CUA of the Month – July, 2013

"Everybody talks about design, everybody thinks they’re a designer, but the CUA training gave me the confidence that I know what I’m talking about, because I’m an actual designer."
Kshama Vijayakumar
User Experience Designer
Schneider Electric

UX and the World of Surveillance Cameras

by Jim Garrett

Our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, Kshama Vijayakumar, comes from Schneider Electric in the San Francisco Bay area. Pelco, which is a part of Schneider Electric, manufactures security cameras and surveillance systems across several industries including retail, transportation, gaming, banking, etc. and more.

Kshama has been a User Experience Designer there for five and a half years and completed her HFI CUA training in March of this year.

City surveillance and cameras are becoming more and more prevalent. And usability is on the scene to assist in its effectiveness of these complicated systems.

Why is usability significant for the production of surveillance cameras?

I think it’s very significant for surveillance cameras and systems in general because a good design increases the user’s ability to interact with a system without having to learn the system. With surveillance systems in particular I think it is important because the user may not be an expert with the system when they start and they can’t spend a lot of time learning. It is really essential for user productivity and customer satisfaction.

What current projects are you working on that involve usability issues?

I’m working on the mobile application right now. The usability challenges are that the users are not doing surveillance on the mobile phone all the time and you need to get them video as quickly as possible. They’re not at their desk or they’re not at their surveillance room, which is why they need the video on the phone and so efficiency for the user is key.

So anyone who buys this or uses this surveillance system would have a surveillance app they can download to do mobile surveillance?

They would need to have a surveillance system — cameras and at least one recorder. The mobile app is available for them. If they want to use it, they can download it and connect to whatever system they have in their facility.

What is the UX challenge for the mobile app?

I think that the biggest thing is making sure the application is obviously easy to use. With the mobile device, the challenge is the screen size. This application could get very complicated since the customer could have several systems with thousands of cameras. Searching to pick one camera or to pick one particular video of interest across these cameras is the biggest usability challenge. Our usability goal is to keep it simple and make it efficient. Since they’re not going to be using this all the time, we need to make sure the users can get the task done as quickly as possible.

How do you test this?

I’ve done quite a bit of usability testing for the mobile app. We try to test the app on at least 5 or 6 users, either actual users or users familiar with the system. I’ve used a web cam on a small tripod pointing to the mobile device the user is testing on and ideally have another camera recording the user’s expressions. I have recorded the time taken to complete the different test scenarios and analyzed the usability of the application.

What difference has it made in your job since you’ve taken the HFI CUA certification?

With heuristic evaluations, before the certification I would look at projects and say, "OK, this needs to change in the design" or "that needs to move around." But now, with what I have learned from the certification, I’m more confident about any feedback that I give and any design decisions I make. I have gotten enough principles from the materials and gained more knowledge to be confident and say, "OK, this is how to do it."

Is there anything you’ve learned that’s made a difference in your approach?

The VIMM principal principle — Visual, Intellect, Memory and Motor principle. Now with every single design I’m constantly thinking about it. For example, is this going to be too much for the user in the design here if I put three menus out here, is it visually pleasing or is it too much information? I think this one principle is constantly running in my head.

Do you have any sense of how your CUA training might change your work process?

I’ll tell you how it has helped me. If I were to be put on a new project, I’m very clear about the process of taking it forward starting with the stakeholder’s interviews, user research and getting the user goals right. It put a really good process in my head. So tomorrow if I’m going to start a new project as the single UX designer, I know exactly how to take it forward from start to end and get it done.

When it comes to interaction design, you know every single step especially on how we have to first do the information architecture after the task analysis. I think that’s a big step. We generally do it, but often jump into interaction design before getting the information architecture complete. This step-by-step process of making sure we do the analysis of the information architecture, as a separate entity from interaction design, is valuable.

What was the value of the CUA training for your career?

I think the biggest value, to tell you very honestly, that the CUA certification had for me is I know I can go out today and say I’m an expert in the field and I know what I’m talking about. It’s given me enough confidence in what I’m doing and what I’m talking about, especially when it comes to user research. And when it comes to going out to the user, going out to the customer site, it’s better to do a certain process and know what questions to ask and to know what feedback you need from them. I think that’s a great thing that I’ve gotten from this certification.

The CUA training made me feel more professional. Everybody talks about design, everybody thinks they’re a designer, but the CUA training gave me the confidence that I know what I’m talking about because I’m an actual designer. I’m a certified designer and that’s what the training has done for me.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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