Engineering Toward Intuitive
Behind the scenes with the people who built Revu 2018
Earlier this month, Bluebeam, Inc. released Bluebeam Revu 2018, which features some of the biggest changes to the industry-leading markup and collaboration solution in several years. Spurred by constant dialogue with its users and technology innovations that continue to change the way the AEC industry operates, Bluebeam has made several upgrades that help users be more productive, focus on the work that really matters to them, and continue to build and design some of the world’s greatest structures. We sat down with a few of the engineers who designed these improvements to get a sense of the origins of Revu 2018.
Achieving a More Intuitive Software
Making Revu easier to use and more intuitive was a big priority, but with a software package so robust, knowing where to begin was crucial. William Herold, lead engineer for software development, said that “reducing the number of steps to get a good outcome” was a good place to start. This attitude is manifested by the new dynamic Properties Toolbar, which anticipates what the user will do next. This function ends up saving the individual time, and also compounds into a huge productivity and efficiency booster for a company that has, say, 10, 20 or 200 people using Revu every day. Herold added, “The best way to spot areas that could be improved is to watch customers, talk to them, see how they’re using Revu. And what areas they’re stumbling on and what’s taking them time.”
Kim Stewart, director of software development, said that the engineering team went through the software and looked at how various workflows were achieved. Standardizing how functions are performed within the software would make it easier for users to do different things: if they could establish patterns, then actions would become familiar to users. This saves time by making it easier for users to become proficient with Revu very quickly. “We rely a lot on our product and user experience departments, but from an engineering perspective, we looked at things that weren’t the same.” For instance, adding a file to batch dialogs should be the same as adding a file to batch print. “We said, ‘What if it was all the same, how nice would that be for the user?’” Stewart describes the process as “pattern matching.”
Other improvements were made to allow users to fully benefit from all the already-available tools—many of which they might not have known about. By streamlining the user interface, making it more navigable and predictable, and adding custom shortcuts, the engineers ensured that Revu users would more easily discover more of the tools available to them.
Luke Prescott, senior product manager, is a liaison between the engineering team and the Bluebeam account managers who interact directly with our customers on a regular basis. When designing Revu 2018, he said, “we asked ourselves, ‘How do we take a lot of the existing tools and repackage them so they’re easier to use?’ We asked front lines, ‘What are the most common questions or requests you get?’”
The answer: the most commonly requested feature by far was customizable keyboard shortcuts. So, Software Engineer Neal O’Hara set about to create them. One of the benefits of this work—besides the fact that users can now customize shortcuts and share those across an organization—is that the process was very collaborative, with the engineers communicating across teams and platforms so that everybody was able to see things from a much more holistic perspective. It was a chance to grow as an individual and as a company, O’Hara said, with a lot of “cross-pollination” so that in the end, “you have so much of a better picture of how everything works together.”
Making You More Efficient
The new release also includes features that blend seamlessly into the user experience, so that most people won’t even notice they’re being more efficient. One such upgrade is background loading, so users can continue working on a project while they access more files. This also allows users to have several projects open at once in Studio, the collaboration capability within Revu that allows parties to review documents and collaborate in real time, no matter where they are. Ian Steed, who helped program these changes, believes that the new look and functionality of Studio will prompt users “to start thinking about different ways of accessing data”—ways, perhaps, that the engineers haven’t even thought of yet. That feedback from customers is crucial to Bluebeam’s success—constantly finding ways to improve by working hand in hand with our users to find out what’s most useful to them.
All these efforts make Revu 2018 a product that helps people build faster and more efficiently. Ryan DeLapp, the engineer in charge of making the Properties Toolbar more dynamic, appreciates the impact his work had on the new release. When customers are happy, he said, “that means that you’ve designed or built something that’s useful and not difficult to use.” As all the developers and engineers who worked on Revu 2018 can attest, making a program easy to use and intuitive is far from, well—easy and intuitive. But in the end, DeLapp added, “that’s what we’re here to do.”
We hope you’ll download Revu 2018 and familiarize yourself with the new user interface and improved features. And maybe take a minute—one of the many you’ll save by using our software—to appreciate the work that went on behind the scenes to make Revu 2018 the best release yet.