<strong>Creating a Touch Panel Design</strong>

Creating a Touch Panel Design

May 15, 2017
Touch Panel | Electronic Contracting Company

By Justin Jiskra

When I started my current position as programmer about six years ago I thought, wow this is going to be great, I’ll be writing code for systems that can run anything from a garage door opener to a highly advanced video system. Little did I know that the one thing I wasn’t thinking about would be the one thing that occupies a lot of my time: Designing touch panels.

In my experience, there are a lot of system programmers that don’t want to go near a touch panel layout. They want to do one thing: Write the code for the control system and walk away. It sounds so easy: Get the scope of work and touch panel layout from a consultant; write the code to meet the project specifications and to function with the provided touch panel designs; test and commission the system, and walk out the door.

I have quickly found out that not having a consultant and provided touch panel layouts isn’t a bad thing at all. It actually enables me as a programmer to expand my horizons, and think and develop each system from beginning to end. A big part of the system is the interface that the user sees every day. Now, a lot of the small systems are pretty cut and dry where they only need three basic functions: Turn on, turn off, and play. Sometimes they’re so simple that you spend more time trying to figure out how to fill a page so it doesn’t have any weird empty spaces that stick out.

When you get into the larger systems, then the sky is the limit of what you can do from the touch panel. I’m talking about the systems that have it all: Display control, video switching, room combining, video recording, video conferencing, and audio conferencing. All of which has to be controlled from the touch panel. When these jobs come up I try to talk with the customer to establish a couple of things:

  1. How they want the system to work
  2. How technical are the users of the system
  3. How they want the touch panel to look (color, layout, labeling, etc.)

In these meetings and phone calls you can get a wide range of answers that may help or hurt the design. Most of the time the customer has a difficult time trying to picture what’s being talked about, which is completely normal. After the meetings and phone calls I will create a basic design based on what was discussed in the meeting and present it to the customer. From there, anything can happen. I’ve had customers that loved every bit of the design, and I’ve had a few that wanted everything changed. Either way, we always come up with a design that will give the end-user the experience that they want. 

Once we have the design/theme that everyone can agree on, I start the process of creating all the pages and sub-pages of the layout. In my six years as a programmer for Electronic Contracting, I’ve completed countless systems and have a pool of design pages that I’ve created in the past. If I can, I will pull ideas from those pages. Sometimes I can even tweak some of those old pages to work in a new system. Not only do I want to create something that the customer is happy with, but I also want to create these pages as fast as possible to keep on track with the project’s timeline. After I create all of the pages for the system, I submit them to the customer for a final review. Once everything gets approved it’s time for me to take off my graphic design cap and put on the programmer hat once again to bring the system to life.