It’s obvious the first time you open it that Windchill 10.0 looks a lot different. This article will go behind the scenes to help understand why the interface has been changed and what the major differences are.
I spoke to Michael Hayek, product management director at PTC, to get a better understanding of how the new Windchill user interface was developed. PTC spent a considerable amount of time gathering input from Windchill users about what they like and do not like about the existing Windchill interface.
A few themes stood out. Users said that they used the homepage—and especially the search feature—frequently and would like it be quicker and easier to use. On the other hand, they said they used only a small subset of the navigation portion of the interface and the rest sometimes got in their way. Some of the more experienced users mentioned that they repeated the same tasks often and would love to have a way to do this more efficiently.
Some users compared previous Windchill interfaces to a Swiss army knife, whereby a large number of features are always visible all the time. The conclusion was that users wanted just the features that are relevant to them at any point in time.
All these inputs went into the development of the new Windchill 10.0 interface.
One of the major differences in the new interface is that you now have much more opportunity to tailor the product to your own usage patterns. The broad set of Windchill capabilities can be visibly reduced by enabling you to display only the functionality you use, but still allow you to get to other features when you need them.
For example, you can put whatever you want on the customizable homepage and everything else stays hidden. Some of the more popular choices are tables that show work items you are responsible for, objects that you have recently created or modified, or objects that you have currently checked out. The new interface remembers changes you make to views— such as recently used lists, saved searches and user-created tabs—without explicitly having to store them.
Navigation and search have been combined into the new navigator slide-out screen. Navigation links, which users said they seldom used, are now out of the way but can be quickly recalled when needed.
The search interface has been changed to make searching more welcoming. You can access search results from inside the navigator by clicking “edit search criteria”. Search results are retained even after the navigator is closed. You can click “save this search” to add the search to your saved search list and to the keyword search dropdown where it remains until replaced by more recent searches.
Windchill 10.0 also makes some major changes in the usability of tables. Tables now never overflow the page. If a table has more columns than can fit in the browser page, the horizontal scrollbar can be used to see those columns. The table view dropdown menu is now always in view.
Tables size themselves by displaying more or less rows to fit the available vertical space on the page. Table filters including “find in table” and “find in tree” allow you to quickly display only the rows that match the criteria you are interested in.
In most situations, you can now move through tables using the more natural approach of scrolling, as opposed to paging. However, because of physical limitations with client machines, paging is still used for tables that have more than a few thousand rows.
You can create views more dynamically by hiding and un-hiding, resizing, and shifting columns, increasing or reducing the number of rows, clicking on the header to sort the table by that row, holding the shift key to sort by multiple rows, and then clicking save view.
Despite looking considerably different, Windchill 10.0 still has the same major components that users are already familiar with. When you open up the new version for the first time, you see a quick start guide that provides an overview of what’s new. Most users can figure out the new interface in a few hours without any training.
Usability experts that compared the new and old user interfaces concluded that "PTC did an enormous amount of user research and applied what they learned. Windchill 10.0 represents a sea of change in usability.”