Cenduit's New IRT User Interface


A panel of experts behind the design of Cenduit's new IRT user interface (UI) talk about the important role user experience played in designing the interface.  The panel includes Chris Dailey, Cenduit's Global Head of Technology, as well as two special guests from the design and development firm that helped us bring the new UI to life: Dante Passera, Director of User Experience and Lucas Brauer, UX Project Lead at Smashing Boxes.



Lex Raleigh: Hello, and welcome back to Cenduit Quickcasts. For some of our long-time listeners, you know who I am. For anyone new to us, I'll introduce myself, my name is Lex Raleigh. Today is a very timely episode. We've just recently released a new user interface for our flagship IRT product, and we're lucky enough to have some of the thought leaders and drivers behind that here with us today to chat about it. Let me first introduce our panel; we've got Chris Dailey, who's the global head of technology here at Cenduit. We also have Dante Passera and Lucas Brauer from Smashing Boxes, the company we partnered with to develop the new UI. I'm going to pepper you guys with a few questions, but before we get started, I'd like you to introduce yourselves. Chris Dailey, if you don't mind saying a few words about who you are and what you're doing here at Cenduit and anything you want about the UI project.

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Chris Dailey: Sure. Thanks, Lex. Thanks for having me. As you mentioned, I'm the global head of technology here at Cenduit. That means I'm responsible for all of the R&D efforts, as well as IT efforts for the company. And my role on the UI project was to try to envision what the balance of it would be, as well as identify an appropriate partner to bring in to augment our expertise and really drive the project forward.  

Lex Raleigh: Okay. Fantastic. Speaking of the appropriate partner to bring in, that brings us to Smashing Boxes. I'll turn first to Dante, maybe if you can introduce yourself and say a few words.

Dante Passera: Hey, Lex. Happy to be here as well. It's my first time on a podcast. I think this is the 21st century version of "Hi, Mom. I'm on TV." 

Lex Raleigh: (laughing) Those are pretty cool.

Dante Passera: I'm the Director of User Experience at Smashing Boxes. We are a design and development firm in Durham, North Carolina. When Chris came to us, this was something that was right up our alley. We were very excited about the opportunity to work with what was already an industry leader who had a great product, and we were tasked with making it better. I mean, you can't ask for more of a dream engagement than that. I wish I could take more credit for making it better and being awesome, but that would go to my man on the ground, Lucas Brauer, who was the main driver of taking it from initial meeting all the way through development, iteration and finally, to our final project. 

Lex Raleigh: Well, I really love that you're doing part of my job because that's the perfect introduction for Lucas. Lucas, if you can say a few words and then we'll get into the meat of all this. 

Lucas Brauer: Yeah, it was a great project. Like Dante said, exciting to be a part of an established brand and offer our services to that. Yeah, I was the UX Lead on the project.

Lex Raleigh: Okay. Great. Actually, one thing that I want to sort of get out in front is a couple of expression reviews: user experience and user interface. I thought maybe we'll start with a few words about what's the difference, so anyone can jump in. What's the difference between the two and how do we go about approaching that?

Dante Passera: User interface is pretty much just exactly what you see visually on the screen. It's how a user makes decisions, it's how a user inputs data, it's how a user views data and results on the screen. The user experience then, I mean, this sounds cliché, but it's the experience that the user has. Is that data presented in a way that's easy for them to understand. Can they efficiently move to those controls and input information? It's trying to make the business experience actually something that is either invisible to them, it's so easy and efficient, or it's actually enjoyable to them and something that they want to come back and engage with.

Chris Dailey: I might even expand that a bit to say it's about how the user interacts with Cenduit. The user experience, as a whole, is both the ... Through our website, but also through interactions with our help desk and interactions with our project managers and it's their entire experience and how this piece of it fits with that.

Lex Raleigh: Okay. Just thinking about this and the difference and nuances between that, I want to sort of put Chris on the spot first to say, well, what are the trends in this? How has this evolved over the history of software and then what sort of research was done? Then, ultimately, how did you come to choose Smashing Boxes as the partner for this?

Chris Dailey: If you think about it, there was an evolution of computer systems. You started with digitization of paper processes so that you're able to make things a little more efficient, and make it faster, and make use of some of the kind of facilities there for error trapping and things of that nature. That first generation of system was like that, it was really about a paper process that's been digitized. 

Lex Raleigh: In addition to the user experience and user interface, one of the other things that is a new capability, I understand, is this chat functionality. Chris, can you talk a little bit about chat and how we came to include it and what it's going to mean to the IRT space?

Chris Dailey: Sure. It kind of goes back to that concept of the user experience being bigger than the website, how the user interacts with Cenduit as a whole. In our surveys, where we talked to our existing site users and contracted with CenterWatch to do a survey of their site users, one of the recurring themes was about interacting with the help desk and the ability to do that with an online chat function. That drove a lot of those decisions for including that. Again, it makes sense in the greater narrative was we want to make the site users' life easier, and part of that is by making a site perform better and the user experience of that site be better, but also to allow that site user to reach out to our help desk in another manner in which they've requested.

