If there’s anything we’ve learned about the growth of analytics it’s that users demand an easy to use, simple to share dashboard view to speed up the arrival of insights that fuel decision making.
As we saw in a recent blog post by David Menninger of Ventana Research, the design and user experience are real markers left by the late Steve Jobs. Apple’s focus on design and devices are based around being simple enough that even a toddler can operate it.
While user experience is a major component of a BI application, it’s the dashboard view that we’re after in using analytics to make informed decisions. The Internet has trained today’s technology users to look for information in an instant, to have an interactive experience and to share data quickly.
In a recent rebuttal to Smashing Magazine’s “Dos and Don’ts of Infographic Design,” Nathan Yau (@flowingdata), a data visualization expert, says the data is the ultimate driver. He writes,”Remember that design isn’t just about making things pretty. It’s about making things work, and in the case of infographics, that means representing data accurately and clearly. It means letting the data speak and not putting extraneous icons all over the place to obscure what’s important.”
This is an important reminder in any data visualization, especially when creating dashboards. The data needs to be “accurate and clearly represented” so the user can navigate the data and make decisions, often in a split second.
And ease of use is the top of the list for purchasing a BI system. Lyndsay Wise (@wiseanalytics), president of Wise Analytics, recently wrote a blog post at Information Management concerning the marriage of social networking tools and self-service as the ultimate way to the “next level” with BI. She says in the post that the “ease of use, high levels of interactivity and the ability to create unique and individual experiences define the goals of both [social networking and self-service BI].”
Wise says that in order for BI to be self-service, it has to be “accessible to people irrespective of their comfort with technology.” This focus is apparent in dashboard design and usage. If a less tech savvy user cannot navigate and understand a dashboard with ease, there’s going to be a user adoption problem. And can companies seeking to derive competitive advantage and make fiscally responsible decisions really afford to let a user adoption issue keep them from actionable insights?
Additionally, Wise writes that BI vendors need to think about the “community” of users in designing analytics systems. Decisions are made among teams and predictive analytics will be based on data from a “community” of stakeholders. The bottom line is that both the individual as well as the collective dashboard user experience need to be considered in dashboard design – at the vendor and user levels.