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Innovative Thinking

5 Steps to Effective HMI Programming


Developing efficient HMI screens can make life for both the screen developer and the user a lot easier if they are developed properly. As an HMI programmer, you need to understand the user’s needs: what information is important for them to see in order for them to do their job efficiently and react appropriately.  

So, normally it is a good idea to watch what the operator has to do in order to do their job and discuss with them what would make their job easier. Go over any ideas you may have about screen layouts, how buttons would be laid out on the screens, etc., before you even begin developing screens. Getting the operator to “buy in” to an HMI system is key, otherwise you will have failed before you even get started.

As an automation engineer, I have worked on HMI programming for many automation applications, from system integration projects to production data collection. 

Here are the top 5 guidelines I follow to create the most effective HMIs:

  1. Make the screens simple to use and easy to follow.

An HMI screen should not feel like a puzzle to the operator. The user may be responding to situations on the plant floor in real-time, so the most crucial information should be readily available and easy to read at a glance. Navigation should also be clear and obvious, such as including a “return to home” button on each screen.

  1. Put units of measurement on-screen.

Units of measurement should be easy to find and clearly defined, to make it obvious whether an operator is looking at RPM, FPM, MPM, inches per second, or any other unit they may need. This doesn’t need to be over-complicated, just included.

  1. Don’t put too much information on one screen.

Again, think of the operator’s day-to-day functions – with too much information on one screen, will they stand there decoding it for secret messages? Information can be logically broken down and organized. Screens should flow into each other in an intuitive way, presenting the most critical information first, with any other necessary data included in secondary screens.

  1. Don’t have screens buried too deep.

This problem is on the other end of the spectrum – too many screens create layers that operators don’t have time to dig through during production. There shouldn’t be too many mouse clicks to get to what the user typically needs to access.

  1. Develop a color code and stick with it.

Color coding is essential to intuitive screen design. Themes as simple as “green is good, red is bad” make it even easier for the operator to quickly scan the screen for important information and navigate through the controls. Thoughtfully choosing a color scheme and sticking to it greatly simplifies ease-of-use for the operator.


Implementing Effective HMI Programming for Your Application

Our engineers are experts in drive and automation solutions, specializing in a broad portfolio of industries and applications. We do electrical control system design, retrofits, upgrades, and repairs, power and distribution, nationally ranked control system integration, and, of course – specialized HMI programming.

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