My productivity application, Dee Count, for iPad manages and counts inventory by location including comparing counts to an existing inventory. After months of extensive daily testing in a retail environment, I have applied tester suggested improvements meeting a variety of conditions that arise while counting inventory.
Barcode Scanner Mixed With Manual Input
My goal in the beginning was to make it quick and easy to add and count items using a barcode scanner. Not all items have scan labels, and some scanners are less efficient at switching back to the on-screen keyboard. Using an external keyboard (or barcode scanner which inputs like a keyboard) hides the on-screen keypad, which is nice, but returning to the key entry from scanner requires ejecting the scanner and then re-connecting to continue scanning again. There is room for improvement, but allowing for some input without disconnecting the scanner helps.
My first goal was to allow input as fast as a barcode scanner reads minimizing other user input. Scan each item on a shelf moving to the next item on each beep. The software keeps track of item counts and shows a log for review in case of error such as a missed item or double-scan. I also wanted to allow photos for locations to help a user that divides locations by room, shelf, or wire rack. Sometimes a name isn’t enough. With a potential of hundred photos and thousands of individual items with descriptions, the memory must be kept to a minimum and entry speed reasonably high. The cost of slower initial load time seems acceptable considering long use and continuing to run in the background while multi-tasking.
Testing on the original iPad proved better than I anticipated. Dee Count runs noticeably faster on iPad 2, but the original iPad is fast enough. The tester added 133 locations (down to the shelf level,) all with photos, counting nearly 5,500 items with descriptions at a total of over 20,800 counts.
- Count Totals
Improvements From Testing
- Easy to copy-paste previous entries for when UPC scan fails along with an OK button to keep scanner connected
- Custom count-by selection for multiple entries (provides count by 1, 3, 12, or custom)
- Import inventory details from iTunes
- deal with barcodes that contain hidden characters
I had originally assumed the iTunes method of importing inventory details and comparison counts from a database would be the most cumbersome user experience, but it turns out that sometimes and for some users it is the easiest. I had not considered obstacles such as barcodes with hidden characters, which causes problems when trying to match with an existing inventory, or repeated manual entries. After updating Dee Count, testing went very smooth.
Extensive testing is a must. There are so many little things, some of which I would have never thought of, that improve the user experience. Most important, my primary tester seems pleased with the final result. Her comments indicated that counting inventory using Dee Count on the iPad is enjoyable.