You think you love engineering? Well, here's a guy who can out-geek them all. Metro, a Boston area daily paper, reported recently that an electrical engineer in Michigan named his new-born infant son "2.0." Yup. Not "junior," but "2.0." What's the difference between "junior" and "2.0," he reportedly asked, after persuading his wife to go along with the computer-style name. "It's just a number instead of a word."
Well, yes, but his action says a lot about how dominant computers have become in our professional and personal lives. We use them to shop, to communicate, to pay bills, to listen to music, and, of course, to design products faster and easier than we could before.
And, we use them to gather information.
Indeed, the Internet has become an indispensable tool for engineers. I recently interviewed several to find out how they use the Internet. Andy Helm, an engineer with Faro Technologies, uses the Internet as a data book. "It's a research tool," he says. Ron Maty, an engineer who designs gearboxes, among other systems and components, for Honeywell Engines and Systems, searches the Internet to find specific parts. Gordon Keil, an engineer at BMW who recently took on press-relations activities for the car company, searches for components too, but also uses the Internet to keep up with industry news. And Paul Martin, an engineer at Instron Corp., searches for parts and for information, such as tips on how to calculate the life of ball screws or the correct type of grease to use in pneumatic systems.
All four say that a website's ease of use and ease of navigation are critical features to them. "It must be intuitive," says Helm. "The key is how fast you can get information."
Their sentiments echo and expand on those of respondents to a recent Design News
reader survey on web-user needs. You told us you spend an average of five hours per week using the web in their work. And what type of content is most important to you? Product specs, supplier information, and alerts of new products or new technology you can use.
When you go to magazine websites like www.designnews.com, you're also looking for design ideas and solutions to design problems, among other vital information.
You also told us you look for different types of information depending on where you are in the design cycle. In the planning phase, you're most interested in ideas and researching new products or technologies. In the design and development phase, you want solutions to design problems, standards information, and links to supplier websites.
That's good information for suppliers looking to improve their websites. Actually, we made that information the basis of a major, multi-phase redesign of our own website—www.designnews.com. We beefed up the content and made it easier to get to it. Now, past articles, product searches, new technology, opportunities for dialog with peers, and community information are a click away. And, we pumped up our e-mail newsletters with more stories, links to related information, and a better layout for easier reading.
But there's much more we are planning and much more we can do. We'd like more guidance from you. You can check out the site and tell us what you think—and how we can make it even better.
We're open to all ideas—wherever they come from. Perhaps we'll even ask "2.0" what he thinks. He has engineering in his blood line, and with a name like that he is destined to be Internet savvy.
Reach Teague firstname.lastname@example.org.