Creating a quality user experience in BI tools
Users of various BI tools place a high priority on their usability. They want to work with programs where they have a large degree of control of the outcome or visualization.
BI tools not only provide the person assembling a dashboard with the ability to interact with the data coming in, but also allows them to set up interactions that the end-user can have with the dashboard resulting in a higher quality of user experience. BI tools can allow the user to dig into the data if the dashboard designer desires.
User experience for the analyst
An analyst (or anyone else working with a BI tool) wants to be able to control and manipulate their data to have it in the optimal format for creating dashboards to communicate their objective.
Interaction with the data
BI tools offer ways for the user of the BI tool to transform their data to best prepare it for visualization.
Some ways in which BI tools offer interaction with the data include being able to import the data, join or append the data, make transformations, and output the data.
Once data has been brought into a BI tool the user can then interact with the data through the use of a number of different transformations. Some of these transformations include adding calculated columns, adding or removing columns, editing text, or any of a handful of other transformations.
Interacting with visualization tools
BI tools provide many different ways for those creating visualizations to interact and decide on what they feel is the best way to display their data.
Determining visualization type
BI tools allow users to choose from a significant number of charts or graphs ranging from the common bar or line charts to histograms, pie charts, Gantt charts, scatter plots, geographic maps, and many others.
The data being shown will help determine the type of visual used. Increasing familiarity with the different visuals available in BI tools can help those building dashboards to find ways to best present the data.
In addition to this, the user can format the graphs and charts to help improve the user experience.
One way this is done is through the effective use of colors. Colors can communicate a lot about the data a chart is representing. Likely the most common colors used for communication include green, yellow, and red. These colors provide an almost immediate visual understanding of how positive the data is.
Other colors used to help increase user satisfaction are colors that tie into the organization that is delivering the message.
For example, if a company has their business colors as blue and gray, the dashboard can include those colors as a theme with the background, charts, or numbers being one of those colors.
Use of size and space
The size and spacing of your dashboard can also impact the user experience. Humans are drawn to larger objects that are presented at the beginning of a page. When creating a dashboard, you’ll want to place the most important visualizations and metrics at the top of the page. If a metric is extremely important, consider enlarging it to catch the eye of your end-user.
For example, if a sales organization has a dashboard to track current bookings vs forecasts, it might include a large line chart at the top of the dashboard comparing the two measures. Since sales leaders care about certain metrics that measure efficiency, they group these KPIs together and the top of the dashboard.
Applying labels and text
Labeling the data also can also be important as it helps maximize the speed at which the end-user interprets the data.
An example of this is adding axis labels to a line chart in order to indicate the period of time that a chart covers. Dynamic titles can also be included that can change whenever the user drills down or adds a filter to the data. For example, the title of the chart could include the time horizons — such as what year or quarter — making it much easier for the end user to analyze.
Limiting interactions for the end-user
Those building dashboards may on occasion want to show the data in a visual but not show the data that powers those visuals, meaning they want the end-user to get a general understanding but not be able to delve into the specifics of the data.
BI tools offer ways to limit the data available to the end-user. One way data can be limited is by only showing data that is applicable to a specific person. For example, if a regional manager at a company is over the western states and should only be able to see the data for their area, this is possible. Any data outside of the western states would not be visible to them but would be for others in those regions.
User experience for the end-user
The goal for the one developing the visualization or dashboard is to present it or make it available to someone else. Their goal is to make the dashboard as user-friendly as possible and to aid the end-user in their attempt to understand and make sense of the information.
Increasing engagement and interactivity with the end-user
For the end-user to get the most out of the visual, adding the ability to interact with the data is important. The addition of filters allows the user to find the data that they may feel is most relevant to them.
Another feature that can help the user better understand the data is the addition of other graphs, charts, or tables that they can drill down into. This feature will allow the user to click on a metric in one visual and then be directed to another visual that has more data behind the one they started on. This can continue for as many levels as the developer wants and feels is necessary to communicate the information to the end-user.
Improving user experience through effective storytelling
A visualization tells a story. It communicates performance, a situation, expectation, or some other kind of description of what has happened or may happen.
Having this clear objective helps the end user understand quickly the purpose of the dashboard rather than having them take time to figure out what is trying to be communicated. One important way of aiding in this is having effective titles for the dashboard and individual visuals.
Being descriptive with data
Understanding that data tells a story can allow you to create extremely engaging dashboards and BI content. If this content is going to be viewed by hundreds of end-users, it’s important to explicitly state the problems the dashboard is trying to solve, and what data is being used to create it. By being explicit, you can ensure that end-users understand and trust your solution. As they better understand the data, they will become more curious about the different insights they can gain from interacting with the BI solution.
Modern BI helps create a unique and interactive end-user experience. Audiences of all types can easily consume data content through reports, visualizations, and dashboards. Even better, modern BI tools are so intuitive that they are easy to get started with, no matter your level of experience or technical expertise. Business users can feel comfortable connecting to and using their data in the BI tool, creating unique insights for their teams and your business.