What Makes a Great User Interface?

We all experience user interfaces on a daily basis whether in our cars, on our mobile phones or on our personal or work computers. A user interface is a gateway; it is a visual path to an experience as well as information or functionality. A user interface is also a language of its own that allows one to navigate a program or application.

When a user-friendly, well-designed user interface is effective, it makes tasks so much easier and makes better use of limited time. With effective design, a person does not have to spin their wheels trying to get a task done or access necessary information.

Remember the last time you tried to complete a task on your phone, computer or other digital interface to find it did not work, or you could not get the information that you wanted?  We all know that feeling of complete frustration when what we tried to do did not work!

This brings us to the million-dollar question – what does make a great user interface? What specific features make using a program or application a breeze to use?

After doing research, the following is what we found tended to be the predominant features in a great user interface:

Simple Navigation

Getting around in a program is very important.  Programs and applications with a simple, user-friendly navigation scored high. Words like concise and succinct came up frequently.  Concise navigation enables the user to interact with the user interface by featuring less extraneous imagery or information that could potentially make an action confusing.

Intuitive Features

Designing interfaces with next steps that are intuitive are very important in this busy day and age when time is limited. Nothing is better than trying to do something in a program and having it seamlessly cooperate the way that would most make sense.  An effective user interface is designed in a way that is intuitive, feels familiar, and is natural and instinctively understood.

Effective Graphics

Effective, relevant graphics represent functionality that is easily accessed by visual representation and recognition. In a matter of seconds, a user knows what the graphic represents and how it can help them accomplish a task, or locate information.

At Capstone, we are happy to report that our dataPARC user interface scored high in all three categories and here are some of the reasons why:

  • dataPARC offers drag and drop features: Users can add tags to almost any display and immediately get live feedback. Using the drag and drop feature is very intuitive.
  • dataPARC offers a multitude of visual ways to access the same information. Whether it is a visual display, a number display, charts, bar graphs or customizable reports, we have the information for you in the way you want it.
  • dataPARC’s customization possibilities are endless. The data format may be different for specific roles in the process industry. While a plant manager may need specific overview information, an operator may need very detailed data.  dataPARC has you covered with customizable reports in the way that you want them.
  • dataPARC is YOUR tool. Unlike the competition, you can change and customize what you see without the use of a third party application.

Want to know more about the dataPARC software suite and how its intuitive interface can benefit your business? Contact us and someone will be in touch with you shortly.

The 2017 dataPARC User Conference Was a Networking and Learning Success Story

Over 121 people gathered for the 2017 dataPARC User Conference in beautiful Portland, Oregon from May 15 through the 18th.
Attendees traveled from Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China and Lebanon to experience the presentations, networking and training. 
Keynote speaker and emcee Rennie Crabtree helped facilitate nine internal presentations and eight client presentations on software integration, functionality and features.
Also included were six round table discussions on key topics which allowed attendees to share their experiences with dataPARC with fellow users.  Assigned seating ensured a mix of industries and a chance to get to know new people.
Among the favorite sessions were the KapStone  presentation and the Capstone training session “Tips and Tricks in PARCview.
Social events included a welcome reception on the first night and a fun dinner at the nearby Punchbowl Social with great food, games, including bowling, karaoke foos ball and cornhole.
85% of people surveyed rated the conference an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10.  At the next conference attendees surveyed said they wanted more training and more hands on experiences.  Attendees also wanted to see more use cases and live examples of dataPARC in action.
 Stay tuned for the dates of our next user conference — coming fall of 2018!

Version 5.5.2.1 – Get the scoop on this minor release

5.5.2.1 Release

 

This version is a minor release improving on the features in the 5.5.2 series.

 

NEW FEATURES

Centerline

  • Added ability in Centerline Config to select a tag and then share it’s process to all tags in the Centerline.

PARCmodel

  • DMODXN/HT2N contribution tags will now be created for each of the input tags, allowing tag contributions to be viewed over time.

PARCgraphics Designer

  • Deadband support added to comparison operators < , <= , > , >= . Deadband can be set as either a constant or a percent.

PARCview Manual

  • New tutorials added to PARCview Manual.

System Configuration

  • New setting added to System Defaults (SystemConfig>System Defaults>General) allowing uncertain quality values to be treated as good quality. This flag impacts values in Trend and PARCgraphics.

IMPROVEMENTS

PARCvalue

  • PARCValue now provides a ValObj property to more easily see if the value is null,  the Value property will return a DBNull value which is more appropriate as a legacy capability.

PARCcalc Support

  • Adding an “IncludeEndBound” parameter overload to “NormalizeToStep” that allows it to include the interval that starts on the end time. When normalizing IV tags, the final interval will only be a one second interval. Previously the function was only including intervals >= start and < end. If includeEndBound is true it will include all intervals that are >= start  and <= end

PARCview Localiztion

  • Added ability to check for and load current culture
  • Updated Chinese Localization files (Chinese language)

Centerline

  • Refined bulk process update in Centerline Config to only update tags that have an undefined process.

