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Visualizing Building Health Data

Data Visualization | Big Data | User Experience Research

My Role

Design Researcher

Industry Partner

ioAirFlow | MITACS Canada

Abstract

ioAirFlow's software solution helps building owners, operators, health and safety experts, and auditors identify indoor air quality, performance and energy efficiency gaps in any commercial building and make smarter and cost effective improvements.

This research focuses on improving the communication of ioAirFlow's technical data to non-expert recipients. By developing effective information design and data visualization using mixed methods and action research, the study aims to enhance data readability, accessibility, and user understanding of building environments, ultimately empowering inhabitants to better understand air quality impacts on health.

Objective

"Improve the communication of ioAirFlow's technical data to non-expert recipients"

Research Setup

Usability Testing

Usability tests were conducted internally and with Building Managers, Energy Consultants and Maintenance Supervisors to identify areas in the ioAirFlow software that could be improved for better communication and comprehension of complex data.

Test-1
Test-3
Test-2

Pain Points

Based on the responses of the usability tests, the following pain points were identified:

Login and User Interface

  • General login process is acceptable, but no standout positive feedback indicates room for improvement.

  • Adding a new building is easy, but more detailed customization or guidance could enhance user experience.

Performance Test Visibility

  • Performance test at the bottom of the screen needs more visibility; users frequently miss this section after adding a new building.

Navigation and User Behavior

  • Users tend to navigate to the ‘Location Types and Definitions’ tab and then return to the homepage, suggesting potential navigation confusion or lack of clear direction.

Client Engagement

  • Clients rarely work on the recommendations, leading to potential inefficiencies.

  • Sharing information primarily through online meetings or virtual presentations, which may lack effectiveness.

Suggested Improvements

After collecting the responses from the stakeholders the following improvements were implemented:

Suggested Workflow Changes

Improve User Interface and Navigation

  • Increase the visibility of critical sections like performance tests.

  • Simplify the navigation to reduce the tendency of users to get lost or return to the homepage unnecessarily.

Optimized File Upload Process

  • Allow more file formats for uploads, especially commonly used ones like .pdf.

  • Improve error handling and guidance for correct file formats to avoid delays.

Increase User Engagement

  • Develop more interactive and engaging methods for sharing information with clients.

  • Consider alternative methods of communication and information dissemination beyond online meetings.

Upgrade Performance Testing

  • Make the performance testing interface even more user-friendly.

  • Add features that highlight important sections to ensure users do not miss them.

Suggested Interface Changes

In addition to the workflow changes, significant changes were made to how the information is displayed on the graphs.

Before 1

'Addition of the Comfortable Range made it easier to isolate high performance sensors.'

After 1

*Due to NDA the dashboard lives in a secured server.

Before 2
After 2

'Highlighting the Occupied Time to compare sensors in different locations around the building.''

*Due to NDA the dashboard lives in a secured server.

Crucial Insights

Comprehensive design and development process:

  • The combination of prototyping, user testing, and research-driven development illustrates a thorough and methodical approach to product design and enhancement.

Focus on Data Quality and Accuracy:

  • Emphasis on accurate data in the development of air quality modules and redesigning graphs ensures that users can trust the information provided, which is critical for decision-making.

User-Centered Improvements:

  • The increase in user satisfaction following the redesigns shows that prioritizing user experience leads to positive outcomes. This can help in retaining users and enhancing overall engagement with the product.

My Learnings

By the end of this study, I learned that combining prototyping, user testing and research driven development enhances products methodically. Emphasizing data quality ensures reliable decision-making. Prioritizing user experience boosts satisfaction and engagement. Also, an iterative, feedback driven approach helps products evolve continuously to meet user needs effectively.

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