10 Keys for 'Easy to Use' Video Management Software

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 02, 2010

In this report, we examine well established usability principles for software, how they are routinely violated and what can be done. Contrary to common suggestions, the answer is not more training, ignoring it because engineers can use it as is or simply dismissing the need as a matter of opinion.

Training = Failure

If Video Management Software requires experienced security professionals to be formally trained on using it, than it is not easy to use. Easy to use software enables users to quickly experiment and learn the interface as the user explores it. Multi-day training classes should be considered a vice, not a virtue, reflecting software with poor interface design.

Expert Users Do Not Prove A VMS is Easy to Use

It is common to hear experienced engineers talk about how their favorite VMS is 'intuitive'. This certainly is possible but misses the point. Software ease of use is measured by the time and difficulty new users have to learn software, not the ease with which experts who use an application regularly have using it.

Easy to Use is Not Simply A Matter of Opinion

Many people think 'easiness' is just a matter of taste or opinion (Joe's favorite color is blue but Mary's is pink, etc., etc.)

To the contrary, human-machine interaction and user interface design has been developed over the past 50 years. There are broadly agreed upon principles that software developers should follow. Here are a few of the most cited works in the field:

It is likely that many VMS developers are simply ignoring these well established principles.
Video Management Ease of Use

In this premium report, we examine the most basic principles and demonstrate how they are routinely violated resulting in user experiences that are both frustrating and cumbersome. We analyze and demonstrate issues with two of the largest IP video providers - Mobotix and Milestone.

End users and integrators should consider difficult to use VMS software to be primarily the fault of the software developers, not of users.

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Training = *******

** ***** ********** ******** ******** *********** ******** ************* ** ** formally ******* ** ***** **, **** ** ** *** **** to ***. **** ** *** ******** ******* ***** ** ******* experiment *** ***** *** ********* ** *** **** ******** **. Multi-day ******** ******* ****** ** ********** * ****, *** * virtue, ********** ******** **** **** ********* ******.

Expert ***** ** *** ***** * *** ** **** ** ***

** ** ****** ** **** *********** ********* **** ***** *** their ******** *** ** '*********'. **** ********* ** ******** *** misses *** *****. ******** **** ** *** ** ******** ** the **** *** ********** *** ***** **** ** ***** ********, not *** **** **** ***** ******* *** *** ** *********** regularly **** ***** **.

Easy ** *** ** *** ****** * ****** ** *******

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** ** ****** **** **** *** ********** *** ****** ******** these **** *********** **********.
Video ********** **** ** ***

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*** ***** *** *********** ****** ******** ********* ** *** *** software ** ** ********* *** ***** ** *** ******** **********, not ** *****.

[***************]

A *** ***** **********

**** *** * ***** ********** ** **** ** ****:

  • Spatial ********: Related tasks should be physically close to one another. For example, selecting cameras and controlling PTZs should be very close and physically separated from configuring cameras. It's shocking how often this is violated by VMS systems.
  • Visual ****: ***** ****** ** **** ******* ****** (****, ****, ***********) that ******** *** *** *********. *** **** ************ ***** ******** (click ** * **** ****, ***** ***** ** * ******, etc.), *** **** ********* ** **** ** *** * **** to **** *** *** **** ********** *** ******** *** **** need.
  • Make **** ******** **** ******** ******* ** ******: A system can have hundreds of features but the handful used the most (like selecting cameras and searching video) should be far more prominent than most others. We are amazed at how often VMS vendors bury the most frequently used functions in long series of rarely used controls.
  • Provide ***** ****** *** ********: The UI should make it easy to understand where the user is at and what is causing any problems. It's absurd that many VMS systems do not clearly show whether the system is in live or playback mode. Similar problems exist with error messages, especially when a VMS cannot connect to an IP camera. The messages are often written in technical terms ("cannot connect to the database") is unhelpful for most integrators and users.

***** *** *** *** **** **********/****** ** ** ****** *** they ***** ** *** **** ********** ******** **** ** **** world *** *******.

***** *** *** **** ******* ** *** ******* ** ****** followed ** ******* ******** *** ********** ** *** *********.

Mobotix **** *****

********* *** ** *** ******* ** ***** *********. ***** ******** centers ****** ** *** ******* ******** ***** ********* *** *******' cameras *** ***** **** *** *******.

******* ****** * ***** ********** ******* -************************. **** ** **** ******* *********** ********** *** ****** ****** stands *** ******* ** ** ******** *** ******* *********** **** less ************* *****.

** *** ***** *****, ** ******* ******** ****** **** ******. We ********* *** ********** ******* ********** *** *** ********** ** ********.

Milestone **** *****

********* ** ****** ************ ** *** ** *** *** ******* of *** ******** ********. **'* **** *** ** *** ******/**** mature *********. ******* ****, ***** **** **** ***** ******* ********,******** ********** ******* **** ******** ********* ******.

*** *** ** ****** ***** ***** *** ** ******** *** demonstration ** ****** ** **** **********, ************** *** **************.

