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    Detailed usability audit and UX design overhaul of On:Trac's web-based mobile app development and MBAAS platform Nutshell, providing a comprehens… Read More
    Detailed usability audit and UX design overhaul of On:Trac's web-based mobile app development and MBAAS platform Nutshell, providing a comprehensive interaction design specification and visual toolkit for the development team. The end result was dramatically improved usability, and the discovery of several new opportunities for the future Nutshell roadmap. Read Less
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Detailed usability audit and UX design overhaul of On:Trac's web-based mobile app development and MBAAS platform Nutshell, providing a comprehensive interaction design specification and visual toolkit for the development team. The end result was dramatically improved usability, and the discovery of several new opportunities for the future Nutshell roadmap.
 
My Roles: Producer: UX Strategist : UX Designer : Usability Consultant : Visual Designer
The Nutshell platform empowers large organisations to build their own suite of integrated business apps for mobile devices using a simple drag n' drop interface. The platform includes several components, including tools with which to manage accounts, users, apps, resources, databases and web services, a fully interactive drag n' drop authoring enviroment and a mobile 'container' application in which a user's finished app will run.
The platform includes more than 50 interactive components that the end-user can drag into their app, from visual assets - such as images and text - to form controls, data connection, manipulation and import/export tools. Each of these components needed to be detailed separately, including their functionality and appearance within the published mobile app.
The first step was to hold stakeholder workshops to outline some high-level goals, define a set of overarching design principles, and identify some core commercial imperatives that would need to be met. This was quickly followed by an in-depth usability audit, to identify key weaknesses and opportunities within the existing prototype application, and real-world user-testing with carefully selected clients.
As Nutshell was about to launch to the public, my core responsibility was to devise a long-term UX strategy for the platform, that could be rolled-out from MVP to first live iteration. The aim was to create a best-in-class end-user experience that maximised adoption and customer retention, whilst providing enough flexibility to grow and evolve in the future.
A short-term plan was drafted, including staged roll-out to fit within Nutshell's commercial timelines, cashflow forecasts and availability of in-house development resource. Once this was in place, the work could begin defining key personas, use-cases, competitor analysis and interviews with test subjects.
I started by defining the fundamental design principles of the Nutshell platform; a mantra to keep us on-vision throughout what would be a long, agile design and implementation process. These were deliberately straight-forward:
 
Simple: An ordinary office-worker with no technical knowledge at all, must be able to assemble a simple business app in under an hour.
 
Powerful: Experienced techies must be able to build complex, connected business applications that integrate seamlessly with their existing IT infrastructures.
 
Compelling: Nutshell's sales team should be able to create an app during presentations and demos, wowing potential customers with its simplicity and power.
One of the great benefits of working this way, is that new opportunities are often found whilst weighing the user experience against these principles. Like the schematic above, which is an outline for an innovative new feature that allows a user to create an entire read/write data application from an existing spreadsheet or database file with only a few clicks.
There's much more to the Nutshell platform than the management and authoring environments. The mobile container app (in which all Nutshell apps run) needed to be wireframed, prototyped and designed too. Rapid prototyping was done on paper first, followed by Axure and Photoshop, using Skala Preview to test on several mobile devices during the design stage to ensure excellent usability regardless of the device and orientation.
Although Nutshell provides custom control over the visual appearance of apps created with it, a default 'theme' was also designed, to ensure that apps created with the platform are just as user-friendly as the platform itself.
Work on Nutshell is ongoing. The first stage of UX roll-out has been completed, and is currently undergoing live user-testing and review. Watch this space.