LookThink had the opportunity to work on a project with a gold mining company. Yes, a gold mining company. The goal was to create a “consequence management center” for 3 mining operations. While the mines already had some degree of operational integration and oversight, there was no aggregate view to convey business metrics in real time. Moreover, existing systems lacked the ability to put issues into context with financial outcomes. The company wanted supervisors to understand the results of their day-to-day decisions in terms of future dollars lost or gained.
The scope of this initial project was to create a beta version (delivered as a coded prototype) of an application that could demonstrate key pieces of functionality, including: alerts about issues that would impact the business, interactive mapping, and key performance indicators.
The scope of this initial project was to create a beta version (delivered as a coded prototype) of an application that could demonstrate key pieces of functionality, including: alerts about issues that would impact the business, interactive mapping, and key performance indicators. The prototype also needed to define the application’s information architecture, all using a design language that would convey a “military aesthetic.” When we said we’d aim for Apollo Mission Control but with the slick interface from Minority Report, the client knew we understood and told us to get to work. Technical specifications required the interface to be displayed on an array of eight 55” monitors (4 columns and 2 rows), which created an aspect ratio of 32:9 and a wholly unique design challenge.
After several discovery sessions to understand what the client needed this application to do, we began a series of whiteboarding exercises to define the logical “shape” for this interface. We knew users would need to access high-level information in certain areas and dig very deep in others, so we began exploring ways to cater to both use cases on the massive display (8K pixels across and 18 feet wide).
One of the first elements we defined was a 3D map of the underground mining operations on the application dashboard. The map would serve as a practical anchor for the whole interface since users would almost always need to tie data and alerts back to a particular location in the mine(s). The 3D map, which allowed zooming, rotation, and geolocation tagging (of alerts), was a significant component of the build process, and it proved to be the “crown jewel” of the interface as it instantly captured everyone’s attention.
From sketches we transitioned to prototypes, using both UXPin and Invision to add functional elements and additional screens. These prototypes took shape over several iterations as we uncovered more use cases and necessary component details, which would ultimately demonstrate a complete & accurate vision to the client.
In conjunction with efforts to figure out the information architecture, we explored the design language of the application. We took careful measures to create a balanced look and feel; one that was simultaneously industrial and innovative, while also aligning to the brand of the mining company.
In the end, our team created an application that exceeded everyone’s expectations for the short seven week engagement. Even though this was a beta version of the product, we defined a significant portion of the information architecture and data modelling that laid the foundations for the user-facing application, which is being developed now.
We are working closely with the mining company to iteratively build out features, pages, and functionality that further support their needs. In some cases, the application is replacing existing systems that were deemed too outdated or siloed. We are now receiving feedback from real users who are leveraging the application to do everything from escalating critical alerts to managing reagent inventory.