When it comes to making smart business decisions, you need the right data. More importantly, you need the right tools to communicate that information. According to Harvard Business Review, data is useless if you don’t bother conveying it to your audience – and if there’s one word that should describe your data, it’s “accessible.” In other words, your employees, boss, and other stakeholders need to get the information they need, when they need it. What’s more, the data needs to be user friendly and easy to understand. Sound like a tall order? It is – unless you adopt an “end-user comes first” business intelligence (BI) philosophy.
Dashboard User Experience Starts with the Right Scope
“Scope creep” happens when you start a dashboard project with specific users in mind but allow the project to get out of range as it moves toward completion. Yes, dashboards are an effective way to provide information to a wide range of stakeholders, but it’s important to make sure you’re actually catering to the end-user – not everyone. The end result is increased dashboard user absorption by your targeted user, as opposed to moderate or mild engagement by a larger pool of users.
A few ways to avoid scope creep with your dashboard:
- Remember your target audience and cater to them
- Avoid displaying information that is extremely detailed and not actionable
- Use drilldowns to provide granular information for relevant audiences
Understand Your User Pools and What They Need
If this is starting to sound a little tricky, that’s okay. The solution is actually simple: Know your user groups and target them appropriately in your dashboard. Here’s how:
- Understand how “data literate” your audience is
- Find out what information relates to your audience’s KPIs and job
- Ask them what information they want to see on the dashboard
- Make the dashboard visually appealing and easy to navigate
Focus groups are, simply put, the pools of users your data targets. C-level executives, for example, could be one of your focus groups because they’ll be interested in seeing, understanding, and using similar information. Similarly, your sales force and middle managers could be unique focus groups as well. The key is to know who your focus group is at the beginning of your project. As you move through the development lifecycle of your dashboard, check in with your focus group to determine how users are currently dealing with data, what stakeholders need to be involved, how often they’ll need the dashboard updated, and how often (on average) they need mobile access to reporting.
Features That Take Data to the Next Level
Drilldowns Strike the Balance Between High-Level and Granular Data
Creating data that’s too granular isn’t the only user experience challenge dashboard users can face. In some cases, broad, high-level data points aren’t what your audience needs. A bank manager, for example, might want to know the total number of deposits at their branch – but a bank teller probably doesn’t. It’s important to keep a clean dashboard design and not to overload the end-user with information that isn’t directly related to their job.
Data drilldowns are one of the best ways to solve this challenge. In short, a data drilldown allows you to nest layers of data so they aren’t display on the main page of your dashboard. Drilldowns should be intuitive; they should allow you to identify an important piece of information, click on it, and explore it further. In a way, drilldowns allow you to conceal intricate data so it only displays to the dashboard users who are interested in viewing that specific set of data.
Our ViFrame® Tool Puts Data Into Context
Regardless of your end-user’s technical knowledge, you’ll want to provide them with a clean, easy-to-understand dashboard. You can also give data more context by implementing a Visual Intelligence Frame (or smart text box) in your dashboard. Simply put, a ViFrame® is a type of “chart” you can integrate with interactive intelligence to display correlated data points on your dashboard. To see a ViFrame® in action, check out this live dashboard example, which uses a ViFrame® and Interactive Intelligence to display information on employees as you hover over each of their photos.
Putting your data into context is important because it helps the end-user do several things:
- Find hidden correlations and parallels between data sets
- Understand why certain KPIs are moving in the right direction
- Identify pressure points and safeguard against future challenges
- Make data “actionable” by identifying the root cause of a problem
The Final Piece: Integrating User Experience in Your Design
Data visualization is unique because it unites two seemingly divergent elements: data and design. The result is something not only beautiful, but functional too. But eye-catching design doesn’t always equal a good user experience, much less functionality. The key to creating designs that support user experience is to understand how your audience thinks and the best way for them to understand and use data. You finance department, for instance, will probably want to see data display completely differently than your marketing team or sales associates.
Ask yourself the following questions to better understand your data’s audience:
- What are their goals and how does the data they need support those goals?
- What is the most important data set to my audience?
- How can I make important sets of data easy to find and digest?
- Do any of the visual elements detract from the data my audience needs?
The goal is to create a dashboard that is visually pleasing and supports the end user’s objectives. By doing so, you’ll create a tool that gives users the data they need, when they need it the most.