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Q: Mechanical design software usability (seeking researcher #3) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Mechanical design software usability (seeking researcher #3)
Category: Business and Money > eCommerce
Asked by: swisscheese-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 30 Jan 2003 06:05 PST
Expires: 01 Mar 2003 06:05 PST
Question ID: 155203
We recently launched beta of a new mechanical design Windows software
package in connection with our - the first
on-line machine shop. The software is a free download on the site.
What parts of the user interface need improvement? Is anything in the
software unclear. Are any messages confusing? Are there any bugs? Are
there any problems creating a design from conception thru ordering?
Can anything be improved?

We seek researchers ranging from software experts to novices and those
with and without mechanical design knowledge. Please explain your
level in these areas and which version of Windows you are using. We
will post this question more than once to get the views of different

We seek actual answers to the questions - not information on how to
research an answer. This requires working with the software and
performing real tasks such as designing one or more of the shapes
shown on the main web page.

Request for Question Clarification by tar_heel_v-ga on 30 Jan 2003 06:08 PST
In reading about another researcher having done this testing, I was
wondering if you have the Win98 bugs worked out before I download.

Subject: Re: Mechanical design software usability (seeking researcher #3)
Answered By: cobrien-ga on 30 Jan 2003 09:14 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi swisscheese-ga!

First of all, let me give you the background you requested. Outside
Google Answers, part of my job is to write reviews of software - not
in the technical sense but from the point of view of novice and
intermediate users. My expertise in mechanical design is limited - I
have used CAD programs before, but not in great detail - so I am
coming at this more from a novice point of view.

My system runs on Windows 2000 Professional.

Like other researchers, I found the download manager a little
confusing. At first, I thought I was downloading the entire program in
one step and it was a bit frustrating to realise that I had to
download a second program to install the software. Perhaps if you made
this clearer in the text on the page, rather than letting the user
find this out for themselves, it would minimise frustration.

Installing the program didn’t cause any problems – smooth sailing
right to the end. The tests for the video card was also quite simple,
although it took a few seconds for me to realise that I should have
been clicking on the outside of the shapes rather than the centre.

I might suggest a more contemporary look for the buttons that guide
you through this process, but that is purely aesthetics and merely my

When it came to actually drawing the shapes, I picked up the process
quite easily, despite my limited knowledge of mechanical design. The
help menu is quite detailed and anything I didn’t understand could be
found here. It was easy enough to get the drawing you wanted, tweaked
to your satisfaction.

When I tried to view my finished image in 3D mode, I got the following
error message:

                “Error: Material is not specified”

After a bit of searching, I found the menu option to set the material,
but maybe you should make this a bit clearer for more inexperienced

The text tool: The text I typed on to the machine (for engraving)
failed to show up on the preview. This should be addressed, either by
informing the customer that it won’t show up on the 3D view, or fixing
it so the text appears. Also, is the font fixed or can it be changed
according to customer preference?

One thing I missed was the ‘Undo’ option most Windows programs have –
although there was the option in the ‘edit’ menu, it seemed to be
inaccessible when I needed it most. This means that users will have to
have a certain level of precision, or be forced to start again if they
make a mistake.

I liked the fact that if there were any problems with your design, a
pop-up message would inform you straight away, likewise with the
message that informs you of possible cost increases due to design
changes. However, I did run into a problem or two when I tried to
input my address – I’m not sure if it is an actual bug with the
software or if it was just a freak occurrence. Trying to change the
country from the drop down menu produced the error message:

“Access violation at address 008C6E58 in module ‘emachineshop.exe’.
Read of address 00098053”

This occurred a couple of times, so I restarted the program. I could
now input the address without any difficulty.

The final part of my test was to analyse and price the machine I had
drawn. This is a useful feature of the software, but hen I changed the
shipping address and re-analyzed the price, it was exactly the same.
The shipping costs should have increased, as I had moved from a US
address to one in Europe. If this occurred because the company does
not ship outside the US, I suggest you get rid of the list of
countries on the drop-down menu. If not, perhaps building a way into
the software to refresh the price is the best option.

In summary, I found this software, for the most part, easy to use. As
for the main user interface, the layout of the tools on-screen makes
them easily accessible. There are one or two issues that need to be
worked on, but most are quite minor.

I hope that this helps you. If you need anything further, please
request clarification and I will do my best to address your question.


Request for Answer Clarification by swisscheese-ga on 30 Jan 2003 11:27 PST
Hi cobrien

Thanks for your helpful feedback. Please look at the updated download
page and let me know if it is what you have in mind.

Please clarify the undo problem - as far as we know it works when

Regards, swisscheese

tar_heel_v - It will probably be at least a week to get Win 98 under
control but actually if you feel like it we would like to know if
updating the video driver fixes the screen refresh problems. If you
want to try it, check the problem before updating first. If you get it
working I'll post the question to you. - swisscheese

Clarification of Answer by cobrien-ga on 31 Jan 2003 02:37 PST
Hi Swisscheese-ga!

The download page is much clearer now - it was exactly what I had in

As for the undo problem: when I was drawing my machine, if I
accidentally added in another line or a circle where it wasn't needed,
I couldn't just hit the 'undo' command or even use the 'ctrl+z'
shortcut that you can with many Windows programs to solve the problem.
I'm sure there are ways around this - like using the 'cut' command to
get rid of the extra shape - but if you resize something by accident,
I often find the 'undo' command to be an invaluable tool.

I hope this clarifies my problem for you. If you need anything
further, please don't hesitate to ask.

swisscheese-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

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