089 – Reader Questions Answered about Dashboard UX Design 

Experiencing Data with Brian T. O'Neill
Experiencing Data with Brian T. O'Neill
089 - Reader Questions Answered about Dashboard UX Design 

Dashboards are at the forefront of today’s episode, and so I will beresponding to some reader questions who wrote in to one of my weekly mailing list missives about this topic. I’ve not talked much about dashboards despite their frequent appearance in data product UIs, and in this episode, I’ll explain why. Here are some of the key points and the original questions asked in this episode:

  • My introduction to dashboards (00:00)
  • Some overall thoughts on dashboards (02:50)
  • What the risk is to the user if the insights are wrong or misinterpreted (4:56)
  • Your data outputs create an experience, whether intentional or not (07:13)
  • John asks:
    How do we figure out exactly what the jobs are that the dashboard user is trying to do? Are they building next year's budget or looking for broken widgets?  What does this user value today? Is a low resource utilization percentage something to be celebrated or avoided for this dashboard user today?  (13:05)
  • Value is not intrinsically in the dashboard (18:47)
  • Mareike asks:
    How do we provide Information in a way that people are able to act upon the presented Information?  How do we translate the presented Information into action? What can we learn about user expectation management when designing dashboard/analytics solutions? (22:00)
  • The change towards predictive and prescriptive analytics (24:30)
  • The upfront work that needs to get done before the technology is in front of the user (30:20)
  • James asks:
    How can we get people to focus less on the assumption-laden and often restrictive term "dashboard", and instead worry about designing solutions focused on outcomes for particular personas and workflows that happen to have some or all of the typical ingredients associated with the catch-all term "dashboards?” (33:30)
  • Stop measuring the creation of outputs and focus on the user workflows and the jobs to be done (37:00)
  • The data product manager shouldn’t just be focused on deliverables (42:28)


Quotes from Today’s Episode

  • “The term dashboards is almost meaningless today, it seems to mean almost any home default screen in a data product. It also can just mean a report. For others, it means an entire monitoring tool, for some, it means the summary of a bunch of data that lives in some other reports. The terms are all over the place.”- Brian (@rhythmspice) (01:36)
  • “The big idea here that I really want leaders to be thinking about here is you need to get your teams focused on workflows—sometimes called jobs to be done—and the downstream decisions that users want to make with machine-learning or analytical insights. ” - Brian (@rhythmspice) (06:12)

  • “This idea of human-centered design and user experience is really about trying to fit the technology into their world, from their perspective as opposed to building something in isolation where we then try to get them to adopt our thing.  This may be out of phase with the way people like to do their work and may lead to a much higher barrier to adoption.” - Brian (@rhythmspice) (14:30)

  • “Leaders who want their data science and analytics efforts to show value really need to understand that value is not intrinsically in the dashboard or the model or the engineering or the analysis.” - Brian (@rhythmspice) (18:45)

  • “There's a whole bunch of plumbing that needs to be done, and it’s really difficult. The tool that we end up generating in those situations tends to be a tool that’s modeled around the data and not modeled around [the customers] mental model of this space, the customer purchase space, the marketing spend space, the sales conversion, or propensity-to-buy space.” - Brian (@rhythmspice) (27:48)

  • “Data product managers should be these problem owners, if there has to be a single entity for this. When we’re talking about different initiatives in the enterprise or for a commercial software company, it’s really sits at this product management function.”  - Brian (@rhythmspice) (34:42)

  • “It’s really important that [data product managers] are not just focused on deliverables; they need to really be the ones that summarize the problem space for the entire team, and help define a strategy with the entire team that clarifies the direction the team is going in. They are not a project manager; they are someone responsible for delivering value.” - Brian (@rhythmspice) (42:23)
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