This article is part of an ongoing series from our Product Managers on how we design and develop new features in SigmaNEST. Today’s article features the new Manual Punch Placement Sensitivity setting, released in SigmaNEST X1.5 and developed by our Machine Motion team.
The quest for better software
It is an ongoing quest here at SigmaTEK to provide better software for our users.
Sometimes that results in large sweeping features that introduce new functionality.
Other times it involves a set of smaller changes or tweaks to the existing features to make meaningful improvements that contribute to improved usability, utility, or enjoyment of the software.
The Manual Punch Placement Sensitivity feature is somewhere in the middle. It is just one of a family of improvements that are in development to improve the user experience for punch programming.
Why this feature?
Clearly, we wanted to create a better user experience. This could be accomplished through things like:
- Fewer incidents of interrupted concentration
- Fewer undo/redo operations
- Reduced hand strain
But beyond user experience, we wanted to improve the results of tool placement to yield better results:
- High-precision tool placement
- Less effort required to get that precise placement
- Reduced likelihood of bad hit placement
Research (and more research)
The concept for the feature came from directly observing users. And what we noticed was that it is more demanding for the user to place large punch tools in smaller spaces.
Sometimes, the tools seemed to snap to the geometry too soon. This made it difficult to control the placement precisely.
Sometimes, the complexity of the part geometry led to incorrect or accidental tool placements. Which is obviously not a good thing.
So, we studied the original algorithms that determine how the mouse operates during tool placement. And armed with more knowledge about the user and the code, we decided that we could do better.
A window into feature design
We worked up a design, both for how the code would be written by the development team, and for how the interface would appear to the user. Some things we had to consider:
- There must be a clear benefit to the user
- Localization into other languages must be easy and intuitive
- It must be configurable, to deal with the likely values our users might need
- Testing must be simple and straightforward
And finally, it must have that magic ingredient. The one where people come to my office to say things like, "You know, I really like that new feature."
When we create a new feature that generates an internal buzz, we get excited because we know we’re doing the right things and we’re doing them well. The reactions we get from people in our company with deep experience and personal customer interactions are what tell us whether we’re doing great, or just ok.
When great minds collide…
This feature was especially interesting because we went through multiple iterations of review and testing. There was discussion of how to phrase the UI wording, where to place the feature, and what the default values would be.
Passions ran high. Tempers flared. But in the end, we reached a consensus that everyone agreed on. And upon reviewing the feature with our stakeholders, it was clear we had a winner on our hands.
The design of this feature made it especially easy to experiment and test before release. And post-release, the feedback we’ve heard has been very positive.
We are always excited to get feedback on ANY new feature in the software, because that’s what directs and drives future SigmaNEST development.