Improving the Usability of Software Based Engineering Design Tools


The natural conclusion of much research in engineering design is the creation of a variety of tools meant to improve some facet of designers' performance in areas including concept generation, modeling, product family planning, risk assessment, and many others. As software based tools emerge from research, designers will seek to adopt those with apparent utility. This process has often resulted in designers attempting to use tools developed without much consideration of usability. A tool that does not make affordances for users limits its utility to them, and risks permanently relegating that tool the research lab. With data from users, tools that are difficult to use can be improved. With some basic attention to usability these tools can be made easier to use and understand, encouraging their use and adoption. This paper suggests a method for performing some basic usability testing of software tools for engineering design. A case study assessing the learnability of the Missouri University of Science and Technology Design Engineering Lab's Design Repository web interface is presented. The results demonstrate the successful application of basic usability testing to an engineering design tool and provide insight into the further development of a product actively used by students and researchers at Missouri S&T and other universities.

Meeting Name

30th Annual National Conference of the American Society for Engineering Management (2009: Oct. 14-17; Springfield, MO)


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Second Department

Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Concept generation; Design repository; Engineering design; Learnability; Product families; Science and Technology; Usability testing; Web interface; Product design; Research; Risk assessment; Tools

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2009 American Society for Engineering Management, All rights reserved.

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