InfoComm Dashboard Group Readies Work for User Testing

The InfoComm working group developing the Dashboard for Controls hopes to complete usability testing on its template AV control interfaces this year, 4/01/2007 8:01 AM Eastern

InfoComm Dashboard Group Readies Work for User Testing

Apr 1, 2007 12:01 PM, By John McKeon

The InfoComm working group developing the Dashboard for Controls hopes to complete usability testing on its template AV control interfaces this year, and is planning a wide range of promotional and educational activities to boost adoption of its work throughout the industry.

The basic premise of the dashboard initiative is that operating a professional AV system should be as easy and intuitive as driving a car. Cars don’t all have unique dashboard layouts, the argument runs, so why should AV interfaces? The Dashboard working group has grown to include more than 60 participants, according to project leader Greg Bronson. Bronson says this group represents “a cross section of industry; manufacturing, tech managers, programmers, integrators, and consultants.”

“Our web presence has never been stronger,” he says, noting that a variety of documents, including templates, a design reference manual, an integrators’ guide, white papers, and other materials, can now be downloaded at the website.

Greg Maderic of Control Concepts, another key player in the dashboard project, notes that usability testing, designed to give the new design templates its first road tests, will be conducted this year. The hope, he adds, is to get the actual testing completed prior to InfoComm and be able to post results on the website by autumn.

The testing will explore how easy the design templates are to learn; how efficiently users can actually work with them; how well they are remembered from one session to the next; what effects different text sizes, fonts, colors and other factors have on users; what errors occur; and a long list of other factors.

This testing effort, Maderic says, reflects a subtle change in the group’s orientation. In the early days, its activities were naturally driven by the participation of the leading vendors of control technologies. “Now, we’ve really switched from the supply side to the demand side, to user-focused design,” Maderic says.

Meanwhile, he adds, the project has created an online “Dashboard Wiki”, intended to facilitate the steering committee’s online revisions and updates of existing documents. “Once the committee is done, we’ll send out an announcement to invite anybody to wants to get involved,” Maderic says.

The Steering Committee is also ramping up its promotion and education. Three seminars on the dashboard work will be presented at InfoComm International in June, Maderic says: A basic Photoshop course, plus “Dashboard for Control: Under the Hood,” and “Developing Interfaces that Work.”

In the third course, Maderic explains, “we will look at actual jobs and critique them, instead of just talking theory for two hours.”

Further down the road, the Dashboard Wiki will contain working outlines of a series of video podcasts now in preparation, designed to explain the initiative and encourage more industry professionals to adopt dashboard templates. The videocasts are planned to be five to 10 minutes long and be published via the web on roughly a weekly basis.

It’s a bit job, and there’s no danger of being finished any time soon, Maderic reports. “The technology is constantly advancing. Now, we have to look at smaller panels because they are getting really popular, and we’re looking at adding animation, movable text and sound to touch panels.”

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