Centralis & American Institute of Architects use field research to redefine Contract Documents software
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a professional membership association for architects and allied partners. For more than 120 years, AIA Contract Documents have been recognized throughout the design and construction industry as the standard for managing transactions and relationships involved in construction projects.
The AIA enables members and other subscribers to create agreements and forms using its flagship software product, AIA Contract Documents. While praised by architects and contractors for its comprehensiveness, feedback from some users suggested that the software did not integrate well into the daily activities of their practice.
The AIA engaged Centralis to investigate new growth and design opportunities for its Contract Documents software. The goal of the initiative was to define a future vision for the product grounded in the daily needs of its primary users - architects, contractors, construction attorneys and commercial developers.
To explore opportunities for innovation grounded in user needs, we conducted field research with current and prospective users of the AIA Contract Documents software. Through observation and interviewing, we investigated current contracting practices and identified unmet needs in the contract development process. Following the field sessions, we worked with AIA staff and committee members to create a set of concepts depicting new directions for the product. We gathered additional user feedback on these concepts in a series of interactive focus groups designed to gauge user reactions and assess the concepts’ appeal to the market.
Based on our research in the field and the lab, we formulated a vision for AIA Contract Documents software grounded in the daily activities and work practices of architects and their partners. Our vision incorporated both short-term product enhancements and strategic recommendations for future directions. We illustrated our vision with wireframes, site maps and process flows designed to create a streamlined, efficient user experience.
The AIA’s Contract Documents Advisory Committee approved our recommendations, clearing the way for the product team to implement the next generation of its Contract Documents product based on our vision. The AIA has also leveraged our user research findings to make enhancements to the existing software.