We’ve all had experiences of software with tired interfaces, buggy apps and regular crashes – the results are predictable. You either begrudgingly continue working in it, or leave the platform.
Crafting great user interface design and user experience (UI/UX) is not simple in any business. Designing visualization platforms in oil and gas is no exception. A blizzard of data parameters and hundreds of users each with their own needs. Throw in streams from multiple rigs and you have a recipe for confusion. On the whole, legacy systems focused on being functional with user experience often taking a back seat.
Our industry continually looks for new ways to optimize operations and increase the efficiency of workflows, all while digesting the ever-growing mountains of real-time data. Yet the interface between users and the data has been overlooked for too long. Here at Petrolink, we believe that getting back to improving the fundamentals and streamlining user experience has the potential to deliver the next leap in productivity for geoscientists, drilling engineers and subsurface managers around the world.
Clarity, Simplicity, Speed
We feel great UI/UX is crucial in the upstream industry for a couple of reasons.
- Safety. Key parameter data should always be at your fingertips and productivity. In a capital-intensive business, delays and downtime can rapidly mount so interaction should be seamless. Decisions need to be made quickly to respond to potential problems before they become major incidents. PetroVue™ dispenses with clutter and has a paired back interface, with minimal menu bars, no labyrinthine right-click drop-down lists and a consistent design across the platform. With any parameter just a click away, data is always right where it belongs – front and center.
- Performance. Great design is nothing without performance to match. Previous systems used 3D skeuomorphic design elements which were a drag on resources. When logging in to check a well in the middle of the night the last thing you want is to wait an eternity for a display to load. Opting for flat design elements which feature open space, crisp edges and vibrant colors has shifted the dial towards usability.
Tearing Up the Rulebook
We all spend a lot of time using smartphones, tablets and other devices. In part, because we get so much value from them. We can shop, stay in touch with friends and improve our productivity. This ease of use is beginning to blend into enterprise technology applications. But many sectors, oil and gas included, have been slow to adjust leaving many engineers unhappy with the software they use at work. Studies show as many as 80% do not enjoy using their upstream applications.
Some of the biggest frustrations we uncovered when talking to staff in the industry were ridged interfaces, cluttered, long load times and lengthy training courses. Quite simply, highly experienced engineers have been hamstrung by dated platforms, many of which have grown too big to change. This can leave them spending the bulk of their time scouring the network for data and less time making decisions.
Who says working with real-time data must be dull? Our design team go to work and set about building a brighter future.
The design process always begins with the end-user in mind. What are they coming to the platform to achieve? When building any app, it is common for feature creep to emerge whereby the continual expansion of new features dilutes the core platform. We stayed focused and at the heart of our design process is a simple rule – bring drilling data to our clients in a consistent format, wherever they are.
Designing a data platform for oil and gas is a unique proposition and in many ways is a balancing act. On one side your team needs a consistent layout across the whole drilling campaign to allow immediate processing and monitoring of operations. At the same time, your people have custom requirements to personalize their displays.
Throughout the day priorities may shift. In the morning you may want to put together a high-level overview display for the senior management team. Later, you might need to take a granular look at the drilling program. PetroVue means you can have your cake and eat it too! Users can carve out their own space to work on their displays while subsurface managers can quickly roll out bulk changes. Created something useful to your team? It is now just a matter of a couple of clicks to share your dashboard with a colleague.
The north star for our UI/UX design remains delivering a robust, versatile platform that brings real-time visualization to our clients empowering them to make smarter decisions which fuel their operations. Pairing back the design has streamlined the route from data to decisions and is making an impact every day. An exceptional interface has unlocked hidden productivity within subsurface teams. With PetroVue data is easier to view, interpret and share. Our clients are spending more time interacting with their real-time data, getting more done, and most important of all, enjoying the experience!