Komatsu Europe is a construction giant that is modernising construction world-wide through its Smart Construction product and service offerings. Part of its ongoing development was setting up an online platform for both digital- and non-digital services and products. Komatsu’s market research showed a need for such a platform, and it was my task to first find out how prospective users would use it. Based on my findings I designed the look and feel of the platform in close collaboration with Komatsu.
Users & Stakeholders
Komatsu builds high-quality machines for the construction industry. These machines are then sold or rented through Komatsu partners. The partners can add useful services of their own as they see fit, before offering it to their clients. The clients can be any company involved in construction, from small ‘mom & dad’ outfits to multi-nationals. That means there are three stakeholders and also three user groups. The most important user group is the one that will buy services and products, the clients.
Off to the users
To get a good feel for both a Komatsu Partner and their clients I visited a Komatsu partner who had invited clients for interviewing. During the interview it became clear to me that construction involves a lot more than machines and brick and mortar. There are also the regulatory requirements that must be adhered to, budgets to keep in check, and inspections to be ready for. In terms of the online platform these clients made it clear that they want to be able to do their work, and then simply hand-off their results to the next link in the construction chain.
As for purchasing online they had no specific wishes, other than that it should be easy. No suprise there.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, I concluded the platform should first be a simple marketplace, essentially a webshop. Making it easy for the digital products inside to work well together will come afterwards. At the very beginning there were few digital services, and the platform itself should be pleasant to use before investing valuable time in such a big additional feature. Since the platform was online and would also sell apps I drew inspiration from the Google Play store and the Apple app store.
The first design for a project like this is always a sketch, where flow and lay-out are explored first. Some graphical details are included, but the main goal of the design was to explore the flow of buying an app on the platform.
The initial response to this design was really good. Soon after, the design entered another iteration and branding was added.
The branded design was presented to a larger group and met with approval. However, new questions were discovered. What if the digital service came with hardware, like a drone inspecting a building site? Would the client buy the service separately from the hardware? What if the client already has the hardware?
It was time to leave the drawing board and explore the purchasing flow in depth. Additionally, we also took another look at the registration flow. Komatsu had wishes and I knew the intended users’ wishes. To get a clear picture I lead several workshops where the process was modeled in workshops with Komatsu business stakeholders. This resulted in a so-called service blueprint that shows what steps the user takes and how the system responds.
The ‘Final’ Design
With these processes more clear the back-end development could start and the design also entered into another iteration. This time the lay-out was altered a little as well as the general look. The reason for this was that Komatsu had also made a design in-house and showed it alongside my design to the business stakeholders. Most of them responded better to the in-house design. End-users weren’t asked, but as client Komatsu had the final say. The client is king so the lay-out and design were changed accordingly.
From here on the development continues and I will add more to this item as soon as I can!