This project delivered a 3D printer interface that was visually appealing and more intuitive then its predecessor. It equally accommodated beginner and advanced users, lowering the entry bar and inviting new users of all ability levels to create 3D prints. With Type A’s modern hardware and new user-centered software, they positioned themselves as serious competitors in the 3D printing market.
Client: Type A Machines
Role: User and Market Research, UX, UI, User Testing, Creative Direction, Project Management
• High barrier for user entry
• Overly complex interfaces
• Issues securing financial backing
• Lack of mass market appeal
• Insubstantial market differentiation
We researched the 3D printing landscape to identify recurring themes and detect market opportunities.
- Limited time for design (3 mo.)
- No earmarked user research or testing budget
- Existing hardware and software to build around
- Unresolved open vs closed software debate between investors and developers
- Venture capitalists are showing interest in the industry. 3D printer companies have been acquired for large sums.
- The market is becoming saturated – breeding innovation, lower costs, smaller units and increased attention to industrial design.
- Audiences beyond industry professionals are being targeted.
- Software – Many of the machines we looked at were using antiquated print interfaces, many others were using open source software which was the product of engineering rather then design.
- Support – There was little focus on the out of the box experience, and no existing user support beyond wikis and forums.
Rethinking Features and Flow
With such an involved interface, simplicity was paramount when designing the features and the flow. At every stage we questioned the necessity and utility of elements and pared down to the essentials.
From File to Print
There were a lot of process complexities to sift through as we pared down the interface. This flow focuses on simplest user path to create a print job.
- The features needed to accommodate the majority needs of each user group would not easily be addressed in the same interface.
- We decided to create a basic and advanced interface to meet everyone’s needs as efficiently as possible.
- Having a platform that further expanded the user base and addressed issues other printers weren’t dealing with gave added value for investors, and provided market differentiation from the pack.
- The interface simplification and reskin would provide elegance and modernization to address investor concerns.
Advanced users wanted to perform complex 3D prints with greater ease. They wanted control over the settings of their prints.
Basic users wanted to upload a file and print. They weren’t concerned with customization, and felt overwhelmed by too many settings.
- To iteratively design with our participants, they were asked to perform specific tasks using a high fidelity prototype. Each of the tasks had success metrics assigned. Tasks that did not meet the success metrics were refined from user feedback.
- The basic interface needed to be pared back several times to meet the success benchmarks. Features we thought would be useful were found to be overwhelming, not understood, or ignored altogether.
- To continually test the basic interface, we brought in our 3 additional participants. The previous participants were becoming more familiar, and less able to test with fresh eyes.