Keep the complicated simple with user experience design

Paul Boughton

User experience design is becoming a norm in industrial product design, providing users with competitive advantages such as time and money savings with minimum environmental impact. Marjukka Mäkelä reports.

In today’s busy world, everything counts to keep your business competitive. With many aspects to consider when designing and manufacturing a product, a well-designed user experience, or UX, is featuring more than ever. In the smartphone world we have seen manufacturers becoming market leaders just by enhancing the UX experience of their product. 

The basic functionality of mobile phones has evolved by how we can use them, access them and add more applications to them. They have become more flexible and useful in sharing our everyday life and in doing business. 

This evolution has also flowed through consumer products into industrial products such as variable speed drives. In this modern age, business moves faster than ever before. Companies need to focus more and more on their core competence. Choosing the right products and services to support the business plays a vital role in running a successful company. 

Product dependability and ease of use has a significant impact on total lifecycle cost of the product. With the right choices the business runs smoothly and employees can focus on what they do best. 

A well-designed UX certainly helps the users and businesses enjoy getting straight into using a product. From the product concept, packaging and set-up to the operation and maintenance, the manufacturer has worked everything out to be simpler for the user. It’s always about saving time and money for the business. 

Variable speed drives such as AC drives, along with the electric motors they control, are the workhorses of the industry. The drives are very effective at saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions. Whether they are a part of a machine or a process they keep them running efficiently and accurately, year after year. 

When a machine builder or user is making a decision on an AC drive he needs to evaluate both the short-term and long-term effects of the investment. Well-designed UX can save time and money throughout the lifecycle of the product. 

ABB recently launched a new general purpose drive, the ACS580 series. UX was in the core when designing the product and many new or improved features were introduced. When the basic concept of the product is simple with all the essential functionalities built-in as standard, the product selection is made easy. There is no need to evaluate and install external components. Clever packaging and the product’s mechanical design enable straightforward installation and integration. 

UX design also answers to questions such as how suitable a product is for the task, how it increases the value of operations and use, and how safe a product is to its surroundings and users. Therefore it is important that a product is designed to the exact requirements of a correct environment of use. To an end user, successful UX design means that a product or service is effortless and easy to use in such a way that the user commits to using it. Usability and reliability is better, the amount of errors is reduced and commissioning time shortened, all for the convenience of the user.

“When we discuss UX we mean the holistic perspective and genuine interest in how the users and customers feel when using our products and systems. It is a rather empathetic approach. Our focus is on how pleasant and valuable the experiences we can create and support are,” says Marjukka Mäkelä, manager of Industrial Design and User Experience at ABB.

Drive set-up can often be time-consuming with dozens of parameters to go through that allow maximum flexibility, but make finding the needed parameters difficult. 

Here again UX plays a vital part with a well-designed user interface. Grouping the most essential settings in one sub-menu and assistance to help the user run through the basic set-up can cut this time from half an hour to a couple of minutes. 

Easy monitoring, diagnostics and problem resolution integrated into the user interface help maintain the process and business running smoothly. A well-designed UX is a key feature in ABB’s new all-compatible drives portfolio. 

All-compatible is about understanding different customer needs and then providing the most compatible drive for the customer’s process. It also covers solutions for the people, process and business, as well as the environment. With the same design principles used throughout the portfolio, the user can have the convenience of the same user interfaces, options and engineering tools. Learn one drive and you know them all. Ultimately saving time and money with minimum environmental impact. All this is useful, convenient and highly effective in any business’s daily operation.

Keeping business running

Good UX design counts for more than just ease of use of a product. Hassle-free use and reliability of AC drives can be ensured with a flexible and proactive service portfolio providing all the needed services throughout the lifecycle of the drive. An unwanted disruption of a drive can quickly reduce the process output and harm the business. With preventive maintenance and other services, process uptime can be guaranteed all the time. And when it comes time to replace the old product, they enable seamless transition to the new product while keeping the business running.

Competitive advantage is a highly contested element in any product, so making the user comfortable and capable with a well-designed UX is certainly a considerable starting point to good business. Especially if it is based on practical, everyday use and helps the user get the best out of engineering magic.l

For more information at

Marjukka Mäkelä is with ABB Drives and Controls in Helsinki, Finland.