Lex Raleigh: Alright. I like that, that also dovetails with what Smashing Boxes brought up with the broader consumerization of it. The chat functionality is a pretty common thing across other applications, it's maybe less common in IRT. Well, that's one of the reasons why we're ahead of the curve here, one of the reasons we're in front of what makes sites happier. We're making this a seamless experience from what people are used to outside of "work" or their IRT, and what we're delivering today.

Chris Dailey: We also solicited input from our existing customers as well as potential customers in the space and said, "What do you want from the IRT system?" We used some of that input as well to sort of synthesize with those greater trends to come up with the main thrust of where we want to go with it. Then as far as Smashing Boxes, one of the other sort of trends there is something that's called consumerization of the enterprise, which is where all of potential users' experiences online with consumer sites, whether it's shopping or social media, they're used to a certain level of fit and finish and polish on usability that are driven by kind of leaders in other spaces. Then they come to work and they expect their applications at work to also function at that level. It wasn't necessarily a case where we want somebody whose designed an IRT, it was we want somebody who has expertise, deep expertise in user experience across a broad array of web sites.

Lex Raleigh: Right. That's an interesting, great answer. Actually, I give you a lot of credit because I didn't realize I actually asked you 3 questions, but you stayed on top and answered all 3. It's about the evolution of computer systems being a form to actually taking on more inherent capabilities and functionalities that a computer system can deliver, all the way through to you making sure our brand and our experience are consistent with the marketplace. Actually, I want to turn it over to Lucas as one of the guys on the ground implementing this experience, sort of pounding this out, taking input from Chris, taking your past experience, did you find it a challenge? Or how did it go about for you, actually, you're building this IRT system and designing it for us?

Lucas Brauer: Well, really, we're trying to get inside the heads of the users and their mental models and how they see the world, what their standards are and try to meet and/or exceed that. Really, we started out by figuring out what are the primary actions that people are going to take in this application and who are these users, so really identifying user groups.

Lex Raleigh: I like that. Can you talk more about what's actually changed? If that can maybe bridge the gap to say that was a departure, I think, from our previous user interface and/or experience. How did that go as far as defining the user groups and what does that meaningfully mean now? When someone logs into our new system, what's different for them?

Lucas Brauer: We really wanted to pay attention to the details of how these different users can execute the actions and going forward, just learning about as much as we could about who is the site management user, the materials management user, the patient management users - what can we do to expedite the process?

Lex Raleigh: I'm glad you mentioned that too because, I think, that's the initial feedback that I've had from our team and some of the external users that have already experienced this. It's really about that tailored experience coming back to when a site manager logs in, they will see site management functions. They won't necessarily be cluttered by other activities that aren't really directly related to them.

Dante Passera: Yeah, our key theme to everything was presenting relevant information right when it was needed.

Lucas Brauer: Well, it's a complex application so we didn't want to design every screen, that wouldn't have been efficient. We wanted to have components, build out a component library that you can throw in as you're building it out. It's basically, we figured out the primary flows, and then started to identify patterns. Then sort of pulling those components together to ultimately a design specification document that can guide the implementation of the application.

Lex Raleigh: Right. One of the keywords there that comes to mind is mobile, right? Is our site mobile? Is it mobile friendly? 

Chris Dailey: I would say yes. That was one of the drivers and one of the bounds we tried to work within as we looked at what does mobile mean in an IRT? If you try to do sort of some of the more complex materials management activities on a phone, that probably makes less sense. We wanted it to be useful and also dovetail more into the trends of non-traditional computing devices in a clinical setting.

Lex Raleigh: Right. Yeah, I was going to say that, that when I all think about this too, is it all seems perfectly reasonable. To hear you explain it, Chris, that makes a lot of sense. I think, again, from a quick look on the outside, it was easy questions to say, I want this on mobile and I want to do this. Your comments and Dante's and Lucas' all reflect the thought that went into this, that this is not just reporting application, this is not just making buttons big to put it on a mobile. This is thinking about how people actually use it and plausible, likely repeated use cases. That reminds me of a quote that's posted prominently in Chris' office and something that we've sort of have come to internalize here more and more, it goes something to the effect of, "A good user experience is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it's not that good."

Thank you to all of our participants today, it's been a great conversation. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, but I want to thank you guys for coming in and sharing your perspective on this. Since this is a recent release, anyone who has not seen our user experience, our new design, is welcome to go to our website, there's an opportunity to request a demo for it. We have a sales team and folks standing by to let you see the newest and latest greatest IRT user experience from us, Cenduit, the largest IRT specialist in the world. Thanks again for listening. I'm Lex Raleigh, see you next time.