All Articles by Date

What’s the #1 way you can simplify your service?

By Brian T. O'Neill | August 21, 2016

Ok, you probably know this one, but let’s dig in a little farther. I recently started to explore using the TORBrowser when surfing on public wi-fi for more security (later finding out that using a VPN, and not TOR, is what will enable safer surfing). However, in the process of downloading and trying the TORBrowser … Read more

(3) ways to use your analytics to simplify form field entry

By Brian T. O'Neill | June 21, 2016

Do you have some good analytics that could be helping customers out….if they gave you the right inputs up front? Today’s lesson is about using your analytics to facilitate the process of completing a form that requires users to type in specific values to complete a task. I work on technical and analytics-driven products frequently, … Read more

Toilet bowl with cash money in it

(4) Reasons reverse-engineering data into use cases for data products is costly and risky

By Brian T. O'Neill | May 21, 2016

On a lot of analytics-driven projects, I am told by my clients that there are many possible use cases or user stories that the design needs to support. Why so many? I think it stems from the fact that products and companies are collecting more and more data, and so the logical assumption is that there … Read more

Beware the dreaded “reporting section” in your analytics service

By Brian T. O'Neill | April 21, 2016

“That stuff probably belongs in the reporting section.” I’ve heard that one before. There’s probably a better approach. Remember: it’s not really about “analytics” — it’s about providing information to help your customers make better decisions. Shoveling your analytics into the “reporting section” can easily become a dumping ground for “stuff that might be useful” … Read more

What’s my #1 engineering bias to overcome when designing good analytics products?

By Brian T. O'Neill | March 21, 2016

I’ve worked with a lot of talented engineers in my 20+ years of designing websites and software. One of the things about analytics that can trip up some engineers: imperfect data, conclusions, and evidence. Analytics tools rarely provide exact answers, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t value to your customers. If your data, analytics, or … Read more

“Post-truth,” data analytics, and omissions–are these design considerations?

By Brian T. O'Neill | February 21, 2016

Post-truth. The 2016 word of the year. Yikes for some of us. This got me thinking about UX around data, analytics, and information, and what it means when we present conclusions or advice based on quantitative data. Are those “facts”? If your product generates actionable information for customers, then during your design phase, your team … Read more

Does your data answer real customer questions, or the ones your data model supports?

By Brian T. O'Neill | January 21, 2016

I worked on a project with two sociologists from the Future of Music Coalition a couple years ago. They conducted the first large-scale formal survey on musicians’ revenue streams to help answer the question “how do working musicians make a living?” It was a really fantastic project funded in part by the Doris Duke Charitable … Read more

How can good design help you raise investment capital and increase monthly SAAS revenue?

By Brian T. O'Neill | December 21, 2015

At some point, you probably visited if you’re on my mailing list, and you might have read a cast study about one of my startup clients, Apptopia hired me to help them turn a suffering marketplace business into a thriving mobile app intelligence platform based on analytics. If you aren’t familiar with this company, Apptopia … Read more

What can my teapot teach you about designing for analytics?

By Brian T. O'Neill | November 21, 2015

My teapot, or rather the water heater, helps me make great tea, based on the type of tea I want to drink. It also was a reminder for me about how good design means translating quantitative values into qualitative values people can relate to: As a tea drinker, my goal isn’t to heat the water … Read more

Want a Silver-quality analytics product? Use Agile. Want Gold? Read on.

By Brian T. O'Neill | October 21, 2015

Agile software development is everywhere. You’re probably using some form of it yourself. And, that’s probably good, assuming you’re actually delivering value with agility. These days, I constantly hear about how “shipping working code” sooner trumps everything else. When it comes to designing for analytics though, I don’t always agree. It’s hard to build and ship … Read more

The #1 problem I see with clients trying to design good analytics products

By Brian T. O'Neill | September 21, 2015

When it comes to analytics products that need to show data to customers, one of the biggest misconceptions I see with clients is the believe that their trove of data is actually ​information, by default. Your data is not informative until it has been presented–i.e. designed–in a way that customers can inform their future decisions or actions. … Read more

What’s wrong with the analytics in the NEST thermostat’s monthly report?

By Brian T. O'Neill | August 21, 2015

It’s homework time! Let’s talk about NEST (Thermostat) for a minute. In particular, their monthly report. I have a thermostat and hot water radiators in my house (no central air). Each month, the NEST device sends me a report of how I did in terms of energy use etc. How good is this report? Hmmm. … Read more

Is your product producing automated insights/recommendations based on…fluff?

By Brian T. O'Neill | July 21, 2015

Ah, fluff. It’s a great word, and it was actually born in its marshmallow form just a mile away in Somerville, MA. There’s even a fluff festival. A few weeks ago, we talked about the various levels of maturity that an analytics-driven product can go through, with the Holy Grail being one that delivers actionable, useful … Read more

Here’s one of the simplest ways to simplify complex analytics

By Brian T. O'Neill | June 21, 2015

This design “no-no” appears almost every time a new client [with a product that displays analytics] asks me to review their UI/UX. More often than not, I’m not provided with any relevant user tasks/usage contexts by which I can do my evaluation, but clients still want my opinion on what could be better, or what they’re … Read more

What happens when you use templates for dashboards and analytics products?

By Brian T. O'Neill | June 21, 2015

I hear it all the time on Quora, in real life, and from clients: “What BI tool should we use to visualize our data? Is there a good dashboard template you know of?” When it comes to designing analytics products and dashboards, templates and libraries aren’t necessarily bad, if you have spent the time to … Read more

Maybe your product’s problem is information *underload*

By Brian T. O'Neill | May 21, 2015

We’ve all heard about information overload, and the paradox of choice. Don’t you love those thai menus with every type of sauce, noodle, and protein, all written out as separate dishes? “I’ll have item D132 with no water chestnuts….no, I mean the one with chicken on page 12….yeah, that one.” There’s a ton of data … Read more

Do you have a metrics toilet on your hand?

By Brian T. O'Neill | March 21, 2015

When I work on products that primarily exist to display analytics information, I find most of them fall into roughly four different levels of design maturity: The best analytics-driven products give actionable recommendations or predictions written in prose telling a user what to do based on data.  They are careful about the quantity and design of the … Read more