Short answer: truth. I”ll explain why, with a less-text-is-more approach 🙂
Technical field personnel that work on a daily basis outside—on a jobsite—are busy as shit. This is fact, plan and simple. I mean, have you ever seen a construction worker sitting on his ass? No. What about environmental consulting field techs? No. They are constantly on the move, trying to do their job, which can be very stressful for the following reasons:
Field techs are busy as shit
They are working out of town, staying in a bland (Holiday Inn Express/Comfort Inn/they-all-look-the-same) hotel, and don’t know the area very well. They are there for a specific reason…get in, do their job and get out. Family is waiting back home, often a plane ride or 4+ hour pickup truck ride away. And the Project Manager and timesheet police are watching hours like a hawk. If you spend more hours than what was alloted, you might have to sit down in your boss’s office and be prepared to answer questions as to why it took longer than budgeted. That’s when you want to tell them off… “yea, why don’t you go out there and do that shit. Let’s see if you can do it in < xx hours.”
Bean counters…that’s what these timesheet police are. Ok, back to the storyline…
The weather probably sucks
It’s the real world, people. Not a climate-controlled office setting with a coffee machine, ping pong table, perfect lighting, and clean bathroom nearby. Most often, when you are doing field work, the weather is not a balmy 65-70F. It’s usually less than desirable…cold AF and your fingers are about to fall off, with LCD screens on devices barely working, or hot AF, sweat dripping off your forehead, you are about to faint from the heat and can’t even see the damn screen from the glare, let alone your own sweat puddling onto the screen and messing up the touchscreen sensor. Not to mention port-a-potties. You’ll be lucky if those are around. And if they are, try doing your “business” in one of those in the summertime in Orlando, Florida. The stench alone, coupled with massive heat, will make you think twice about what the hell you’ve decided to do with your life.
There’s no time to figure things out
Oftentimes, field techs take backup things with them, just in case. But even then, things go wrong. From my experience doing environmental field work, you can plan a field event to death, and inevitably something unexpected or unplanned will happen. So…what does this mean from a software perspective? There’s no time for a field tech to tinker with a hard-to-see screen to figure out what to do to capture the data that their Project Manager asked them to enter into the device.
Point is, field work is challenging. And most software developers just don’t get it. They sit there in their comfortable chairs, with perfect lighting and cozy temperatures, trying to replicate a probem reported from a field tech. They have no fucking clue what its like. None.
But we do. Because we’ve been there.
Build tools that are simple to understand and use
That’s what we have done with XForms. Our focus is on simplicity, not features. Designed by folks who have been there, done that when it comes to outside field work.
No, we didn’t wake up one day as software geeks and build something that we thought field techs would use. We were the field techs, experiencing all of the issues that field techs experience. The real deal. And we decided to try to do something about it.
Take a look at the screenshot below. It’s our mobile app. Notice that there are like 6 actions you can do on this screen. That’s it. Clean, simple, and intuitive. Which is what you want if you are outside, in shitty weather, busy as all hell, and you equipment crapped out. You don’t have time to MyGyver your way through a complicated smartphone app and long screens. Things just have to work, or else you will have to jot down things on paper as before and move on.
What about all those missing features?
Well, we don’t really have many missing features per se. Some, yes. But XForms is solid, robust, and includes a pile of features. It’s just that a lot of these things are hidden, available only when needed, or automatic.
Metadata? Automatic. No interface.
Specific control attributes? Plenty of them, but hidden behind the scenes, sometimes built into the form template itself and controlled there.
Offline feature? Yup. Flip a switch to go offline, flip it back when you are online.
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