Mobility First

Mobility First is about ensuring every new app or service we build and every major change we make in PixelPoint® incorporates the mobile device user experience.

For the past 18 months, the PAR PixelPoint® product team has focused on two core initiatives that must be considered for everything we build. They are “Mobility First” and “Cloud First.” Firstly, I will focus on a story that drives the, “Mobility First” initiative. There are many stories that I could tell about the need for “Mobility First” but, for the sake of this blog, I will keep it simple.

To understand “Mobility First”  is easy if you have children in their teens or tweens. I have a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. I grew up around computers long before the invention of the PC and before they became household products. There is no doubt that exposure to computer rooms and technology as a small child gave me an advantage and led me into a technology career.

My house has four very nice personal computers that I built sitting on nice desks.  I have the whole house wired with Gigabit Ethernet, which is fed by ultra-fast high-speed internet. Everything is connected to the home network, TV’s, gaming consoles, the heating system, etc. My kids live in a techno-house that I am proud to have created with my skills. I still feel this isn’t enough to make sure the kids have the technology advantage and interest they will need so, three years ago, I built them their own tricked out gaming class PC. It has a clear case that glows blue LED lights on all of the parts, it has Windows 10, Office 365, games, and everything a kid could ever need on a PC.  It’s strategically placed at a nice desk in the most convenient place in the house for the kids to make use of it.

For most homework sessions, I help my son stumble through Windows, MS Office and observe how none of this is intuitive for him like it is for me. I see him reach up to touch the screen, then frustratingly remember that he needs to use the mouse. While using the PC for homework, he will still use his phone for web searches; unless he needs to copy a picture.  Why press 50 buttons on the big black rectangle in front of him when he can just say “OK Google…” and get the results back faster than he could type the first word of the search criteria.

There are many innovations I could discuss why mobile phones and tablets have overtaken PCs as the computing device of choice for consumers, but the user experience is the most powerful innovation. Ever since Apple released the first iPhone with its sleek and intuitive user experience that had no instructions, the iterative refinement has been ongoing and competition between competing for mobile platforms. Winning the user experience slice of the platform war is mostly judged by how intuitive, efficient, and how fast the user experience runs.

“Mobility First” is about ensuring every new app or service we build and every major change we make in PixelPoint incorporates the mobile device user experience.

Our new PixelPoint HQ product is being designed and built where the default experience is a 5”-8” mobile device. PixelPoint HQ’s manager dashboard, dynamic reporting, and configuration user interfaces are all simple, clean, and most importantly, best managed by touch and gesture (pinch & swipe). They all work with a PC mouse and keyboard too, but the PC user experience is treated as our secondary concern now.

Even within our latest release of PixelPoint POS, which is considered a “legacy” POS solution, we are focused on the “Mobility First” initiative. Every user interface for the front of the house of PixelPoint has always been designed for the touch screen and maximum speed of use. Long before smartphones and tablets became the technology of choice for consumers and small business, the most prominent use of touch screen technology was the Point of Sale terminal and one of the most important metrics was the speed of service (user interface efficiency).

However, that same user interface design was not necessarily carried over into the back office software within the PixelPoint suite. This has been the case with most software in the POS industry. Most back office, reporting, and configuration user interfaces were designed as if there was a competition to be the most complex and to use every available pixel of screen space on a 15”-17” personal computer monitor.  This design style makes it impossible to use a touch screen and is dependent on the keyboard and mouse. Luckily, with PixelPoint, we have always made the back office functions accessible through the POS terminal and, lucky again, this took hold when the average POS screen was only 12 inches. Since the back office was always supported through the POS terminal, the touch screen has been supported for the majority of back office functions.

As we work on our latest PixelPoint POS 2016 release, we have been upgrading the technology we use to build the software. With the technology upgrade, there has been the need to rework many of our back-office user interfaces. Since we are reworking back-office user interfaces, we are updating them all, so for a touch screen user experience, no keyboard or mouse will be required. The exciting thing for our PixelPoint customers is that they will have the option of managing PixelPoint on their POS terminal, POS tablet, or just any windows tablet in a way that more closely matches the experience they are accustomed to with all mobile form factors.

More important than the changes to POS, by embracing the, “Mobility First” user experience with PixelPoint HQ, we have an opportunity to jump ahead of the rest of the mature POS solutions and make the salesman’s life difficult at many of the new mPOS solutions that lack our advanced and stable feature set.

Making these changes hasn’t been easy. Ironically, even though POS was a pioneer touch screen technology, it’s difficult to get a POS software developer to get the personal computer user experience out of their mind. Coders work on PCs 8 – 12 hours per day where they use keyboards and mice and prefer big monitors. They spend all day within the opposite user experience of a tablet or smartphone making it tougher to change to the mobility first mindset. But as tough as it is, mobility is not an option, and all of us within a technology company must change and embrace mobility first. If we don’t, the people who we build products for now, and in the near future, will select our products last.

PAR’s PixelPoint POS software is a leading point of sale solution for restaurants and retailers alike. Fully configurable, it’s designed to meet your staff needs, without forcing them to change current processes.  PixelPoint POS is available as a perpetual license or subscription option. Experience an extensive loss prevention set, advanced cost management, global compliance, loyalty integration, and more. For more information on PAR’s PixelPoint point of sale software, click below!