, a GUI editor combined with a code generator creates one collaboration suite to take a project from beginning to end. Nothing gets lost in translation.
Investing in the collaboration workflow can save a project, but the benefits don’t end with that one project. Hyundai took complete control of its embedded display design to make future innovation more efficient, too. Gaining control of the collaborative process pays off in every product development project, especially when working with new suppliers to advance previous work.
Getting Started with Altia
Altia’s graphical user interface design and development environment is built to function holistically, with the GUI editor and code generator working in concert. The combination of these two functions is what closes communication gaps between stakeholders. To ease the transition, Altia’s service team helps bridge knowledge gaps to get the initial project to market on time and under budget.
If your GUI project is already underway but perhaps headed in the wrong direction, all is not lost. The Altia Design Jumpstart Bundle includes the development tools and support required to give your GUI a lift off the ground. Get started today, and let’s make it to market the right way.