Human-Centered Design at ARMATURE

Our approach to doing business is built around the concept of human-centered design. We understand that the best way to create the right software for our customers is to put ourselves in their shoes—listening to their needs, letting them interact with the solution as we build it, and shaping the product to fit their specific processes and preferences.

Human-centered design just makes sense. After all, even the most dazzling code and sophisticated interface design will fall flat if it fails to satisfy the human needs of the end user. Traditional software development is linear and sequential (known as “waterfall”), but this approach fails to take into account the sometimes messy creative process: we learn as we go, uncovering new insights and perhaps defining new requirements throughout the engagement.

Waterfall can lead to big disappointments at the end of the engagement, which is why we at ARMATURE embrace a collaborative, iterative approach to product development known as Agile instead. Our Agile approach breaks large projects into a series of two-week development sprints that conclude with a customer demo. The inherently human-centered and collaborative nature of Agile sets us up for success with every project—and makes our product a stronger and more accurate reflection of the quality management professionals who use it.

Our Background in Custom Solutions Taught Us to Listen Well

ARMATURE started as a custom solutions provider in 2000. Staffed with a small-but-mighty team of developers, we built our business by listening closely to our customers and creating elegant software solutions to address their needs. Since every project was tailor made for a specific customer in a specific environment, we naturally involved our customers from start to finish, prototyping, iterating, and sharing our work at regular intervals to make sure we were on the right track as we built out their custom solution.

This focus on the customer is built into our DNA, and it has served us well, even as we’ve transitioned from custom solutions to a more commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) product-based business model. Because we listen to our customers and design with their needs in mind, our day-to-day work feels a lot more meaningful and satisfying, and our customers get a product that makes them happy. As it turns out, human-centered design creates a virtuous circle that benefits everyone involved.

The View from the Top of the Pyramid

You may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This handy pyramid illustrates that our human needs are built on a physiological foundation, but once we have those basic needs covered, we begin to care about safety and security, social belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization (in that order).

Human-centered design takes us up Maslow’s pyramid, allowing us to satisfy the more complex human needs our customers have through the creation of delightful, intuitive products that make their lives easier. Our focus on human-centered design helps us reach those more aspirational levels of the pyramid—love, esteem, and even self-actualization. When done well, human-centered design allows designers and developers to improve people’s lives with each product they build, whether it’s an airplane, a pair of shoes, or a quality management software solution. We think Maslow would be proud.

An Example of Human-Centered Design at ARMATURE

Just in case you’re tempted to write off human-centered design as a warm and fuzzy idea that sounds good but doesn’t have any real teeth, here’s an example of this concept in action at ARMATURE.

We solicit input from our customer community on a regular basis, and we build popular feature requests into our product upgrade schedule. Earlier this year, our customers started clamoring for a self-service portal—a single view that would tell them everything they need to know about their accreditation/audit status, assigned tasks, and associated deadlines.

We built this portal with all of the bells and whistles you could imagine. In a single screen, it gave users access to a slew of useful quality information. With great excitement, we shared a prototype of this portal with customers and learned that all of those bells and whistles left users feeling overwhelmed. They told us what they really needed to see in the self-service portal view, so that we could get rid of everything else. The result is a clean, streamlined self-service portal that shows them everything they need to know—and nothing they don’t. That’s human-centered design at work, and it’s how we do things here at ARMATURE.