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Sean Warrren Product Analyst @iDashboards

Sean Warren is a Product Analyst at iDashboards, focusing on strategic partnerships, customer engagement and product marketing. In addition to a recent child, Sean and his wife have two Siberian Huskies - Nymeria and Hodor.

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As technology has grown and evolved, a positive user experience has become a key differentiator and indication of a successful product. The feelings, preferences, beliefs, responses, and behaviors of a user, occurring before, during, and after use of a product define the user experience (UX). The way new technology, such as a dashboard, is rolled out to employees can make or break the entire enterprise.

When we’re helping clients implement their new business intelligence (BI) dashboard programs, there are several steps we advise our clients to take to ensure a smooth rollout process. By considering user experience at every point in the implementation process, we can work with clients and their employees to take all users into account.

Know Your User Groups
One of the first steps in a new BI dashboard initiative is to understand your user groups. Asking some simple questions is important. Two questions we encourage clients to answer are: “How can our users be organized into groups based on relevant data needed to make informed business decisions?” and “Who can perform what actions within the dashboard tool?” Within iDashboards’ technology, an administrator can organize all users into many different configurations of groups and assign roles to each user. This allows the user to only see the dashboards that are important to their daily decisions and metrics. It also creates a secure environment where one group isn’t able to view the sensitive data from another group.

The Link Between Initial Emotions and Long-term Adoption
Even prior to a product release, users’ feelings, beliefs and preferences make up their overall perception of a product. The initial emotions encountered by your user group will often define the overall success of the dashboard initiative.

If you want to encourage long-term user adoption of your dashboards or reporting, you need to actively accept input from your business users. We encourage clients to choose a few users to test their dashboards prior to the rollout to their entire group. When you accept input and manage expectations successfully, you’ll have created dashboard champions to sell the initiative to their peers. This internal selling will not only lead to a successful implementation, you’ll receive increased exposure and recognition enterprise-wide.

Use Audience Specific Designs
Would a dashboard containing similar data look the same for a marketing manager and a finance manager? No. They can both use dashboards for analysis, but will need different metrics measured. Therefore, they should see totally different dashboards.

Also, our dashboard software is business user-friendly, which means even your non-technical internal customers can quickly customize elements like chart types and colors to their liking. Offering this customization option will increase positive initial emotions among your diverse user base.

Intuitive Navigation
Every dashboard should be easy to navigate and understand, preferably without text guidance. If you feel data needs more explanation, your charts aren’t telling the story and you should reevaluate the purpose of the dashboard and the audience.

Always use specific dashboard features to deliver the data in an easy to digest format. If an explanation is required, try allowing users to drilldown to text for the specific area of focus. I’ve used this to show thousands of rows of survey comments sitting behind a single bar chart.

When a user logs in, I find customers have a lot of success when their startup dashboard is set to a homepage that acts as a dashboard launcher. Taking screenshots of dashboards and importing those screenshots as interactive elements within the homepage can provide employees with a great user experience. As seen in the example below.

User Experience Dashboard

Navigating an individual dashboard should also provide a pleasurable user experience. I usually try to include any filtering or elements that affect other charts on the dashboard within the upper left of the screen. Since most users are trained to read left to right and top to bottom, this is intuitive.

User Experience Dashboard 1

Once the user selects their desired filter, they’ll typically move to the top left to evaluate the data. I’ll often use an element like a blinking traffic light to attract their attention and guide their focus to the most important key performance indicator (KPI) on the dashboard.

Data Digestion
We’ve delivered relevant information and designed the dashboards for a specific audience, there’s internal buy-in and you’ve optimized the navigation to make the data easy to find – now how do you ensure users will understand the dashboard? We start by slicing and dicing the data into easily digestible chunks, using features to deliver a customized user experience.

iDashboards has several features to help a user filter the data they’re viewing. Users can start from a high-level overview of the data and drilldown to more granular levels. Delivering data in manageable portions enables users to better understand the underlying trends, focus on problem areas and recognize success through all levels.

User Experience Dashboard 2

When a business user wants to build correlation between datasets, it generally requires a technical resource to write SQL joins and provide a new report, which can take days to receive or require hours of Excel transformations. With iDashboards’ interactive intelligence, you can build charts from various datasets, do many calculations, and simply hover over an element of any chart to see how the metric relates to metrics showcased in other charts. With no programming or lag time, a correlation can be built instantly from siloed data sources.

How has your user experience been while using dashboards?

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