Do we build “Content” or User Experiences? Thinking about the #BCS50…

Last week (while I was watching a hundred or so computers re-deploy the Building Design Suite) I was touching up a few libraries I had built for various clients in the last year, to send them updates.  At the same time, we are collecting our Nominee bio’s for the #BCS50: the list we are curating delineating 50 outstanding folks that we think are revolutionizing Building Content, in some way or ways.  While working on both of these things, I had a funny thought, while looking at two pieces of content in particular.

Neither was anything “magical,” to be sure:  One was a door, and one was a cabinet.  Pretty standard things in Building Design, no doubt.

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The door gave me a good laugh, while I was looking at all of the constraints stacked diagonally off each panel: it was making me *twitch* not having them spaced similarly, as if I was piecing together a composition and not a piece of BIM content. Right about the time I was obsessing over that, my wife came in and said *what IS that?* (That may speak to the ridiculousness a bit more, as my wife is a proficient BIM user herself). My explanation to her- by the way- was that I needed all of these pieces there, because I was trying to craft an experience, and not just a door. I believe we should be aiming (through whatever complexities we – as content curators- need to build in to the back-end) for a User Experience that is quite simple, on the front end.  In this particular case, the Component is only a double door, that sits in a curtain wall.  But you see a redundant set of double doors, and two entire sets of constraints, in the components themselves. Why?  So the users can enter a positive or a negative “offset value” from the center-line of the Curtain Wall, and the door will *just work* instead of throwing one of those ugly errors software throws when it gets a value it doesn’t like. So, + complexity, – errors = happier user experience.

When I popped open a new Millwork Library that I’m finishing up for a client,  I had similar thoughts.  Certainly, when you look at a Cabinet you don’t expect to see redundant Hardware everywhere, and you obviously don’t see handles and locks that are completely off of the Door or Drawer they are a part of.  But, what does it look like when we want to be able to use multiple manufacturers objects interchangeably?

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Maybe some handles are vertical, and some handles are horizontal.  Is it fair for us to expect every day BIM Users to have to modify entire cabinet components, based on what style of Hardware they want to put on the Cabinet?  Furthermore, what happens if the Cabinet itself needs to be a different *Style* per the specifications?  Does that mean a new component for every style?  Jeffrey Pinheiro (The RevitKid) recently wrote a blog post about this very issue, and how (worst case scenario) it can become a cost or construction issue in the field.

What does it look like, then, for us to ask our Building Product Manufacturers (or our BIM Content Providers), to craft a positive USER EXPERIENCE instead of just bits of BIM content? Perhaps that is why I was so enchanted with the 3DMD Railings for ARchiCAD, I posted a few weeks back.  Such a great user experience, regardless of the content.

I loaded the Millwork Library I was testing in to another project we just finished up, to give them a trial run.  While they aren’t perfect- nor completely finished- the EXPERIENCE is there:  The ability to represent different grades of quality, different styles, different dimensions, and different “kits of parts,” without swapping components.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuZswyY648c&w=840&h=630]

 

What does this have to do with the #BCS50 Nominees?   Looking at the list, I DO see a lot of names that are responsible for generating a lot of BIM Content for the various ecosystems… But I see even more names that are folks changing the experience of creating and/or using content:  How do we GET content, how do we SELECT content, how do we USE content, and what does content TELL us from our projects?  After all, content needs to be a lot more than just fancy pieces to drop in to models, or we will always be working in silos deciding what content we “like” and “dont like.”

 

I hope there is a day (soon?) when all of our Building Product Manufacturers aren’t just building their own content, but are building libraries together that can work off one another.  Speaking of which, if you havent registered for the Building Content Summit in Scottsdale, on July 11th and 12th, you need to! Come hash out strategies and workflows. It’s going to be a great two days.

 

-Aaron Maller (twiceroadsfool)
aaron.maller@rtcevents.com

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