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Business Charts & Dashboards

Research users needs, redesign 100's of financial dashboards with custom charts, for business product & program managers, executives, and stakeholders to the Fortune 50 software corporation for reporting to executive management - work with several managers in different LOB to achieve their goals.

Case Study
by Linda Lane
Sr UX Research & Design Manager

Photo by tbd on Unsplash

Project Brief

Research and update the designs of charts, reports, and dashboards for a leading global software company. The users are a variety of 7 persona roles of business managers, leads, and project managers, working on system integration for enterprise customer companies and partners, for the Cloud, and other integrations. The project is in India English.

A Fortune 50 software company needs ongoing information regarding the current status of all integration projects for their clients. These visual reports are consumed by a host of managers, including the development managers, and reporting chain of 7 personas of business managers, reporting to the executive branch of the company. These allow management to provide more resources and recognize patterns of success, so that they can be replicated. Charts also confirm compliance in processes for each integration project. 

 

The information used to create the dashboard charts is a combination of information automatically collected by software and combined with individual reports downstream. From there the information is interpreted,compiled into charts within dashboards through Power BI.

 

Included in the team's backend goals are to remove manual financial and tracking information and automate it.

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Bullet chart, indicating project status, from an idea that was superceeded in style, in favor of other designs

Problem statement

Out-of-date charts and dashboards need updating with contemporary designs available in Power BI to display current status of integration software development projects based worldwide, many in India. Different business units have unique needs that may be dissimilar, but much of the resulting content displays in the same way. Bring the content from all upstream sources, and combine with regularly updated content that is manually reported. Make it possible to send email notifications directly from the interface by managers and executives during review cycles to alert team members to missing compliance confirmations or next steps. Include all managers' input without overloading the pages.

Like nearly every data collection to information technique both the input and the outputs change over time. With updates to both, and the display software used by product managers, employing Power Bi, known for its ease of use, the output needed to be updated. To this end, I was contracted to perform the research, prepare design suggestions, advise on 4 projects, and supervise a developer to produce charts and dashboards for a one-year contract. 
 

Another development and design team was already tasked with some of this work, and my role was to provide senior-level research advice and design suggestions to them as well as to produce new ideas for 3 groups and 5 managers. I was also asked to do the same for 2 additional team managers on an as-needed basis.
 

The first 2 person management team was based in the US but the other managers, teams, and my developer were located in India. So after starting on Pacific Standard Time (PST), I moved to India Standard Time (IST) to make the project run more smoothly. 

The key problems were the density of the information, what must be included on the dashboard pages, how to increase engagement with chart content while reducing the amount of content on individual dashboard pages, how users interact with it, and how to prepare their systems, and sign up to use the program.

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Pproposed simple landing page, program identity, icons (Font Awesome), links, of several versions

Goals

  • Create and improve overall charts and dashboard designs, for different units working with managers' direction, to include more content on increasingly dense charts communicating current status and analysis.

  • Make the charts and dashboards as legible as possible.

  • Find innovative ways to make the content work for color-blind users but not dull for sighted users.

  • Make registration clear and easy to do.

  • Enable send email option when key inputs are not meeting scheduled dates to alert compliance for data tracking points.

  • Key requirement - increase the speed of loading the display.

Role

  • UX Researcher - conducting interviews and surveys

  • UX Product Designer - using a variety of tools, make presentations of results

  • Project Manager - keep the projects rolling regardless of gaps such as holidays, lack of information, reduced access to decision-makers, or input from stakeholders

Timeline

Project Inception
June 2021

User research begins

Personas outlined

User Interviews start

Design begins
Research plan completed

Heuristic reviews

Competitive research

Business analysis

Wireframing

Write use cases

Design UI elements

Another project begins 
Research interviews start

Offishore team interaction begins

Business process descriptions

Design analysis

Learn Power BI graphics

Style Guides

Brief UX advising project begins
Research starts

UX Writing

Research interviews end

Advise on testing

User test survey written

Brief UX advising project ends

Written report guidance

User test survey done

Redesign Elements

Write presentations

Email app design & code complete

Testing complete

New site published

Collect user feedback

Projects End
May 2022

10 Months

Managers, team members, developers, worked so well together we delivered the project complete 2 months early

Projected Project End
July 2022

Tools

Microsoft - Power BI, PowerPoint, Figma, Word, Teams, Video conferencing, SharePoint, Outlook

Target Audience

The users are a variety of 7 persona roles of business managers, executives, leads, project and program managers, worldwide.

60+

Dashboards with approximately 10 charts per page, updated every day or on demand

6K+

7 types of program and project managers, power users mostly internal to the corporation

1

st

Improvement of production information tested & found highest rated for 'at a glance usability'

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Responsibilities

Manage developer, research user's needs, create UX artifacts to inform project, create original user experience designs, refine user interface designs, write surveys, advise on testing. Update the request for access form, and the initial landing page, by streamlining the content to reduce confusion, for example, about what the support choices offered are. 

Design Recommendations

Many of my recommendations are to modernize the user interface to bring both the charts and the dashboards into line with contemporary design styles, within the limits of what the current version of Power BI can do out of the box.

 

The process began by interviewing executives, senior product managers, about what they require, and nice to haves, then request access to regular users in order to interview them. Generally but not always the senior managers know what the rank and file product team managers want and need - clear graphic references with more space, clean colors, and easy to navigate pages that display status of location within the tracking system for all the projects in the pipeline, and access to all prior projects within a set timeframe. 

There was also a focus on making these dashboards and charts easier to read for colorblind individuals.

 

There are different types of color blindness; deuteranopia and protanopia color blindness are the most common. Here in high tech users may have achromatopsia, characterized by a partial or total absence of color vision. People with complete achromatopsia cannot perceive any colors - they see only black, white, and shades of gray. 

We settled on increasing the standard page size to match laptop resolutions and use color in high contrast ratios with strong differences in tones, tints, and shades, with labels and shapes, to indicate differences in charts, tables, on dashboards in legends. Using patterns would make the dense chart presentations too difficult to read. All charts and dashboards were also specified to be expandable with a click.

By focusing on a discernable difference in the values of color (dark to light) it doesn't matter what colors were used, but for color-sighted individuals, the palettes were still enjoyable, and colorblind people can see the differences as well.

 

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A completed typical dashboard page, program identifiers, navigation at top, feedback to the right, with 7 consumption charts, a trend chart, and reason chart, followed by a table. 

Still to come...
 

Design Process

Discover

Define

Ideate

Design

Testing
Revise
Publish

Research

Strategy

User Experience

User Interface

User Testing
 

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