caterpillar ux design challenge

Client | Caterpillar

Date | Aug. 2022 – Nov. 2022

Role | UX Designer & WINNER

project overview

Every year, Caterpillar Inc. hosts a design challenge in observance of World Usability Day. They present students a design issue that Caterpillar is facing, and ask them to solve it.

This year, a team of two other students and I took on Caterpillar’s design challenge with a unique, two-pronged approach. Our idea and design outperformed five other teams during our presentation at Caterpillar headquarters. 

problem statement

The current path for dealers to initiate & track a new service request is fragmented, coming from several initiation points. This leads to an inefficient & disorganized dealer/customer experience which can extend the length of a service repair engagement.

Communication between all parties is a critical activity to identify opportunities, coordinate details and manage the workflow. 


We found that almost every work order that was submitted became a Service Request Email – which all dealers had different ways of handling. 

concept & ideas

Our initial solution was to enable the CAT App to be used for seamless communication between the dealer and customers. We wanted to do this by allowing work orders to be submitted through webforms, CAT App, and anything that becomes processed as a Service Request Email to be automated into a WO.

Early user testing revealed that users desired a single source of communication that eliminated the variety of calls, texts, and emails that the process of a work order came with. 

From there, the plan was simple. My team began working on both a design that laid out what adding the Service Request Emails tab to CAT’s WO processor would look like, as well as a design for new capabilities that could be added to the customer-facing CAT App.

customer side

  • On the customer side, most information would be already stored in the app when a customer goes to make a work order.
  • Previously used locations would be auto-saved into the app.
  • The main new feature is an in-app messaging function. In the messenger, a customer can:
    • Communicate with dealers and technicians
    • Send images and PDF documents.
    • Add comments to images and documents.
    • Approve and sign documents in-app.

dealer side

All Service Request Emails were now accessible through CAT’s work order program, INTERACT. Originally, these emails were handled with different software depending on the dealership.

All of the rest of the information that the dealer has to fill out is restricted to one overlay, making a quick and easy fill out. When they choose to add an estimate, an approval pdf is automatically sent to the customer.

When doing an action that might lead to a status change, the user is automatically asked if they want to change. This will happen for many different scenarios – ordering a part, receiving a signed approval, etc. This helps the dealer keep the system updated.

Because of a previous selection, the customer has already automatically sent an approval. The status change also immediately updated once approval for an estimate was already sent. 

We also gave the dealer the option to hide the work order column in order to reduce clutter on the screen. The second column had also been a new design edit that we made, as a way to easily pull up different work orders.

In the Interact screen, the communication module is also expandable to focus. In this screen, we also gave users the ability to upload files for approval and upload images.

usability testing

There weren’t many changes that had to be made with usability testing the day of, just minor changes from how we observed the users interact with the prototype. Upon seeing users struggle with the collapsable column, we decided to make the button larger and move it to the top – which is where we noticed some people hover when they were asked to collapse the column.

There was additional confusion when it came to accessing the customer communication module. We had it labeled “CAT App”, as that was the communication route. This wasn’t immediately clear to testers, so we reworded it to be inclusive of all possible routes and encourage clarity. 

The last item we changed was how attached files were displayed. There was some difficulty in locating these pictures, so we opted for a design pattern that was more familiar, and more alike to something that may be found in an email. 


Our team presented a solution that was outside of the box, and thought bigger than just a redesign. Most other teams went for changing the interface of the work orders – something that for the most part was already serving the dealers well.

By taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, my team was able to come up with a solution that took into account a single shared struggle between the dealer and the customer.

special thanks to my team

remi wagemann

ux designer

adam wisniewski

ux designer

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