Examining ********* **********

*** ****** ***** *** *** ** ************* *** ***** * principles ** *****: (*) ******* ********, (*) ****** **** ****** features ******* ** *** *** (*) ********* ***** ****** *** feedback.

***'* ******* **** **** **** *********** ********** *** ***** ******* to *** ********:

  • "** ******** ******, ** ***** ********* **** ** *** ********, so *** ******** ******* ** ******* ** ** * **** investment ***** ****** *********." ***** *** ******** ********* **** ***** products ** *** **** ************* ******* ** ***** ********* ******* feature ***** **** ****, * *** ******** ** **** ***** are ** **** *********, ** ********** *** ******* ** ***** to **** *** *** *** ** ****.
  • Design *** *** ********, ******* *** *** ********: A pithy maxim from Alan Cooper emphasizes that systems can have numerous features but the system must make the most common cases, the easiest to access and use.
  • ****'* ***- "******** **** *** **** ******** ** ******* **** ** a ****** **** ** * ******** ** *** ******** *** the **** ** *** ******." *** ********* *********** ** **** principle ** **** ** ******** **** *** ****** ******* ******** should ** ***** ** **** ***** *** *** **** ****** ones ****** ** *** *******.
  • ****'* ***- "********* *** **** ** ***** *** * ****** ** make * ******** ** * ****** ** *** ******** ******* he ** *** ***." ******* **** *** **** ******* *** provide ** ** ******, *** **** ********* *** *********** ** becomes ** **** * *********. **** *** ******* ***** **** rows ** ***** ***** *** ****** **** **** ******** ******* power. *******, *** **** *****, **** ******* ******* ********** ** determining ***** *** ******** **** **** **.
  • Beware ** *********** *****: “Whatever language you know, you have to learn the meaning of an icon anew. There's a reason why humans invented phonetic languages where just a few symbols can be combined to produce any word." It's common for VMS systems to use numerous icons (see MxEasy as the worst/best example of this). It may appear that this saves space but what it likely does for most users is cause them to hover over each icon repeatedly trying to remember what the meaning of the icon is.
  • "** ** ********* ****** *** ** ******** *** **** *** features ******, **** ******* ** *********.” **** *** ******** ***** to ******* ******* ******** ** ******* ********, ******** ***** *** overloads *** ****** **** *****, ** ****** ***** ** ******** the ******** ** **** ******* (*****, *** ****** *** * perfect ******* ** ****).
  • User's ********** ** ******** ****: Users can become very frustrated and believe an application is broken if it takes more than a few seconds to respond. Developers who become acclimated to such long delays often over look this. However, for a new user, they have no idea that this is normal and routinely assume the system simply does not work. This problem frequently happens in VMS software both during searches and when logging in to user applications. If the developer cannot eliminate this, clear feedback should be provided (e.g., a percent done display that accurately reflects progress). See a **** ** ******** **** **** ***** *******.
*******, *** ******** ***** **** *** ******** ****** *** *** limitations ** ****** *****. ********** ** ** ***********, **'* ********** that ****, ** *** **** *****, ** ***** ********** ******** will **** ******* *********/** ******. ** **** ***** **** **** smaller ********** **** ***** **** ****** *** ****** *** ** users. ***** ** *** ********* ***** ****, ** ** ********* that ******* ****, ********** *** ******** **** **** ** ******** for ***** **** *** ********* *****.
*** ********* ****** ***** **** ************, ********, ********* *** ***** come **** **** ******'* "***** ****: *** ********** ** *********** ******."
  • *** ******* **designing *** '******* *****', *** *** ************* ******** ******** ***** *****. This identifies the common danger of developers to assume that their users are technically proficient as themselves and willing to spend time and energy figuring things out. Even with integrators, this cannot be assumed as integrators deal with many product lines and have large numbers of technicians they need to train.
  • ****** **** ******** ******** *** ****** *** ****. ** ** example, * **** ******* *** *** ******** ** "***, * 43 **** ******** ***** *** ******** ** *** **** ***** out ** **** ******, ********** ***** * *****, *** ****** a ****** ** *** **** ***** ********* ************ *** ****** sales. ** *** * **** ** ** ****, **** ** moderately ** **** ****** *****." **** ******* ***** **** ** much ******* *** **** ** ********** * '****' **** ***** face. ***** *** **** ***** ** ****** *** *** *** software *** ****** *** **** *** ******* ************ **** *** computer ******** ***** **** **** *** ********** ***** ********** ****** for.
  • ****** *** ******** ***** *** *********. **** * ****** ********: "The ***** ***** ** **** **** ******** **** ***** ******* 3 *** * ** *** *******, *** *** ***** ** any ***** *** **** ** ** *** ******." * ** amazed ** *** ********* **** **** ***** *** ***** **** scenario ** ** **** *** *******. ** ******** *** ************ usability *** ****** *********, ******* ***** ** **** '******' ** use.
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