• Juan J. RamirezJuan J. Ramirez, almost 3 years ago

    When you design a user interface, you just need to imagine it, "draw" it and implement it. Then it can fail or succeed. You can likely iterate because you collect data on how those decisions are performing in the wild.

    When an architect designs, let's say a facade, that design needs to be bounced between the engineers, the architect and the owner/contractor several times in a way that's not even relatable when you're building software. (In fact, the reason why the construction industry relies so much on Submittals, RFIs, Drawings, Punch List, etc, is because all the parties need to reduce liabilities and absolutely everything needs a traceable record.) Any small change might have a structural implication that can have cost implications that can lead to extra compromises... Then you also need to get the drawings approved by the city. That facade needs to respect certain architectural patterns if the building is located in x or y area.

    Designing and coding an app can cost a lot of money but never as much as building real physical structures. When you build software, you can remove and add things with minimal cost. When you build physical structures, you build it once, and it needs to last "forever."

    I get your point but it's really a pointless comparison. You will never see a proliferation of architectural design or structure design tools because there's little motivation to get all the required knowledge and then apply it with massive effort to produce a tool that still needs to be sold at a very high price to be slightly profitable.

    This is an industry with incredibly high barriers to entry. It would take a lot more effort to build a decent tool in this space than what it takes nowadays to create any of the existing UI design tools.

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    • Tara FieldsTara Fields, almost 3 years ago

      I actually entirely disagree with you (no offense) that these arn't related - particularly because i have worked in the construction and engineering industry for over 30+ years (now I am in office/marketing dept.) and there are thousands of individuals in this space that crave new technologies and are entirely frothing at the month for people that can help implement paperless solutions, VR, safety tool, measuring, honestly anything. Have you ever seen what Viewpoint looks like? (its a program that was mentioned)? Its like the most archaic tool, the UI is horrible, it looks like an outdated Excel worksheet but is still a leader in the project management space created by accountants that most likely have never step foot onto a project site. You mentioned barrier to entry - I sorta laughed at this because the barrier to entry is the same - in fact its better because so many of us need basic mobile and web apps tailored to our business, for example our company made an app, hired someone to assist in the implementation and we have had over 20 other companies that use it, its a simple safety checklist. The thing this girl is calling for are more tools that can help broaden the spectrum of technologist within this industry, not even broaden, simply introduce them. Final, more software for construction would not at all deter the safety or structural integrity of a building, road, bridge - sorry but i can't tell you how many times I have been out on field and see projects getting physically built with outdate plans because there on paper, imagine if they got a ping and they were fresh digital red lines - i could go on and on. (sorry for the rant).

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      • Juan J. RamirezJuan J. Ramirez, almost 3 years ago

        Well, I actually have worked in the construction software industry so I also know what I'm talking about. No offense but all your opinions seem to be coming from an enterprise / business software buyer perspective which is a very comfortable position to demand features and products. To be fair, I'm not blaming the customer. I have visited many many job sites and I conducted hundreds of user research sessions with construction professionals in several states. I have a lot of empathy for the problems construction professionals face with the software they have to use. This industry deserves better, but I would explain why it's so hard to make it better:

        First of all, when you see something like Viewpoint you're seeing something that's a pervasive problem with enterprise software. ALL enterprise software. This is not a problem exclusive to construction software. Just take a look at everything that was built by Oracle or any widely used ERP or any of the classic Microsoft Enterprise offerings. For a long time, enterprise software vendors didn't care about User Experience because the returns were coming from providing extensible workflows, complying with standards and being able to run on-premise or on whatever companies asked. Nowadays as ridiculous as it sounds, consumer-grade experiences are a value proposition in enterprise software.

        "You mentioned barrier to entry - I sorta laughed at this because the barrier to entry is the same"... I actually sorta laughed at what followed this sentence. Do you really think that the barrier to entry that I was referring to was the ability to create a simple punch list or safety inspection app?

        The original author of the article brings up Photoshop, Sketch, Adobe XD as examples of tool abundance and compare this abundance to the scarce offer of tools for construction design.

        This is where building a decent competitor to the incumbent offerings is challenging and this is the barrier to entry that I'm referring to. You said at the end of your rant: "sorry but i can't tell you how many times I have been out on field and see projects getting physically built with outdate plans because there on paper, imagine if they got a ping and they were fresh digital red lines"

        You know why is that? Because creating a "real-time as it builds" drawing system is super freaking hard. It's easy to imagine a drawings bulletin app that just pings you with new drawings, because sure, that should be simple... but the tactical implementation of such a system, especially if you want to build a useful one, is extremely challenging. There a lot of constraints like upload standards, drawing OCR and drawing classification, offline use, handling and reconciling markups, optimizing drawing size to deliver from the cloud (tiling and compressing), keeping pixel consistency between platforms, handling versioning and revisions, markup privacy, providing expected features like drawing comparison and measuring, handling device health (data and battery consumption), etc, etc. + keeping all this within a sane UX that also needs to handle attached documents like RFIs and Submittals... There's a reason why Procore and Plangrid charge what they charge for their Drawings tools. It's because building those systems at scale is extremely difficult.

        Now imagine trying to create similar robust cloud solutions that are a platform agnostic for 2D, 3D and/or BIM... It's not that people don't want to build for this industry, is that it's still pretty hard to create architectural or construction design software that can be competitive with the long-standing software solutions without having to invest a lot of money and time. It probably would happen one day but given the current circumstances and the landscape of this industry is very unlikely to see the needle moving anytime soon.

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