A Military UX Case Study

NIITEK saves more soldiers with a redesigned user experience.

NIITEK is the global pioneer in the design, development and production
of advanced Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) systems.

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Every year, 5,000 people are killed or maimed by IEDs.

NIITEK wants that number to be zero. They knew we could help.

Meet the Super Duo.

In the field, an IED Detection Specialist leads the military convoy in the armored Husky vehicle. The Husky is outfitted with NIITEK's ground penetrating radar system. As it drives, it scans for dangerous explosives buried underground. It’s the soldier's job to monitor the software so they can correctly detect and mark explosives—a heavy burden to bear.

We analyzed a day in the life of an IED Detection Specialist.

The soldier operates in a cramped cab and controls the fate of his convoy. He drives on rough terrain in high winds. He wears heavy duty gloves on a hard-to-touch touchscreen.

The user experience redesign considered these factors and more (this is something we call a mental model).

Mental Model for IED Detection Specialists

Environment

  • Operable Temp: -25˚C to 50˚C
  • Storable Temp: -40˚C to 85˚C
  • Cab Climate: Heater / AC
  • Weather: Arid / Semiarid
  • Lighting Conditions: Bright
  • Wind Speeds: 97 to 177 kmph
  • Avg Rain Fall: 316 mm/yr
  • Terrain: Rugged M T/ Sandy Desert
  • Ave Temp: -7˚C to 33˚C

Threat Detected

  • System screen appears to review threat
  • Threat reviewed by using data collected by panels
  • If route has been driven before, consider use of previous routes data
  • Decide to investigate
  • Move vehicle out of way for investigation team

The software is critical to the soldier’s mission and it wasn’t working with them.

Through our human-centered approach, we uncovered three key problems:

Low Readability: The bright sun washed out the old color scheme, which made screen readability difficult.

Lack of Hierarchy: The UI was cluttered with information and buttons that weren’t always needed.

Untrusted Analysis: The system lacked historcial data, which assists real-time threat detection decisions.

Data drove the new design.

Data-driven design

Every project has challenges; this one included explosives, a rudimentary touch screen, and the pressure to make quick, accurate decisions.

It was our responsibility to design a system based on user input, not just instinct.

We constantly challenged ourselves to think about the soldier’s environment and what they were thinking about in order to make their mission more successful.

Alerts

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+33%

detection analysis screen real estate

Actions & Menu

We prioritized mission critical items and made them easy to identify.

We placed the alerts at the top and controls at the bottom to clearly separate cognitive input from user action.

The analysis portion of the system previously made up 50% of the screen. We increased that to 83%.

We made historical data more usable for analysis.

We added visual cues for context, making it easier to identify the exact threat location.

Historical data helped confirm actual threats from non-hazardous debris.

We increased the contrast to make the screen easier to read.

We studied Relative Luminance Value to establish color combinations that worked in bright light.

We performed over 50 readability tests (both indoor and outdoor) to ensure soldiers could analyze threats with clarity.

50

Readability tests to ensure a rapid response

We tested early to close the gap on usability issues.

"Hanging off the back of the armoured vehicle and user testing the UX with soldiers was extremely important. Watching them and walking in their shoes gave us critical insights that helped us make sure the experience we created would have a direct impact on saving lives."

Andy Van Fleet
Partner & UX Strategist

Soldiers believed we increased their likelihood of survival.

When the government hired a third-party to test soldiers in the field, our redesigned UX received a System Usability Scale (SUS) score of 80. Twelve points above average.

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+12

points above
the global average

Survey Results

  • 100% of soldiers
    felt the new system enhanced their ability to perform the intended mission.

  • 93% of soldiers
    would like to deploy with the new system.

  • 93% of soldiers
    felt the new system had greater detection capability.

  • 87% of soldiers
    felt the new system provided greater precision marking capability.

  • 87% of soldiers
    felt the new system reduced workload.

Oh, and NIITEK is pretty happy too...

"Since the initial release, the user experience has been ported to multiple projects due to its overwhelming success. Operators have praised the user interface for ease of use...future planning has it being fully integrated on the company’s flagship product."

Arthur Fernandes
Program Manager, NIITEK

Three ways to improve your customer's experience.

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