Understanding how people use an application, plays an important role for developers of all kinds of sectors. In this respect, the automation industry is not different. Humans interact with computers (here often machines) using either physical controls (e.g. hardware buttons and knobs) or, more and more frequently, digital control elements (e.g. virtual buttons and any other control elements on digital user interfaces). The developers of those human-machine-interfaces create specific designs and interaction concepts, defining the visual appearence of the user interfaces and how users can and should use them. The functionality of quality software is tested extensively, therefore errors/exceptions/”bugs” are rare appearances. But even if there are no functional problems with the graphical user interface and the logic behind it, there still might be usability issues. If users have problems finding a certain functionality or have to execute badly designed tasks over and over again, they get frustrated. Fortunately, usability/user-experience tests, where these kind of problems can be recognized in advance, are getting more and more popular. This is of utmost importance in the automation industry, where task execution time is directly related to money: A machine is producing a certain amount of items per hour, and it produces less if there are problems in the user interface requiring longer or even unsuccessful interactions with the machine. Therefore, optimizing the responsible applications and workflows has a direct impact on the production output.

Within the scope of the AUToMAte project, we collected requirements for mobile usability tests by conducting a requirements analysis in several companies from different industries. Two of them were large enterprises of the automation industry, who are also developing their own controlling software. Based on the collected requirements, we started to work on concepts for data collection, visualization and analysis opportunities. The highest ranked requirements were to get information on speed/dwell time per mask (how long a user stays on a mask), intensity of use (how frequent a function/mask is used) and navigation through the application (how a user navigates through the application). One company was interested in evaluating the usability of a mobile operator terminal (6.5″ TFT, analogue-resistive, Java-based controlling application), the other company wanted to evaluate their fixed machine control unit (21″ portrait mode, capacitive, C# based controlling application).

The results of these two projects are two analysis prototypes, which the companies can use to evaluate the interaction behavior of their users in the field. Using these prototypes, the companies are able to detect potential usability flaws (e.g. masks with very long/short dwell times, unused masks, etc.) and see how the users actually use their applications. The created prototypes include several different types of visualizations to present the underlying data adequately (starting from simple bar charts, node link diagrams, click/heat maps up to complex Sankey diagrams with additional integrated data).



2015 C. Grossauer, C. Holzmann, D. Steiner, A. Guetz – Interaction Visualization and Analysis in Automation Industry – Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM 2015), Linz, Austria, 2015. [acm] [pdf]

2014 W. Wetzlinger, D. Nedbal, A. Auinger, C. Grossauer, C. Holzmann, F. Lettner – Mobile Usability Testing Requirements and their Implementation in the Automation Engineering Industry – Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Advances in Mobile Computing and Multimedia (MoMM 2014), Kaohsiung, Taiwan, China, 2014. [acm]

2014 C. Holzmann, F. Lettner, C. Grossauer, W. Wetzlinger, P. Latzelsperger, C. Augdopler – Logging and Visualization of Touch Interactions on Teach Pendants – Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI 2014), Toronto, Canada, 2014. [acm]


KEBA AG, Linz, Austria
ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH, Schwertberg, Austria


Christian Grossauer, Clemens Holzmann, Dustin Steiner, Florian Lettner
Department of Mobile Computing, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Austria
christian.grossauer [at] fh-hagenberg.at