UI Harmonization For Electron Microscopes

FEI, VanBerlo 01/2010—09/2010


A joint project of FEI Company, VanBerlo Design, and the TU/e, aiming at creating harmonized user interfaces for FEI’s two main types of electron microscopes in order to improve the usability and user experience of FEI’s products, and create strong company brand.


FEI’s electron microscope products have the different user interfaces. It is foreseen that there will be more cross operability between its main stream electron microscopes, thus there is a need to harmonize their user interfaces. Besides, the current user experience needs to be significantly improved to make technology truly usable and beneficial for all users.

As Usability Engineer, my responsibility was to define the design principles that guide the UI harmonization, and validate the harmonized UI in the manner of usability testing. I began with acquiring users’ needs  by interviewing 4 application technicians and specialists in FEI and observing them performing the regular tasks on the different types electron microscopes.  Based on the user research together with foreseen future needs, 4 design principles are formed as the guideline of the UI design.

I performed the iterative design which ultimately improve the quality and functionality of design. Taking the time and user tasks into account, two rounds of design activities were performed, which includes prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining the design.


vanBerlo provided the visual elements of the harmonized user interface. I was in charge of the interaction design. I made the interactive prototypes in the Adobe Flash which the visual elements were applied to bring the realistic visual effect.  Usability testing were performed to validate the interaction design and the new use interface. The prototypes were used in the usability testing to let people try and feel the new design.

In each round of usability testing 4 participants (the Electron Microscope technicians or specialists) attended. The insights obtained from user test and users’ feedback were the valuable input for refining the design in the next cyclic design process. Finally, the innovative improvement proposals were delivered which guide the subsequent design work.


Iterative Design Process
iterative process

prototypingprototyping flash

User Test setup