Figuring out what’s causing that “slice”

The SolidWorks VAR Resource Center (VRC) provides online tools and resources intended solely for use by value added resellers of the company’s 3D solutions. The VRC’s content covers topics about SolidWorks’ products, services, marketing, sales, licensing, and support. The real value of the VRC is it helps resellers ramp-up faster by having latest content and competitive intelligence at their disposal. It also is an outlet for the SolidWorks sales team to share best practices which in-turn makes it easier for resellers to sell SolidWorks software applications. In order to better serve its resellers, SolidWorks engaged with us to conduct a usability review of the VRC to understand how well it was meeting the needs of its resellers.

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Heuristic Rating
1. Visibility of system status
2. Match between system and the real world
3. User control and freedom
4. Consistency and standards
5. Error prevention access constrains
6. Recognition rather than recall
7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
10. Help and documentation

Taking some extra hacks with a swing coach

Our usability consultants began their review of the VRC with a heuristics evaluation to inventory, assess, and evaluate the existing site. The VRC was graded on ten heuristic categories.

Heuristics scale:

Usability problems virtually do not exist…
Most usability problems are minor…
Usability problems are more serious and the interface is confusing…
Usability problems are major. The interface does not work as expected…
The interface is unusable without assistance…

Practice makes perfect

Immediately following the heuristic evaluation a user research study was conducted with twenty-two representatives familiar with the VRC in hopes to learn which areas were most effective in helping users accomplish their tasks. We conducted the study with four different SolidWorks’ organizations: VAR Sales and Marketing personnel, and Technical Services and Order Management groups. The following sections of the site were targeted in the study.

Time to put the adjustments to the test

Results from the usability study showed that the existing VRC was only marginally useful to participants as they used the site to accomplish scripted tasks. Based on these results, our recommendation was to redesign the VRC with a particular focus on making improvements in the overall navigation structure and focusing on internationalization and localization, personalization and customization, adhering to user experience best practices, and improving the search and filter experience for users as additional improvements.

Following our recommendation which was accepted with gusto, the work towards redesigning the VRC site experience commenced. We conducted card sort sessions and crafted a brand new navigation experience for the VRC which was extremely well-received by end-users. Thus by following this well-crafted usability process, Solidworks saw fantastic results and a much improved user experience for the redesigned VRC.

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