Here at Affygility Solutions we often hear the statement, “We want it simple to use.” But, almost in the same breath, they will indicate “We want it comprehensive and want it to do this, this, and this” and “Oh, by the way does it work on iPhones, Android devices, and iPads?” As you can see, these statements presents a huge dichotomy and challenge for designers and developers that are tasked with developing environmental, health, and safety software. People want it “simple to use, but comprehensive.”
Several years ago while attending a conference on EHS software, this situation presented itself ever so clearly. A company was giving a demo on their new EHS software package that they have spent numerous years developing and implementing. While showing one of the forms on the screen, the presenter indicated that, “Well, there’s a lot of fields on this form and you won’t use half of them.” After this statement, I’m thinking to myself why do you even have them? He then proceeded to perform an action and the whole EHS software system froze up. Much to his embarrassment, he stated, “Oh, that’s never happened before.”
The Birth of EHS Bloatware
For those of you not familiar with the term “bloatware” it is a piece of software or a website that attempts to do too much and become utterly useless for its end users. There is just too many moving parts. Here at Affygility Solutions, we see this all the time in large, expensive enterprise-based EHS software management systems. These are typically the systems that are designed by corporate committees that want everything throw into the system, and the consulting practices that typically develop these systems are more than happy to comply because the “customer is alway right” and it just means more billable hours for them. As an example, I saw one company that had a system that was tracking 26 health and safety metrics and 32 environmental and sustainability metrics. Are you kidding me? How in the world is their one part-time EHS staff member at a facility ever going to have the time to collect and enter all that data on a monthly basis? In addition, the company had to bring all their EHS staff members from around the world in for 1 week of training in how to use the system. My theory, if it takes a week of training to learn how to use it, it’s way too complicated. We need to think about online banking. Did anyone ever trained you on how to use your online banking site? Probably not. Designers and developers need to make it that simple to use!!! If your user interface looks anything like the Access database below, you got usability issues:
Several important points need to be made here:
- We can’t let technology get in the way of us doing meaningful EHS work;
- We always ask “What features can we add?” rather than “What features should be take away?” We need to become feature assassins; and
- You shouldn’t expect an EHS professional to be a programmer, just like you wouldn’t expect a programmer to be an occupational toxicologist.
Welcoming Responsive-design EHS Software
Here is the next several weeks, Affygility Solutions will be releasing its next version of Affytrac with a responsive-design interface. Responsive web design is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites so they provide a great user experience across a wide-range of devices – desktops computers, tablets, and smartphones. Responsive design allows easy reading and navigation regardless of the screen size. Responsive design principles are in alignment with the “think mobile first” movement, where all websites and applications should be optimized to work on a mobile device first. It will allow you to perform EHS task management, corrective actions, and quantitative exposure assessments all from the convenience of your smartphone. It will be awesome!
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