When designing a dashboard, the first priority is to sit down with the end users and focus on the goal of the dashboard and what information is required to be able to achieve that goal. Once that is clear, you can start with designing the logical structure and workflow of the dashboard, in other words, what storyline makes sense? With this user-centered approach, you’ll cover the basics to create a dashboard that is usable. In this context, usability means that the user can achieve its goal efficiently, effectively and in a satisfactory matter.
If a dashboard is not usable, there is no point in making it. But if a dashboard is just usable, there is still a chance people won’t use it. So not only usability is in play here. Nowadays it becomes more and more clear that the design itself, in the sense of look and feel, is a big player in the actual user adoption of products. So if a dashboard is not only functional but also looks good and is fun to use, then you’ll see users tend to use it more often and for the long term.
Now how can we apply this to an IBCS compliant dashboard?
As mentioned in the introduction, a user needs to be able to achieve its goal efficiently, effectively and in a satisfactory matter. Can that be achieved by applying the SUCCESS formula?
The SAY rule forces you to think about the goal of the visualization and the report as a whole. This helps you to add only relevant components and thereby applying the SIMPLIFY rule.
When you know what content you need, you can think about the proper visualization, EXPRESS and CHECK.
This is really the first step in the dashboard creation process mentioned in the introduction. The next step would be to organize the content in a logical way, STRUCTURE. With this, it is important to show visualizations related to each other in the same view. This is what the CONDENSE rule is about.
However, in my opinion, you should never underestimate the effect of white space. This is one of the crucial things that is missing in IBCS. Without the use of white space, your dashboard can get too cluttered, preventing the consumer to take it all in. So it is important to find the right balance in exposing the end user to a digestible amount of content.
So in general, the SUCCESS rules will help you create a good foundation for your dashboard. And by applying the semantic notations, UNIFY, there will be no confusion as to what something means as similar content is visualized in a similar manner.
By using all these rules together, but by going a bit against the condense rule by applying white space, you can create a dashboard with which the end user can achieve its goal efficiently and effectively.
Look and feel
From a data point of view, IBCS does very well as was just discussed in the Usability section. But as you may have noticed, I did not mention the satisfactory part in achieving the goal, just efficiently and effectively. The reason? From a look and feel point of view, an IBCS compliant dashboard kind of lacks joie de vivre.
When you first lay your eyes upon a dashboard that is compliant with IBCS, you can get a bit of a depressing feeling. Most of it is black and white, grey, and if you see any color, it means you need to do something with it. It is very functional, just not very fun, to make or to use.
It is almost as if we are back in the faxing machine age, it does not look modern. So unless you have big nostalgia towards the past, I can imagine you are not exactly jumping up and down to use a dashboard like that. It is important things excite you. So while it is good to use the SUCCESS formula, it is even better to make the dashboard more interesting by adding a few visual fun interests that don’t distract the end user from the actual data in the dashboard.
So how can you apply all the above in dashboards?
As mentioned in a previous blog, for Lumira Designer the extension of Graphomate is available to easily make visualizations that comply with the Standards proposed by the IBCS® Association.
As for the look and feel, in Lumira Designer you as a developer can have a big influence on small things as it offers more visual components such as icons and you can do styling via CSS to create more interest. In general, making it look modern is a big plus. For visual effects and a modern look, think about a smooth transition between pages, a nice-looking menu, a small transition effect when clicking a button, using icons instead of buttons with text, etc. Users notice these small things, and these small things make them happy and will increase the user adoption.
As SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is an IBCS certified solution, creating visualizations that comply with the standards should be no problem. As for the look and feel, in SAC you have less creative freedom to liven up your dashboard compared to Lumira Designer, but it can be done. Luckily SAC itself already looks modern, and it is up to the developer to make sure the dashboard does as well. As you don’t want to distract the user from the content of the dashboard, it is wise to stick to a certain section to add some interest and not all over the place. For instance, you could create a nice-looking header, in color, and add a ‘welcome user’ message to make it a bit more personal.
At McCoy & Partners we not only have highly experienced BI consultants that can create technically sturdy dashboards, but together with our UX team we make sure our dashboards are worthwhile. Interested in taking your dashboards and the user adoption to the next level? You can contact us here.