Digital transformation in the marine industry

A new user interface for outboard engines

Marine

Embedded Devices

Cluster

Subtle white arrow pointing down
CLIENTCOX Marine Ltd.
LOCATIONShoreham-by-Sea, UK
TEAMUX designer, UI designer, interaction designer, project manager, product owner, software architect

COX Marine specialise in high performance outboard engines for demanding applications, such as racing, military or multiengine outfits.

The level of innovation that COX engineers have brought to the market since 2007 is envied by competitors like Yamaha and Suzuki, but the recent digitalisation of user interfaces through cluster displays meant a new challenge for COX engineers.

They hired us to help in this R&D project to figure out a user experience and user interface design that can adapt to different engine setups and screen.


OUR CONTRIBUTIONS

UX Design

Prototyping

Interaction Design

Design Validation

UX Flow

Concept Design

UI Design - Design System

Quality Assurance


THE NEED FOR DESIGN INNOVATION

The marine industry is dominated by big players such as Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda. These competitors got to put out their digital control interfaces first. A digital cluster interface is a new paradigm in the experience of driving a boat: the display can be interactive, it can respond to what is going on around the driver and it can surface information in a more meaningful way.

However, we realised that all the major manufacturers failed to create a compelling interface for the cluster display; their failure was once again an opportunity for COX Marine to stand out as the best in class.

STRICT TECHNICAL AND USABILITY REQUIREMENTS

COX wanted to go beyond what competitors had tried and to reaffirm their position as innovators. They wanted to create an interface that can adapt to up to six engines, while competitors did not dare to go beyond 3 or 4. They decided to use 3 types of cluster displays, some with touch and some without.

The use case of driving at incredible speeds at sea introduced harsh usability requirements. The interface must cope with water on the cluster display, bumps, malfunctions and life threatening situations such as someone going overboard.







UX DESIGN THINKING BLENDS WITH ENGINEERING

The elaboration of the user experience was an iterative process where we constantly considered the data that can be pulled off the engine, how meter readings are taken and how they are interpreted by users at different speeds. We then had to integrate the data with the capabilities of the instrument cluster display.

We created several frameworks for a layout that can adapt to the three screen sizes and a set of individual modules that can populate the interface based on the context.

VALIDATION OF UX DESIGN AND INTERACTION CONCEPTS

We tested and improved the layout and the module designs by creating interactive prototypes and simulating real use cases with users.

This type of testing provided new insights to improve the designs and generated an abundance of ideas to add usability features. Additionally, we got feedback from distributors and engineers.

UI DESIGN WITH CONTEXTUAL AWARENESS

The visual user interface adapts to contexts. On the one hand, there are modes for day, night and night vision (for military). On the other hand, the design adapts to the task performed by the user: driving at low or high speeds, mooring, etc.

Overall the UI design is simple but crisp with strong contrasts and a timeless style. The interface is easy to understand across language barriers and key information is encoded both visually and verbally.

SEAMLESS HANDOVER TO THE DEVELOPMENT TEAM

It’s not easy to implement a UI design on a cluster display designed to cope with saltwater. Before we created the designs we did a session with developers to understand how they were going to implement the UI. When we handed over the designs to them, everything was organised to be used straight out of the box.

THE UX/UI DESIGN STRENGHTENS THE BRAND PROMISE

The new design for the outboard engine interface is best in class and it strengthens the position of COX Marine as the premium provider for those who want true performance.

The layout of the interface and the overall user experience make use of everything that the digital display can offer, while also being down to earth and useful. Layered onto this solid framework is a timeless UI design that performs both in the quiet moments and during intense military applications.

This unique design did not come about easily. It was not easy to overcome the technical constraints of creating an interface that works both on touch and non-touch cluster displays, with 1 or up to 6 engines. However, with a thorough understanding of the engineering aspects we perfected the interface design over the course of months.







OUTCOMES

UX and UI design delivered in 12 weeks

Design for three different instrument cluster displays

Compliant with both touch and non-touch screens

Best-in-class timeless design

Fully compatible across the spectrum of applications