Give Your CAD/BIM Systems the Dog Food Test

8 Apr, 2014 By: Robert Green

If your software systems aren’t good enough for your own use, they’re not good enough for your users either.

I recently sat in on a presentation by Joanna Cook, Autodesk user experience director, where she talked about the concept of "dog food-ing" your software. When pressed for details about the phrase, she relayed the story of pet food manufacturers that make their engineers and production staff eat the dog food they produce. The mantra is, "If we won't eat it, we don't expect your dog to eat it either."

While I can't fathom eating a bowl of kibble, I do think there's value in the CAD/building information modeling (BIM) equivalent for CAD managers: using your own software configuration in production.

Follow this approach to see things the way your users do when they utilize your software systems:

Step 1: Execute an actual project from start to finish on the same systems your users do — that way you'll experience a project just like production users.

Step 2: Do not cheat by granting yourself additional network permissions or otherwise working around the production software.

Step 3: Record any problems, roadblocks, and inefficiencies that you encounter. They're probably the same things that frustrate your users!

Step 4: Many times users go around standards due to simple frustration, so attack its causes. Take the time to winnow out those issues, and you'll indirectly increase compliance.

Step 5: Listen carefully to grumbling from users you trust — especially those who don't complain much. Chances are, these people are onto something!

Usability Enhanced

Now that you're actually putting your own software through the dog food test, you'll likely find ways to make your software configurations better. You'll never know until you "eat the same food" everybody else is expected to eat.

Special thanks to Joanna Cook for her interesting presentation on software usability and verification and allowing me to use her concept in this Toolbox item.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Give Your CAD/BIM Systems the Dog Food Test
by: jmaeding
April 9, 2014 - 5:28pm
The "User Experience Director"? I like the implication that the customers are the dogs. Its amazing to hear Autodesk people talk like that, then NEVER have anyone come to our company and watch us work. If there is such a program where they watch you work, I'd like to hear about it. They are nice people too, just detached from industry from all the evidence I see.