User experience in focus – developing an intuitive user interface
Simon White, Vinit Murmu, James Drew, 06/04/2020
In 1995 Romax Technology released the world’s first structural analysis software code specifically developed for the design, analysis and optimization of transmissions and drivelines. It was called RomaxDesigner and went on to become our flagship product for the next two decades. Over the years RomaxDesigner was enhanced with pioneering new capabilities allowing the prediction of transmission system rigidity, durability, efficiency and NVH, along with other advanced capabilities such as detailed contact stress analysis of rolling element bearings and more recently the gearbox NVH of electric vehicles.
Whilst helping to create a world-renowned, full featured solution used by virtually every major transmission OEM, the downside of these developments was that users who specialized in only one specific area of transmission analysis could be daunted by the range of capabilities and options at their disposal. By offering a single product aimed at a wide range of specialist users, RomaxDesigner became a victim of its own technological capabilities, and its usability and user friendliness suffered as a result.
In response, Romax refocused on the needs and requirements of its different user groups and repackaged the features of RomaxDesigner to create a suite of products sharing a common platform, called Nexus. Nexus is comprised of six attribute-focused solutions (namely Concept, Enduro, Spectrum, Energy, Spin, and Evolve) and was built to appeal to specialists, making sure customers weren’t paying for features they didn’t need, while refining the tools they’d use regularly. Naturally, Romax also took this opportunity to radically improve the user interface, asking valued customers to contribute feedback with the aim of improving the user experience and ease of use. Now the feature set of each individual product is tailored to a particular type of user and the interface is clean and less crowded, meaning the required features are more easily accessible.
Graphical User Interfaces, or GUIs, allow users to interact with the software, and therefore are instrumental in determining how successfully they can utilise its capabilities. Should that interface be in any way obstructive, then the user is in effect locked out of their toolbox; the smartest software in the world could be behind that interface, and the user might never know it. Indecipherable icons and maze-like toolbars will hamper efficiency and productivity, slowing down the whole process. Romax know our clients value intuitiveness and ease of use, which is why we’ve implemented a new tabbed window interface to simplify the user experience when multitasking and when using multiple monitors.
To understand where improvements were needed, virtually every function of the software was mapped out and reorganized into workflows, whilst corresponding menus were created to make sure functions were located where users would expect them to be. Graphical toolbars replaced text-based menus, meaning features are easy to find, yet collapse away when not needed. Designed with common workflows in mind, tasks and tools are now arranged in a more logical order, divided across tabs to reflect the modelling and analysis process. Note how the tabs in the new ribbon bar are ordered, to align with a typical CAE workflow moving from modelling to loading then analysis to reporting. Important functions that were previously tucked away, such as gear micro geometry analysis, are now prominently displayed and ready-to-hand. Our extensive mapping made sure there is a fast and intuitive way to reach the necessary tools with a minimum of clicks. This layout is consistent across the whole Nexus platform, so should users need to move between or combine products, they won’t have to adjust to a new interface.
The result is a user interface designed towards simplicity, that prioritizes the features that are most practical and popular with our users. Our GUI is simple, yet professional; intuitive for new and existing users, but offering world leading advance analysis. Romax Nexus empowers users to create complex designs without complication.
“The functionality and interface of Romax Spectrum plays an important role in developing better and low-cost transmissions in a limited time. For example, Romax Spectrum provides a clear and easy way to set the coupling conditions of bearings that are difficult to set in other CAE software.”
Read more about our software here.