Solve Forward

Solve Forward® is a journal of learned lessons and experiences from the digital transformation front-lines. We are here to share our experiences, and interview others who Solve Forward and learn along the way.

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Optimizing for Industrial User-Centric Design

Digital Transformation Concept

When you hear people talking about “the user experience,” do you automatically assume they’re talking about consumer-facing user experiences? If you work on the B2B side, it’s time to adjust your thinking. Users can be anyone that puts the finger on a tablet or operates a control panel. Or touches a keypad. And that means users exist on factory floors, sales floors, and in every industrial environment you can think of.

They can be employees, customers, suppliers—pretty much anyone that engages with your business. And just like consumers, they crave efficiency and effectiveness in the way they interact with your operation and organization.

Too many industrial firms continue to do things the way they’ve always done. After all, change can feel painful, both from an emotional and a financial perspective. But here at Solvative, we’ve seen bottom lines and efficiencies improve dramatically thanks to the digital solutions we’ve introduced to our clients.

Global spending on digital transformation — or the digitalization of business practices, data, and products within organizations — is projected to reach $2.3 trillion by 2023, says a recent article on This article was written before Covid-19 introduced forced transformation. And yet, the divide between those who embrace change and those who are dragging their digital feet is growing.

Here’s the thing, though. Jumping on the digital bandwagon should never be impulsive or trendy—or driven by what the company next door is doing. It must be the brainchild of thoughtfully conducted research and, more importantly, boots on the ground exploration. After all, no digital solution can genuinely be user-centric unless it’s empathy-driven.

It’s no surprise that, as humans, we tend to gravitate to solutions that make our life and work more efficient and effective. Simultaneously, we typically back away from solutions that require us to page through manuals, receive extensive training, or feel cumbersome. Put into harsher terms: People ignore applications and products that ignore them.

Digital solutions must address human feelings, behavior, and attitudes. No matter the application, it must speak to and be purposed around the user’s vision. Most important, it doesn't need to do everything; it merely needs to do one thing really well.

Knowing what that “one thing” is and how it can impact someone’s daily life means walking in their shoes. We do this regularly for our clients. We’ve climbed to the top of cooling towers and trekked through muddy crop fields to get a feel for our clients’ challenges. In response, we discovered things that we’d never have found sitting at a computer screen. In developing a field inspection application, we found and solved the sun glare on tablets that often compromised inspections. And thanks to the cooling tank control application, dairy farmers could now turn on a tank system, monitor it, and diagnose issues even when they were miles from the office—or sitting at the dinner table with their families.

Creating optimal user experiences for your customers must also be a priority—and here, too, gaining firsthand knowledge is beneficial. How else could a developer gain the insight to create a solution that allows customers to visualize how a product will integrate into a completed project? Or develop a customer sales portal that also “learns” a customer’s buying habits to optimize and customize purchases and make future product recommendations?

For an organization to have the ability and vision to create truly transformative solutions demands a deep understanding of the industry and empathy towards each user’s particular challenges.

If you have questions about digital transformation that you’d like for us to cover, please email or @solveforward on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!