ThermoGRID is a product that appeals to a variety of contractors but was specifically designed with heating and cooling companies in mind. It helps to manage all aspects of the business, from calculating estimates to administering payroll. My involvement with the product was in the beginning stages where I determined content structure as well as wireframed core system components. These components included estimate generation, engineering analysis, and product ordering. Two challenges with this project were my own lack of direct access to the client and the complexity of the subject matter.
The first thing I did after receiving this project was to gather the requirements. This was done by engaging in detailed discussions with the people who were working on the project before me. In order to create designs that were effective, I had to understand the basic concepts and processes of HVAC installation. This was the primary objective of the discussions I had.
After I had a solid grasp of the project requirements and subject matter, I began creating an information architecture for content.
This was as much a tool for project organization as it was an exercise for me to further wrap my mind around the complexity of the project.
Next was wireframing. The information architecture previously mentioned was a great help in guiding this process. So then, armed with sitemaps and project requirements paired with a knowledge of the subject matter, the wireframes were the easy part of my job. Along the way I researched some UI patterns in order to ensure that my designs would be as intuitive as possible for users. As previously mentioned, my work centered around estimate generation, engineering analysis, and product ordering.
Throughout this design process I worked closely with the developer. This allowed us to skip any Photoshop mockups and go directly from wireframes to code.
Unfortunately I was moved from the project before I could do more work on it. But I did get to see the final evolution of the product and listen to testimonials from everyday users who have found it to be helpful in their work. Here are quotes from two of those users.
“We know where our gross margin is at all times… [ThermoGRID] helps us keep our profitability where we want it to be.”
-Brian Grainger, Master Services
“ThermoGRID has made it possible for me to have [a large bag of estimate books] on a 10-inch tablet… ThermoGRID is the missing link we needed to make things easy and run more smoothly.”
– John Anderson, Moon Air
Two things I took away from this project:
- The importance of setting the groundwork. Setting the groundwork includes doing preliminary information gathering and research as well as content organization and structuring. Once these things are done, the layout, visual design, and interaction design steps become easier and produce higher quality results.
- Well-documented wireframes are essential. They not only promote clear communication and save time, but they also reduce the number of bugs present in the final product.