Making a business intelligence application user-friendly and usable are obvious goals, but how do we go about translating those requirements to actual screen elements? What can we do to engage and fascinate our users even before they get to the actual data elements?
One easy way to ensure user satisfaction is to pay plenty of attention to how navigation works in your business intelligence application. I’ve designed more BI systems than I can remember, and can tell you that it’s all too easy to not pay any attention at all to how the users actually browse and pull up data. Most of the time, project teams blindly adopt the existing controls of the toolkit or simply mirror the database elements without any further thought of the navigation structure or layout.
So what does one do about their navigation?
Yes, there are whole areas of specialization having to do with information architecture, wayfaring, usability, user experience, library science, taxonomy, – the list goes on and on. But how realistic is it to expect an expert in these areas to fall out of the sky and into the cubicle next to you?
I think that the best place to start is for you to review as many business intelligence interfaces as possible and get a sense of what you like and dislike in user navigation elements. Here are a couple of resources to get you going:
As you browse through the examples and screenshots, look for interesting navigation solutions.
For example, take a look at this interesting example of a 2010 World Cup dashboard:
You can try the navigation on the live dashboard at:
Hover over the labels on the “wheel” and pay particular attention to what other elements “light up” as you switch focus.
This is a great example of how to make navigation “fun” for your users and really draw them in to your application.
What do you think?
The Dashboard Spy