Getting your colleagues to adopt new tools is a perennial challenge for data practitioners. Too often you’re pouring hours into dashboards, reports, and apps that never get used—and you’re never fully sure why. As my colleague Ben Schein, Domo’s SVP of Product, likes to joke, “If a report falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?”
My team has built hundreds of data products for both internally at Domo and for Domo’s clients. To be honest, sometimes they fell flat. Over time I understood why certain experiences didn’t hit: I was building them based on my perception of the audience, not concrete observations of what they actually wanted in a data tool.
In our webinar, There’s an App for That—Tips for Crafting Apps, Dashboards, and other Engaging Data Experiences, we investigate why these disconnects happen and how mutual curiosity can help bridge the gap. You’ll learn how to study your audiences so you can build data experiences that people pull up every day, that get shouted out to leadership, that add value to your business and become a key talking point.
What are the barriers to creating personalized data experiences?
Knowing what hinders adoption can help us build more engaging BI tools. At Domo, we’ve seen four key barriers that may need addressing:
- Data leaders don’t have enough context: As data architects and analysts, we don’t always have the daily context for other functions across our organizations. We can make an educated guess about what a warehouse operator, hospital president, or marketing analyst needs. But our hypotheses aren’t always accurate. As my colleague John Morgan, Director of Engineering, pointed out in the webinar, “What we thought we’d find versus what people told us was very, very different.”
- Employees may not have words for what they need: Even if you offer opportunities for sharing preferences, users may struggle to put their needs into words. Some may have a crystal-clear vision but lack the technical language to communicate it. Others may feel so consumed by daily operations that they struggle to imagine what data can do for them.
- Change is disruptive: Changing the way you work can feel frustrating and pointless. This is why people are drawn to the status quo, even if change would eventually make work easier.
- Historical context may play a role: Consider how your team and the teams you’re building for have engaged in the past. If your coworkers have felt ignored—for instance, if they requested changes or enhancements and it always got pushed—they may feel hesitant to open up about what they need now.
As Ben shared in the webinar (which you can listen to here), data designers unfortunately don’t get a lot of chances. “If the data is wrong or is not usable or accessible or the right metrics, you’ll lose people right away,” he says. “These things start peeling away from the excitement.”
4 exercises for building data tools that actually add value
To build meaningful, personalized data experience for every employee group, you need to know four things: Where the user is in your organization, what they’re doing, what they’re incentivized by, and what elements in their workdays change and/or lack clarity. We recommend completing this research before you start building.
1. Gut-check your data experience against people’s digital experiences outside of work.
Let user experiences outside the business to inform the way you design user experiences inside the business. For example, ESPN is one of my favorite apps, so I ask myself how ESPN shares data with sports fans. Or, think about Kayak, the travel booking site: How does Kayak lay out content in a way that anticipates visitors’ next question? On any app or website, when do you swipe left? When do you double click? When do you expect a pick list? Incorporating these familiar features into your data experience (when possible) can reduce friction in adopting new tools.
2. Spend a day in your user’s life.
For UI creators out there, this tactic is obvious, but it’s easy to skip or shortchange. For any user group you’re building for, shadow them for a day, whether virtually or in person. Your goal is to answer these questions:
- How does this person access data? Mobile, desktop, a combination, another method?
- When do they access data? Is it in a rush before a meeting? Is it a deep dive every Friday?
- What delivery mechanism do they choose to get data: a text message, a scheduled report, a PowerPoint, an app?
When you understand the user’s data context, you can cater the tool to their existing experience—again, reducing friction.
3. Bring your users into the design process.
Many people already have ideas about how they’d like to see their data presented. Have them sketch their visions out, and see what you can infer from the exercise. For instance, do they like charts, tables, pie graphs, or another type of visual? People lean toward different data experiences for a reason, and you can use this knowledge to help you build better. Of course, as UX designer knows, the closer you can get to someone’s vision, the more likely they’ll be to adopt it.
One caveat: Ideally, the experiences you create for different teams will still have some common elements, whether or not these features align with a group’s exact preferences. Your role as a designer is to manage this balance between individual preferences and companywide consistency.
4. Keep it simple and iterate.
As data designers, we want to deliver the Tesla experience on v1—but this is a waste of time. The approach we’ve found gets the strongest adoption is starting with the simplest thing possible and iterating over time.
Start by asking your user group what decisions they make on a regular basis that require insight and data. Make a list together and rank-order them. Start with #1 and iterate until you nail it. Then you can move on to the next.
You might worry that you’ll end up having to build thousands of unique user experiences—but don’t. We’ve noticed that, over time, you’ll develop three or four standardized experiences that make sense for your organization and can be tweaked for teams’ changing use cases. To learn about these standard experiences, make sure to tune into the full webinar and let us know what you create.