Build a Great User Experience, and They Will Come

Pretty charts and fancy colors don’t make for a dependable user experience.

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I’ve worked with many very talented data and business analysts who think that providing a “high quality user experience” means delivering analytics in super creative ways. That is, using every possible iteration of the data in every possible chart – bar charts, pie charts, bubble charts, heat maps, geo maps, etc. Oh, and don’t forget the corporate colors and fancy logos. The more artistic the UI, the more it will catch people’s eye, and therefore, the more people will use the analytics, right? WRONG!

To Qlik, the definition of user experience is all about how a person feels when interacting with the application – start to finish. Is it easy to use and navigate? Does it help me get to the insights intuitively and efficiently? Is it pleasant to work with? Is the application useful? Think about the applications you use every day – on your computer, tablet or phone – and which ones you enjoy using so much you almost try to find excuses to be in the app. That’s how you want your users to feel about the analytical applications you build, but how do you make that happen?

To understand more about how to develop the right user experience, I spent time with our own Certified Designer in Qlik Consulting Services, Desi Reuben-Sealey, who specializes in user experience.  Desi has been with Qlik for over two years, but focusing on user experience for almost eight years.

When used in context of analytics, most people immediately assume a good user experience requires a web mashup. Per Desi, user experience can be created on any UI, but most people have become so accustomed to using web-based applications in their daily lives that this is what makes them feel most comfortable and at ease. Making an app “usable” is not the same as creating a “user experience.” However, it is also important to point out that you can’t have a great user experience without the app being simplistic enough to be understood. 

Desi shared stories of companies who have invested lots of time and money to build what they perceive will be an excellent user experience. Most want or require that the final application to be accessible via a tablet or cell phone, so going in they anticipate delivering the analytics through a web application. They spend considerable time with their users to understand the analytics they would need and what data sources would provide the right insights, then devote the majority of their development on building the analytics. Only after that, either internally or by contracting someone, they take the already developed analytics and simply drop them into a web mashup.

This situation Desi described, he said, is very typical. The users, in theory, get exactly what they asked for, but not what they expected. It ends up being a bunch of pretty charts that happen to be on an HTML page, accessible from a mobile device, but not intuitive nor user friendly.   

When they engage Desi to do a user experience workshop, a company’s first assumption is they need to re-design their analytics. But Desi focuses on different questions, like “who would use the app?”, “how will they use it?”, “where will they be using it?” and “what will they be using to access it?” He assumes they already identified the analytics that were needed, so focuses instead on ensuring the users have an exceptional experience. He helps identify flaws from their first attempt, but more importantly, he helps define a development roadmap they could easily deploy going forward. 

Which brings me to the conclusion of this first installment on user experience.  In my next post, we’ll learn from Desi how to go about developing and deploying a great user experience while building your first analytics application, including knowing when you should invest in a web application and when it just doesn’t make sense for your situation.

To learn more on how Qlik Consulting can help you design a great user experience for your Qlik apps, visit qlik.com/consulting.

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