A lot of people have asked me about Polaris since its launch. The question is usually brought up during brief conversations:
A person would ask, “Hey Kevin, how’s Polaris going?”
My reply is always very terse: “Pretty well!”
“Good! When is it going to be available?”
This is the part where I falter because I was not telling whole truth. While all the components of Polaris have been completed, I have been waiting for the response from Comcast, Westtown’s Internet service provider, who will adding the DNS record for Polaris’ domain. To put it simply, Comcast is responsible for making Polaris available off-campus. As I am waiting, I have decided to take advantage of this opportunity to redesign the user interface for duty crew members.
The original design was derived from the “student version” Polaris. Following a similar design principle, each trip is displayed as a “cell” that consists of two parts: an “information” section and an action bar. The information section includes trip name, time, and indicators that indicate community weekend events. Additionally, the “duty crew version” Polaris includes a van number when applies. The four buttons in the action bar allow duty crew members to take attendance, change trip duration, get turn-by-turn directions to destinations, and begin/end trips.
However, the design would not make much sense in the real world. When a user, a duty crew member in this case, opens up Polaris, it is helpful to display all of the trips that he or she is assigned to. But when the user starts running a trip, the focus is on current trip. In other words, displaying irrelevant trip information will not only take up valuable screen area but also distract the user from the current trip. Moreover, before a trip actually begins, most, if not all, of the actions listed in the action bar would be inappropriate because they are only applicable after the trip begins.
The inspiration of the redesign came from the Wordpress blog editor I used to write this blog (I am not joking). One night when I was writing a blog post, I suddenly noticed the accordions, a list of UI elements that expands and collapses when clicked, on the left of the screen. With the use of accordions, users can decide what contents they need.
As a result, the action bar is removed in the redesigned “duty crew version” Polaris. Instead, Polaris prompts the user to click on the trip “cells.” Then, it direct the user to a detailed view in which all of the information relating to a specific trip can be found. Most noticeably, a “trip status” section is added which allows the user to report the current trip status in real time. And because of the implementation of this section, the trip time section can now display contextual time information. When a trip’s status is changed, the contextual time section changes itself to fit into the context. For instance, when a trip is “en route,” the contextual time section would display the trip’s ETA (estimated time of arrive) instead of its scheduled departure time. The trip name is also enlarged and emboldened for better readability. Attendance, directions, and time settings are now made into an accordion that expands and collapses depending on the user’s need.
This experience with redesigning the “duty crew version” Polaris helps me better understand the concept of user-oriented design. It requires me to take the user’s position and think as the user.
Polaris will begin its public beta testing on Jan 21, 2017.
Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Arnott, Latham. “Ready?!?!” Dribbble, 22 Mar. 2016, dribbble.com/shots/2604815-Ready. Accessed 2 Feb. 2017.