Echo CAD Case Study
Within this project, Echo CAD (computer-aided-dispatch) was looking to update their interface and essentially make the software more marketable for future expansion into other campuses and locations. As Echo CAD is currently only available to ASU's medical campus, updating the interface and establishing a structured a user flow will help propel Echo CAD into new user markets. The project was initiated during the beginning of the pandemic and project considerations had to be sensitive to the needs and availability of ASU and local dispatchers– meaning that interview pools are smaller and any questions asked had to be intentional. As the team working with Echo CAD consisted of a developer and CEO, the ultimate decision to use Sketch allowed for effective design file transfer from design to HTML and WEBP for immediate deployment into development. The project was completed over the span of four weeks from research, to conception, to usability testing and final deliverables.
Understanding the Software:
Going into this project was incredibly daunting as first-response dispatching is an incredibly complex system with its own language and abbreviation models. To slowly get accustomed to a software that wasn't built for non-users, I was walked through the software step-by-step, focusing on any potential biases that the developer/CEO might have about their user base: including their day-to-day flow, what is most important in functionalities and what can be improved with the software. Upon introduction with the software, there was talk about potentially expanding Echo CAD features into possibly including an internal phone call operator into the existing Echo CAD model or location tracking for the units– despite the possibility about expanding the software, there was a key need to not be in the mindset of focusing on features but rather on the utmost important tasks within the current system.
Going into this project was incredibly daunting as first-response dispatch CAD is an incredibly complex system as it often requires multiple monitors to properly allow the operator to simultaneously access various types of information quickly through different channels.
To get started, Infield Vector LLC. was able to provide me with a list of individuals both from ASU as well as professionals within the local area that are open to interview and being further involved in usability testings. As there are very little scholarly research done currently on the software experiences of first-response dispatching, the interviews will be the largest contributor on
User Task Flow & Storyboard:
As I came into this project completely unaware to anything that existed within the realms of first-response dispatching. It was critical for me to establish a user task flow that was heavily based off of answers provided by the interviews. Combining the task flow and the storyboard was beneficial in helping me piece together the emotional pitfalls for the user during the process of call intake to dispatching the unit.
As this project was extremely limited in time and scope, every design decision had to be intentional and pre-approved by the CEO & developer before being carried over to low-fidelity and then testing. I went in to evaluate elements of the UI that didn't make sense to me and if I had any other suggestions on how to redesign an aspect of the current software. This was also a methodology for me to further understand the components of the software's current UI and basic functionalities as I, at the time, wasn't able to properly comprehend due to my lack of knowledge with CAD softwares.
Thankfully, the customer base of Echo Cad are both loyal and incredibly open to bettering their software and so I was able to seamlessly test for new design implementations with those whom already have previous working knowledge of the current Echo CAD software. This came to be extremely helpful as I spent minimal time redefining the project and over-explaining my general goals for the project for my testers.
All of my users felt that the new designs I was proposing felt a lot more feasible than the current UI. As I heavily integrated elements that were well-known within Apple products (i.e. the error pop-up & error pop-up interactions) alongside common design models used on web (looking to Reddit for organization of both the filter and elements within the profile drop down), the proposed UI felt familiar within the user's screens. The majority of testers thought that the information were all relevant and that having colored elements that correlated to the urgency of the incident was incredibly helpful in giving the user's directive to quickly resolve concerns. At the end of the usability testing, I inquired from all of my testers about whether the new flow would either speed up, slow down or not change the time it took to create an incident report and dispatch a unit; the majority of the testers stated that the new screens would be easier to navigate due to the IA, layout and easy access to controls irregardless of where the user was within the program.
Though mostly successful there were some concerns that was brought up within the usability testing that wasn't anticipated. Currently within ASU's medical campus, there doesn't yet exist the capabilities to track units by location; dispatchers are only aware of unit location if the responding unit radios it in or if the dispatcher guesses their location based off of incident information. A few of my testers thought that the type was too small at 12 pt font.
Finalized UI Screens:
Taking the feedback given within the usability testings, I implemented some minor design changes to type of information displayed and their retrospective size. Since there is the concern for text readability (especially in relation to being able to read text fast) I implemented an option to change the text size that can be easily found within the profile drop down bar and under the toggle to switch on/off dark mode (a decision that was made due to the working environment of most dispatchers: during normal office hours they will work under fluorescent light but prefer no to minimal lighting during shifts after 6pm). I had great hesitation in the GPS aspects of the Echo CAD redesigns, especially if that technology isn't readily available for the local ASU community, however after discussions with both Infield Vector and the department manager of ASU's medical response team, it was decided to continue designing for GPS capabilities as they are hoping to implement that technology within the next few years.
Oh boy was this ever a challenge. I spent most of my time at the initial start of the project being shaken into fear, immobilizing myself from starting even the most basic of tasks. I had great hesitations with my role redesigning the software when I didn't even know what it was, I feared that the software was a lot more complex than it is and that I bit off more than I can chew by limiting the project to just a few weeks when I neither understoond the jargon, the users, what goes into dispatching, and how to operate the software as most of the labels and commands are either in code or abbreviations. But beyond that, I really went into the project as gingerly as possible while still forcing myself to be comfortable with the software by playing around in the training mode and looking at competitor analysis'.
I came out of this project on my steady footing that I came in. Overcoming the thought of not understanding enough to effectively solve the problem was incredibly intimidating, but through this I was able to learn to parse out information one-by-one and slowly getting accustomed. Before even entering the training mode, I asked for a demo from the CEO and asking everything that I needed then and there; another part of the process that absolutely eased my anxiety was re-establishing my understanding of what is being presented to me through the UI analysis. Getting feedback as to where my questions laid and thoughts about my plans for redesign was incredibly beneficial as it allowed me to properly digest everything and properly communicate my needs and desires as a designer moving forward within the project. Otherwise, it felt incredibly amazing to be a part of the designing efforts for a medical first-responder dispatch software especially in the time of COVID and the pandemic. I felt it was absolutely necessary for the medical industry to get a "face-lift" by evaluating what UX principles can be utilized to allow for a better experience for medical professionals.