Hardware & UX?

As a Boston-area UXer, I always seem to be the only hardware person in the room. Take a Bentley UX course, or attend a Boston CHI or UXPA conference and you’ll be surrounded by web or application User Experience folks.

So how does user experience work in the hardware space, in particular, the world of enterprise servers?

Product Development

When designing a server, first the laws of physics dictate major portions of the design. Processors, memory, storage and I/O components must be connected and placed in a manner such that the physical connections let these subsystems communicate with each other.

The Hardware User-Centered Design Group works closely with system architects, PC Board designers, mechanical engineers and product managers to ensure that these early, crucial stages of system design don’t preclude an easily serviceable and upgradable product.

Product Development Phases



Just in the past several years, things have evolved to adapt to business realities. In my days at Sun Microsystems, usability was something our group had to champion. When tasked with stuffing 10 pounds of hardware into a 5 pound container, how does the UX professional convince a mechanical engineer to think about making things easier to install, upgrade and service?

When our company was acquired by a larger fish, one that actually knows how to make money, we needed to re-frame the argument. instead of telling product teams that ease-of-use was “good for the user”, we needed to use metrics that mattered.

We can now relate how a poor design turns into lost money via service calls and visits. When a customer can’t fix an issue, just the act of calling support costs our company money. Field service visits for on-sire repair add even more.

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