CUA of the Month – April, 2015

Sheena Bove
“Complex tools can still provide in-depth functionality without overwhelming the user. As product developers and designers, we can do more to understand the ideal workflows, processes, environments, and constraints of the users to provide a better experience and reduce the friction involved with completing a task.”
Sheena Bove

User Experience Interaction Designer

From Art to UX for Engineering Tools

by Jim Garrett

Sometimes our CUAs of the Month come from surprising backgrounds. Our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, Sheena Bove, made the switch from art major to now User Experience Interaction Designer at Intergraph in Houston, Texas. Intergraph is a global provider of engineering and geospatial software that enables customers to build and operate more efficient plants and ships.

After taking her CUA training, she was inspired to pursue a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction. Now, she is fully absorbed in a career of making engineering software tools more usable to leave less room for error and improve user satisfaction.

Even though she is the only designer in the Houston office, she coordinates with a much larger, globally located team throughout the US, UK, Israel, and India, and keeps constant communication and collaboration with them.

Tell me about your role there.

I am an interaction designer for Intergraph® CADWorx® & Analysis Solutions products, which include CADWorx®, CAESAR II®, PV Elite®, TANK™, and GT STRUDL®. We work with product owners and conduct research to find out what the users need and get a better understanding of how the product is being used. Then we create wireframes based on the information gathered. For some projects, we may go on site and actually observe the users to gather more in-depth information such as user workflows, daily tasks, work environment, constraints, etc. I use the research gathered to create personas, workflows, and initial concept sketches. From there, I create wireframes that we can test and deliver to the development team for implementation. I often work with the development teams and product experts to collaborate on designs and technical possibilities.

What is the product involved there?

The Intergraph CADWorx & Analysis Solutions group provides software for multiple plant design and engineering disciplines. We have the CADWorx Plant Design Suite for plant design modeling, processing schematics, and automating production of design deliverables. We also have CAESAR II for pipe stress analysis, PV Elite for pressure vessel and heat exchanger design and analysis, and TANK for the design and analysis of oil storage tanks. We have also recently added GT STRUDL for structural modeling, analysis, and design, which is one of the products I work very closely on right now.

How did you get up to speed on all of the technical aspects for this?

It has definitely been a journey with many challenges, failures, and successes. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Art with a focus in graphic design and worked as a graphic designer and marketing coordinator after graduation. I enjoy graphic design, but wasn’t quite satisfied with the type of work I was doing and craved a different type of challenge.

I received the opportunity to join Intergraph as a visual designer on the UX team where I worked mostly on icons and the visual styles of the products. As a visual designer I was sent to HFI training and earned my CUA, which inspired me to dive a little deeper into the UX field.

As a visual designer, I was able to analyze wireframes from interaction designers and create high-fidelity mockups from them. I also had to understand engineering concepts and work processes from multiple products to be able to provide icons that were legible and understandable. The position really introduced me to the engineering field and some of the terminology and processes performed. I also come from a large family of engineers, which has been a huge help when I need more in-depth explanations of certain concepts.

Earning my CUA and being a visual designer for a couple of years helped me transition to becoming an interaction designer for the analysis solutions products. It is challenging, but every day I get a little bit closer to making someone’s job a little more enjoyable. And I’m always learning something new, which is very satisfying for me.

Are there specific things from your CUA that you have been able to take and apply to your projects that you are working on there?

Fortunately, not long after joining the user experience team, I was able to attend the CUA training, which was very beneficial for me. I was able to learn more about the UX process and how to define requirements, create personas and workflows, and conduct user testing. I came back from the training and discussed what I learned with the other team members. We have a few other CUA members and were able to re-evaluate some of our processes based on the training.

I would highly recommend the CUA training for anyone interested in user experience design, especially if you haven’t had any formal training yet. You get a two-week crash course that will help you begin your career in user experience or help you decide if it’s the path you would like to take. I am very grateful for my company sending me to CUA training within my first year and having a manager and lead who encouraged it. As stated earlier the training inspired me to pursue my Master’s degree in HCI, which has helped me get to where I am today.

Where do you find your passion, your satisfaction in this?

Complex tools can still provide in-depth functionality without overwhelming the user. As product developers and designers, we can do more to understand the ideal workflows, processes, environments, and constraints of the users to provide a better experience and reduce the friction involved with completing a task. Ultimately, improving usability will reduce errors and save lives. Understanding this definitely keeps me motivated. It’s very satisfying to see designs validated through testing so we know we are putting something out there that works well.

I never saw myself working for a software or engineering company – after all, I went to school for art – but I quickly realized how important our work is and the impact we make on so many people. No one should go to work and feel dissatisfied because of learning or using a program. I want our users to go to work and enjoy the tools they work with to get their tasks done.

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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