Human-centred design is about creating a product that solves an immediate need for the user while also creating a positive experience that feels custom made for them. We used Human-Centred design to create a beautiful platform to transform two businesses in the towing industry.
Here's how we did it:
A towing business is a hugely complex operation that we as the general public only see a small portion of. Most of us have seen a tow truck towing a car away and some of us have been to a tow yard to pick up our car.
But there is a lot more we often don’t think about.
Towing businesses work closely with the Police to remove cars from accidents, from crime scenes and from police stops. They work with the AA to remove broken down cars and they also work with car dealerships in moving cars from one lot to another as well as transporting imported cars from container ships.
Near the start of this year we were approached by two towing companies wanting to create bespoke towing software that could reduce the complexity in the day-to-day running of their business while increasing the efficiency and accuracy.
What they wanted was a central dashboard that could:
- Quickly create a job and have appropriate services and line items automatically added to it.
- Visually manage and optimise the entire dispatch schedule.
- View a log of all activity that happened to a job and who did it, with links to uploaded files and photos so you have a complete history.
- Quickly search for jobs by rego, VIN, and make and model.
- Connect with Xero and have all invoices created directly in Xero.
And while the platform had to have the features and functions as described above, it was just as important that the design had to be centred around the people who would be using it otherwise the effectiveness of the platform would be lost in the real world use of it.
If it was too complex, if it was difficult to navigate, not intuitive, then it would be no better than the existing methods both companies were already using.
So the next step was to learn as much as we could about the people who would be interacting with the dashboard:
A staff member who creates jobs and schedules them with Drivers.
A staff member who accepts and rejects towing jobs and carries them out.
A staff member who manages a storage facility and gets vehicles ready to go in and out of storage.
A staff member who can review and approve ready to invoice jobs and send them to Xero to Invoice.
A staff member who can mark completed jobs as ready to invoice and configure the system
Many of these roles would be interacting with the platform in different ways, allowing us to tailor the different aspects of the software to suit each of them uniquely.
This is shown in the real-world application of Asset One below:
Creating a job with Asset One
Creating a job requires a lot of detail input, so rather than give the dispatcher a long list of empty text fields to fill out at once, we designed the ‘Create Job’ tool to be broken up into 5 similar segments - creating a less overwhelming experience while also been intuitive to the sets of information required.
Dispatching the job with Asset One
Once a job has been created the dispatch panel simplifies the whole process of dispatching the job to the required truck and driver. All the information required is already on the screen for the dispatcher to easily assign the job with just a few clicks of their mouse.
Completing the job with Asset One
After the job has been dispatched the driver will then receive it through a custom Asset One app on their smart phone. They receive all the relevant information, including a checklist of what needs to be done and a map that will direct them to the job. After arriving at the destination the driver can get an ‘authority to tow’ signature and update the status of the job though the app. This allows the drivers to easily get jobs done quickly and efficiently without delay.
While there are many other functions of this platform, from the above example we can already see how the features of Asset One are directly complemented by their design. This human centred design allows the platform to be easy to use, powerful and intuitive in handling the day to day running of the business. And it is through an understanding of what each person’s job entailed and how each part of the software could be tailored to suit them that we were able to work with both towing companies to create this platform which has allowed them to get complete control and clarity over their towing businesses.