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The ABB Student Collaboration
Work Place Application

The ABB Team

During my Sophomore year of Undergraduate, I got the opportunity to be a team leader of a team of six designers. I was the main contact with the sponsor, and was responsible to make sure we were on track. 

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Project Brief

What is Work Place?

Cyber Security Work Place is currently a feature that ABB offers to power plants and affiliates to manage and secure their system. This allows users to achieve an automated updating system, on-hand backup storage, viewable status, and internet connection. This is another layer of security, to which an ABB certified employee will push out updates and check reports.

The Goal

Over the course of the semester, we intend to strictly define the problems with Work Place and improve the system through various methods of research and design, to create a more intuitive experience for users.

The Timeline

This project spanned fourteen weeks.

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The Design Process











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Professional Interviews 


Three professional interviews were conducted. This helped us understand the space better and to further improved our sketches and designs. It is also important to note that there was an effort to reach out to the power plant companies within Indiana. Therefore, we moved into reaching out to professionals that were in the power plant and cyber security space, but not actively working for a power plant company.

Some of the important takeaways from the interviews revolved around: the importance of password safety, the roles of each operator, a need for functionality over visualizations. These insights helped us understand our users better, which lead to proto-personas being created.


Heuristic Evaluation


A heuristic evaluation was conducted to better understand the baseline usability pain points. For this evalustion Nielsens 10 usability heuristics were used. The four main takeaways were: 

  • Feedback Visualization: Notifications regarding device status should be more easily identifiable.

  • Wording: The language used throughout the application should be more user-friendly and simplified.

  • Visual Flow: The overall hierarchy and setup of menus and tabs should be consolidated in order to simplify functionality and achieve increased clarity.

  • Modernize User Interface Design: The color scheme should be updated to match ABB branding (white/gray with hints of ABB reds) and current design trends.

Site Map


The reason we decided to create a sitemap for Workplace, was to obtain a better understanding of the security system as a whole, as well as figure out how many different screens there are. 

By visualizing the layout, the team was able to have a better grasp on Work Place as a whole. It was determined that the User Management had the most pages, and thus should be a focus on the redesign to condense and simplify it.​

Analogous Research


Analogous research looks at other companies' applications and products to gains insights from their designs. This form of research is used to find how similar metrics (Target Audience, Purpose, Contextualize tips, link to tools) display on different applications. From this several different services were chosen like (Google Drive, PayPal, Slack, Discord, Dropbox Paper, and more).


One of the themes that were highlighted was collaboration. That each service provided a way for users to work together. There services also had easily accessible help/feedback menus that gave users insight into the programs and resources. 

Literature Review

Four specific topics were chosen to better inform us on the cyber security department.

  • How to Design for Security Systems: We researched this specific topic because our team has had no prior experience with designing for a security system. We wanted to learn how to approach our goal and design solutions to further prevent confusion and cyber security attacks.

  • How Users Adopt to Change: Since Work Place is a security system being currently used, we wanted to see how other companies went about redesigning a currently used software or application. We also wanted to figure out what way we should approach redesigning a security system.

  • Password Standards: Since protection against a cyber attack is very important to ABB, we wanted to look further into what makes a password strong as well as trends with people choosing simplistic passwords. We also wanted to look into two factor authorizations.

  • Permission Request: Since privacy and protection is one of the main concerns for a power plant, we researched some of the most secure ways to communicate online being used today. Also, we our talk with Professor Hands, she mentioned the importance of implementing AuthN and AuthZ to improve overall security. So we also looked into this

In the topic 'How to Design for Security Systems,' it was found that we stay away from repetitive security designs that other systems already have. So going forward we have the mindset of being unique. We also found habits and attributes that can go into our redesign. 


The articles around 'How Users Adopt to Change' talked about extrinsic and intrinsic motivations behind dealing with a new design. There might also be possible kickback from learning the new design. It advised us to look deeper than just new features. It was advised to implement a training plan to smooth the transition to a new design. 


Regarding the 'Password Standards' topic, useful statistical data about people's password strength & the frequency they change their passwords.  An important statistic we found was that 81% of data breaches were due to hackable passwords.

Permission Request takeaways surrounded the four most secure forms of online communication. Including choosing the right security application, using a VPN, and avoiding reliance on telecommunication.  AuthN & AuthZ were also discussed. AuthN is about verifying a person as they login. It can be a 1 factor, a 2 factor, or even a 9 factor. AuthZ is about getting the ability to access resources or use a application without requiring an authentitcated state be passesmacross the website.


Proto Personas


Four proto personas were created to better understand our users. From there we connected the personas and saw how they interacted. Proto-personas are different from normal personas in that they are not based on information from actual users and operators; rather, secondary research and expert interviews. We used proto-personas because we were unable to get in contact with any actual engineers or power plant administrators to base our personas on. These proto-personas allowed us to create scenarios and to have a focus as to whom we were designing for, based on our assumptions.


  • Hands-off: employers, managers, or administrators, etc. who allow their employees to work independently of them, and don’t necessarily check in on their progress or what they are doing too often.

  • Hands-on: employers, managers, or administrators, etc. who like to check in on their employee's progress and what they are doing fairly often, as well as being involved in the process. 

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Paper Prototyping

After doing all of our research, we decided to use our research as inspiration for our sketches. Therefore, we did 3 rounds of 10-minute sketching. The 3 focuses were: Heuristic Analysis, Analogous Research, and Secondary Research. We then came together and discussed our ideas and talked about what we liked about each sketch in particular. We then later collaborated on the sketches that we liked the most.

User Testing


Two rounds of usability testing were conducted, with refined prototypes each time. In each rounds improvements were made to the: login, systems, project, user tab, and permission request pages.

Image by Adi Goldstein


Testing 1

Testing 2


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Final Design

Two different final designs were presented to the client. One of them was the find design- redesign. These were loss sever changes that could be implemented immediately. While there was also another set of design that was suggested that was created in a 'perfect world', were everything could be overhauled.


'Perfect World'

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