What internal analytics practitioners can learn from analytics “products” (like SAAS)


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:

  1. 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 supporting data that drove the insights and recommendations being displayed, and they elegantly balance information density, usability, and UX.
  2. The next tier of products are separated from the top tier by the fact they're limited in their focus only on historical data and trends. They do not predict anything, however, they do try to provide logical affordances at the right time, and do not just focus on "data visualization."
  3. Farther down the continuum are products that have progress with visualizing their data, but haven't given UX as much attention.  It's possible for your product to have a *great* UI, and a terrible UX.  If customers cannot figure out "why do I need this?," "where do i go from here?," "is this good/bad?," or "what action should I take based on this information?," then the elegant data viz or UI you invested in may not be providing much value to your users.
  4. At the lowest end of the design maturity scale for analytics products are basic data-query tools that provide raw data exports, or minimally-designed table-style UIs. These tools require a lot of manual input and cognitive effort by the user to know how to properly request the right data and format (design!) it in some way that it becomes insightful and actionable. If you're an engineer or you work in a technical domain, the tendency with these UIs is to want to provide customers with "maximum flexibility in exploring the data." However, with that flexibility often comes a more confusing and laborious UI that few users will understand or tolerate. Removing choices is one of the easiest ways to simplify a design.One of my past clients used to call these products "metrics toilets," and I think that's a good name! Hopefully, you don't have a metrics toilet. *...Flush...*

What level is your product at right now?

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