PARChistory

  • Improved functionality and performance when performing backfill.

PARCIO

  • Add dead time feature to OPC DA sources, to allow avoiding artificial zero values put out when OPC DA server first connects.
  • Add options to wait between HDA tag registrations and sync reads.
  • Add flat file invariant culture parsing option.
  • Add option to wait between OPC DA tag and tag group registrations.
  • Add ability for OPC HDA sources to periodically check for new tags
  • Update PARCIO logging to include informational type messages in the log files.
  • Update max bad tag exceeded logic to only re-establish the connection up to the maximum retry amount.
  • Add ability to periodically check for changed or deactivated OPC DA tags
  • Add browsing for OPC DA servers from OPC DA source configuration window.

PARCtagSync

  • Add additional logging to log files.

Excel Add-In

  • Enable PARCxla SQL Calc sources work with Unicode characters in tag and source names.

PARCgraphic Designer

  • Modify “Symbol Compare Logic” to allow for more natural two-input connections and reverse inputs.

 

Static, Live or Dynamic – Which Report is Best?

In the digital age there are so many options for how to best share information. Whether it is flashing across your screen, or filling your inbox, reports of all kinds are normal in the workplace. Whether with pictures, video or even streaming, how you share can determine the type of influence the information may have. How data is reported also determines the influence or relationship others have with that data.   Reports can be categorized into different types: live and static, as well as a lesser known type; dynamic. Static and live reports each have their own inherent advantages and disadvantages.  Knowing when to use each type of report is key to presenting the relevant information and improving performance and ease of use.

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Welcome to 5.5

5-5Coming off nearly another year of sleep deprivation our developers are pleased to announce the completion of PARCview’s next major version, 5.5!

Similar to the WPF expansion in our last major release, 5.5 is packed with new tools and treats that have our engineers salivating! From graphic logic controls to the new PARCview Configuration Manager we will take a closer look at some of the great new features in this release.

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Why We’re Implementing the OPC UA Spec. (and how it will benefit our customers)

why-we-are-implementing-OPC-UAGoing back 15 years now, dataPARC had the notion of a “Process Area” that allowed tags from multiple systems to be organized by Asset, providing filters (like Grade or Product) for all tags assigned to an Asset and for other useful associations to be applied globally. Building on this experience, the next major version of PARCview takes the next step in Asset Management and includes an adoption of the ISA 95 companion specification to OPC UA. The implementation will allow end-users a familiar, standards-based architecture for organizing their plant data.
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What is an Energy Management System?

what-is-energy-mgmtAll forms of commerce require energy. Industrial processing and manufacturing facilities tend to be the largest consumers, but even service industries such as insurance and banking require large buildings which must be heated, cooled and lit. The newest large energy consuming enterprises are data centers, which are large clusters of computers which store and serve up the data which flows through the internet. Regardless of the end use or the industry, companies strive to minimize production costs by minimizing energy consumption.

In addition to economic incentives, it is increasingly accepted that every BTU that is generated by burning fossil fuels (the source of the majority of our energy) leads to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This, in turn, appears to be causing some undesirable changes in the global climate. There are now more reasons than ever for companies to seriously strive to reduce energy consumption.

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OPC UA: A Framework for the Industrial Internet of Things

opcThe ISA 95 spec and OPC UA companion standard provide a model that allows software programs to exchange all the relevant information throughout a manufacturing organization. This provides the groundwork for an industrial internet of things by breaking down the communication barriers between objects.

The Internet of Things

The concept of an “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been around since about 2005 and has really begun to catch on in recent years. Basically, IoT is connecting multiple “things” with sensors to data processing programs capable of sending data to and receiving data from those things. The things can be anything from household appliances to industrial machines. In factories this concept is called the Industrial Internet of Things or Industrie 4.0. Industrie 4.0 is the term coined in Germany for the IoT because it is being considered the 4th Industrial Revolution. No matter what it’s called, the goal is to create a network world with intelligent objects that can communicate and interact with each other.
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Using Process Displays for Troubleshooting

using-process-displays-for-troubleshootingA lot of time and effort goes into the construction of the HMI screens and other display screens that are used to monitor and control production processes, so it is worth giving some time and thought to their layout and design. The most important consideration is how they can convey the most useful information in a timely manner to their intended audience.

This blog post deals designing process monitoring screens to better assist with troubleshooting efforts. It contains tips and guidelines on how to use PARCview’s graphics design tool, PARCgraphics, to address this goal.

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Convince Your Boss to Send You to PARCtraining: 4 Strategies That Will Work

how-to-get-your-boss-to-let-you-go-to-trainingThe New Year is starting and now is the time to book your PARCview training session. With the new training calendar rolling out this is the perfect time to plan your get-a-way to the Northwest. Whether you need to escape the heat of summer, the cold of winter, or just need to get away from the plant, PARCtraining is your ticket to a welcome escape. Oh, did we mention the training?
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