Clear user experience goals behind Rolls-Royce Marine's Red Dot design award


‘The importance of user experience as a key to successful consumer products and services has already been known for a long time. For business-to-business products, on the other hand, it is only now being understood how, for example, a good user interface can offer high-quality user experiences to the employees of customer organisations, explains Professor of Practice in Experience Design Virpi Roto from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

One of the forerunners among B2B businesses is Rolls-Royce Marine, with which Aalto University has had research cooperation for seven years. During this period, user experience has been turned into a strategic competitive asset step by step. ‘The change that has taken place during cooperation is first and foremost as a change in the way of thinking. The objective of R&D is not only to design effective equipment but also valuable user experiences that are in line with the company’s brand, Roto continues. 

Goals can be set for user experience design, just like for technical aspects of design. The high-level goal of ‘functional’, ‘the best experience on the market’ or ‘wow’ are too indefinite to function as user experience (UX) goals. Setting UX goals requires an empathic understanding of the user. Operating at this level is rare and challenging, especially in the field of heavy industry.

Trust-focused user design brought excellent results

Rolls-Royce Marine has developed Intelligent Awareness system, which offers up-to-date situational data for marine vessels. ‘Rolls-Royce’s brand promise “Trusted to Deliver Excellence” contains the promise of trust, which was then highlighted as an important UX goal in product development. Also other user goals for guiding the design process were identified through the student work commissioned by Rolls Royce Marine’, explains Iiro Lindborg, Vice President for Remote and Autonomous Systems at Rolls-Royce. 

Rolls Royce Iiro Lindborg

The concept of UX goals, developed by Aalto University, was essential to the success of our user experience team.

Iiro Lindborg, VP for Remote and Autonomous Systems at Rolls-Royce.

The user interface design of Intelligent Awareness was awarded the prestigious Red Dot design award in October 2018. ‘Generating a feeling of trust in a smart situational awareness system is not a question of computer icons. The trust is built when the system presents the user with the needed situational data on the boat’s environment so clearly that it gives the user peace of mind.’

‘The concept of UX goals, developed by Aalto University, and how to apply the defined goals decision-making were essential to the success of our user experience team in designing such an excellent solution. We have already been working together with Aalto University for many years to integrate user experience goals and user-centred thinking into our product development department’, Iiro Lindborg reports with satisfaction.

Photo: BBC

The awarded user interface was featured on BBC news "The Finnish ferry that sails itself" on 3 December 2018.

Tools for strategic user experience leadership

According to Virpi Roto, user experience design is an abstract and difficult task, but experience goals bring clarity and concreteness to the objective of experience design for the whole organisation. They generate discussion and help to bring the users’ needs up to the same level as the technological and business needs.   

Roto’s research group at Aalto University has developed tools for identifying which small changes can have a large impact on user experience design methods and designers’ way of thinking. It is easy for organizations to implement UX goals, and they can be used right from the early brainstorming stages through to the assessment of prototypes and even the marketing of ready solutions. Once user experience goals have been defined, it is easy to brainstorm concrete ways of, for example, improving user experiences at the different points along the service path. 

Six doctoral student positions open

Aalto University received funding from the Academy of Finland for a multidisciplinary experience research project that will run from 2018 to 2022. The project aims to bring big changes to businesses’ research and development operations, shifting from technology-focused to experience-focused design. For this strategically important project, Aalto University has created six doctoral student positions that focus on multidisciplinary experience research. The application period for these runs until 10 January 2019.

Apply for the doctoral positions

The award-winning Intelligent Awareness user interface. Photos by Rolls Royce Marine.

Read a blog post about Experience goal-driven design approach

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