Case Study: User Experience as a Project’s Foundation

06-01-22 Julie Young

Our best client relationships evolve over time. Learn how Sparkbox’s UX work with an autonomous robot solutions pioneer was the foundation for an initial project and successful years-long collaboration.

Sparkbox partnered with a leading autonomous robot solutions (AMR) pioneer interested in improving user interfaces for a suite of administrative tools. We often talk about how our ideal client relationship deepens over time and allows us to become valuable partners with a clear impact on the bottom line. And that was the case here.

Beginning with User Experience and Discovery

We began our engagement with user experience. User experience for this client consisted of one person, spread thin. The client was looking for an outside partner to support them while they grew, since hiring senior user experience professionals is notoriously difficult. We hit the ground running by taking over usability testing a prototype of their administrative interface for autonomous robot management. We planned the study, conducted it with their clients, and reported the results to the team and their leadership to gain buy-in for more user experience at the company.

Next, we spent focused time with the internal UX strategist and development team to learn about the client’s work, upcoming goals, expectations, and possible challenges. A short onboarding phase helped bring these two disciplines together to align expectations and establish a strategic plan for the next steps. With the findings from the usability test in hand, we determined where we could add the most value. This allowed us to start defining and executing manageable pieces of the overall work to build toward the finished product and allow for any necessary pivots.

Focused, High-Value Development Effort

Sparkbox developers paired up with developers on the client-side to build the part of the tool that allowed users to see the status of the autonomous robots in their warehouses. The application was built on Nuxt.js, a Vue framework that works on both the client and server sides, and deployed with Docker. We also built a platform-agnostic mapping package to allow our client to integrate warehouse maps into any application. This is an important feature that improves usability for those in the corporate office or on a warehouse floor. The mapping package included support for WebSockets, allowing users to update the location of robots throughout their warehouses and to create routes for robots inside mapped warehouses.

Keeping the Larger Vision in Mind

While the development team worked on the mapping package, a Sparkbox designer and user experience strategist supported the larger vision of the administrative suite. Our client was gradually adding design team members to its internal team. We collaborated with their new UX designer to create high-fidelity visual interaction designs for this complex application, grounded in user research and usability best practices. We conducted multiple rounds of moderated usability testing to inform design decisions and better understand the environment in which the application would work.

Releasing a Critical Reporting App

Sparkbox’s experience design team then moved on to a critical reporting application, again delving into user research to inform labeling and organization and creating high-fidelity designs and interactions. We validated our user experience and designs with rounds of moderated usability testing. This reporting application was the first product released to clients that included the new user-focused design strategy and the mapping package.

Laying the Groundwork for the Future

Finally, we worked with the autonomous robot solutions company to create a component library that could be used to build out various components inside of the app ecosystem. We also set up processes for publishing and releasing the component library internally, so they could build the frontend of their applications more efficiently and consistently.

Throughout our years of work with the autonomous robot solutions company, we assisted in teaching and leveling up the team so they could take on more and more responsibility for continued software development and experience design. By the time our engagement came to an end, we were able to confidently and responsibly transition to a very capable, innovative internal team.

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