Design for all and all benefit: global user research


Our customer managed the creation and publishing of many business intelligence reports. In our first meeting I heard her say that she wanted a user research study to understand whether four specific reports her team was responsible for were still serving their users. The Creative Brief said we were doing a redesign and delivering wires and comps. We had 6 weeks, and I just found out that we didn't know anything about our users.  

Since our customer respected data, I suggested we start with a user research study which would give us the data we need to make an informed decision on how to proceed. She agreed, and we drew up the project plan below.





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Our team was small and distributed. Our customer was in the mid-west of the US, PM was in Ireland, and User Research & Visual Design were in Seattle. I was the lead researcher in a team of two. We interviewed 28 users worldwide via Skype. We observed them using the reports and asked about their pain points and wish lists. We focused on the user’s relationship to the data, and how they interact with the data to perform their jobs.




Findings and recommendations

Users of our four reports were regularly hunting for data in other reports. It became clear that a report would never make every user happy, and that these business intelligence reports in general had so many data dependencies that changing them would be a complex task. It was also apparent that users wanted more time to think about the data vs. looking for the data.

A question presented itself, "What could users do with the time they would gain if they had instant access to the insights they seek?"

Our recommendation was a paradigm shift: change the user's view of the report vs. changing the report. A way to keep these reports relevant in the future, we suggested, is to design a report landing page that is customizable to the persona and which is part tables, part data visualization of pinned insights.


Research study, part II

This sounded interesting to our customer, so she gave us another 6 weeks to study one report in greater depth. One of the goals of this study was to understand how the report would support/not support next year's fiscal scenarios. The other goal was to validate or adjust the proposed design. Our deliverables were the research report, wires and comps. This round we interviewed 13 participants in 11 days: Field (9), Finance (3) and Operations (1). In short, the data validated the hybrid design.


What major pain points does the hybrid design solve?

Data not in the report 50% of users would go to other reports for insights. 

Inaccuracy/ lack of faith in the numbers 35% of users would go to other reports to fact check numbers or pull numbers not in our reports.

Giving the user the ability to customize their view would help these reports serve their users better. The benefits of our design were users of a hybrid page would gain time to analyze, plan & strategize. The design also aligned with our customer's goal of encouraging self-service BI.


The hybrid design, v1


Great article discussing the broad advantages of designing for all: The Curb-Cut Effect