Autodesk acquired PlanGrid in 2018, but it still continues providing cloud-based solutions to increase productivity in the construction industry.
I was a product design intern on Field Reports, a tool for users to create, submit, and review construction reports.
I spent 6 weeks working with a product manager, designers, researchers, and developers to examine form creation process and design a custom form builder feature.
My research and design initiatives provided a foundation for the team to successfully launched the feature in early 2020.
Because construction work is complex and high-risk, documentation of processes and progress is crucial. There are many types of forms, but Daily Report is the most used ones.
Daily Report provides details of daily activities & events at a worksite. It contains information such as
- weather condition
- work log
- equipment & material
- visitor records
Current Field Reports
PlanGrid offers 2 ways to create reports — using a built-in daily report feature or upload your own PDF report.
Many users reported that the current tool wasn't flexible to use. They wanted to create custom forms directly on PlanGrid rather than having to upload PDFs.
Built-in Daily Report
Select components to set up a report.
Once created, it can be shared, filled out, and submitted.
Custom PDF Upload
Drop a PDF file to upload.
Once uploaded, the system generates a fillable PDF report.
Syncing with the product manager helped me grasp a big picture of the, but I still didn’t have enough details to solve the problem.
The main research goal was to understand sequences of tasks & tools used to create forms. We also wanted to find out the satisfaction level & pain points of the current process.
I worked with Kim, a research intern, to recruit 10 companies (small, medium, large-sized & government-based) to participate in the user research.
I adopted a user-centered design method of contextual inquiry to reveal the underlying work structure of the form creation process.
I also applied a master-apprentice model, where the users (experts) walked me (a novice) through the form creation process step by step.
Overall, users weren't satisfied with the current PlanGrid tools.
Limited customizability, inefficient & lengthy processes, and lack of data aggregation were the main frustration points.
Typically, project manager, project engineer, and IT Admin were the ones that created forms. Types of form included:
- Paper forms
- Microsoft Excel forms
- PDF forms
- PlanGrid Native forms
A summary of the current form creation workflow
A traditional way to create forms. Companies try to move away from it, but they still use it to some extent.
Comfort zone for most field workers (form submitter)
Full control of form content, design, and layout
Time consuming to create, distribute, collect, review
Costly to print
Used by 80% of the companies. Can be filled out digitally or can require manual input of data from paper forms.
Questions can be entered quickly and easily
Reliable for complex calculation & data analysis
Manual, error prone, time consuming process
High effort to transfer data from paper forms
Most used by users, but has the worst creation process. Can be uploaded to PlanGrid and distributed digitally.
Full control on content, design, and layout
Submitted forms can be exported as CSV files (Excel)
Manual, time consuming, and tedious process
Requires additional software to complete the process
PlanGrid Native Form
Users can create, distribute, and collect forms directly on PlanGrid web app.
Easy and quick process
Submitted forms can be exported to local computers
Access to some insights of the submitted report
Lacks customizability & only works for Daily Report
With learnings and findings from user research, I explored potential designs and prototyped 3 different concepts. I demonstrated these concepts to the same user groups and gather feedback from them.
Note – these concepts were low-fidelity as they meant to provide users rough ideas of what the new potential custom form builder could look like.
Concept #1 - Condensed View
Inspired by the look and feel of Microsoft Excel as it's one of the tools used by many users.
- Click the + icon or press the enter key on the keyboard to quickly add new questions
- Select response type from a dropdown menu in the right column
- Bulk select to delete multiple questions at once
Concept #2 - Item-by-Item
Improving the existing PlanGrid Daily Report tool by providing more customizability to the users.
- Use a dropdown menu to add sections and questions with on various response types
Concept #3: Smart PDF
Designed based on the existing PDF import feature on PlanGrid Field Reports. It was included in the concept testing because every research participant already worked with the PDF files.
- Draw text fields or create checkboxes directly on PlanGrid
Overall, users found concept #2 (Item-by-item) to suit their needs the most. The design of concept #2 provided customizability while also allowed the users to manage the layout of the template.
Many users liked the idea of using the keyboard to quickly enter questions in concept #1 (Condensed view). While they found the concept to be convenient and efficient, all of them mentioned the importance of organizing the form layout. Therefore, this concept wouldn't meet their needs.
Users found concept #3 (Smart PDF) to be cool, but it didn't seem to solve their pain points. The concept still required PDF files to be created separately and the users also needed to manually draw each text field after uploading the PDF to PlanGrid. This concept would also require excessive development effort, making it the least feasible and desirable.
From the above conclusion, concept #2 was chosen as a final design. I revised the prototype and made it a high-fidelity prototype.
It should be noted that these designs aren't production version. I wrapped up this project during my last week of internship, so another designer completed the final design of this feature after I left.
Form Creating Experience
Users can only create forms through PlanGrid web app. The design allows users to create sections and embed questions with various response types to it.
Form Submitting Experience
If assigned to a form, users will be able to fill out the form on both web app & tablets. They will see a list of questions with a pre-defined response type specified by the form creator.