Today its number 4 out of 7 and we look at usability of the Rugged PDA.  If the device you buy isn’t going to be highly user friendly then you;re in trouble from the start.  I’ve seen countless deployments struggle in my time from customers who learnt this the hard way and spent the next 3 years fielding all kinds of issues with how the device worked on for their solution.

Getting your Project Right

Firstly split your project up into 3 rough sections.  The overall advice here is to be empirical.

Rugged Handheld Assessment – work with a reseller who can loan you kit, if you have a small number of devices then offer to cover the postage if they aren’t playing ball but just get your hands on 2 or 3 devices that seem to fit the bill.  Be empirical, if one doesn’t work then work our why and feed this back to the reseller.  They will be able to suggest something better.

I can’t stress this enough.  Always have a user sponsor involved.  No matter how clever or how much you think you know, your users will always find something essential that was overlooked.  No I’m not saying pander to your users needs, if we left everything to them they would all be playing Angry Birds on iPhones! but always involve them.

Pilot – Now pilot with a few devices for a slightly longer time.  Buy a device, don’t hog the precious loan kit of the reseller, get your hands on your own device and play with it.  Get the developers into it and get it working.  This will iron out the minute details that will help your deployment run smoothly.

Lastly Deploy – Deploy the whole solution knowing you have the right rugged PDA this time!

Device Usability

Obvious things will make the device more usable for you, here’s some things to check right here:

Keyboard – Qwerty are great for lots of data input, but fiddly and small otherwise.  Numeric have big buttons but they’re not great for inputting text.  Keyboards are not all equal, some are appalling some of fabulous!

LCD Size – Small = small device but is small what you want?  a 2.8 or 3″ LCD is like going back to the 90’s, they are very small and fiddly and a good piece of mobile software should be usable largely on screen anyway.  3.5″+ will prove far more usable.

Battery – Some people just use batteries up!  Check the sizes available, the types and the lasting power of the rugged handheld.  Ask the reseller for their own tests and if you prioritize battery, you get a different set of proposals.

API and OS – Some devices have far better customisation ability than others.  If persistent applications and tweaking is needed then ask early about it.

lastly just remember that the usability can make or break a rugged PDA.  Always hammer them whilst testing them out and give them a good once over so that you know they’ll cope in the hands of your users.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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