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.
UI Design - Design System
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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