Data, Analytics and Design Together
I’ve been working with our company design team a lot recently. It’s been fun crafting some infographics, pulling together some research portal designs and generally watching them work their magic.
I’ve also been thinking about how data and analytics aren’t really thought of in the same sphere as design.
I mean, there are a lot of infographics out there and nifty looking charts but I get the impression that these are interpretations by a clever design group rather than the collaboration between the analytical people and designers.
After all, you don’t hear much about ‘design’ when people write long feature articles about big data.
However, as social platforms offer companies the potential for collaboration and the social enterprise (as SalesForce likes to call it) starts to mature, I can see oodles of benefits to designers and coders and analysts and researchers all working together.
I respect a lot of the design work by our team, partly because it looks phenomenal but mainly because they tend to approach everything from a users point of view. I often hear our lead designer describe a microsite or a landing page in terms of how the user would interact with the content. Not so much about the SEO factors or the coding efficiency — although those things are still important. Instead, our designers seem to put themselves in the user’s position and try to design accordingly.
Research and data information sharing in businesses would do really well by thinking about their ‘products’ in much the same way. Who is going to be using the information? How will they use it?
Our company recently re-engineered some internal tools for information and I took the opportunity to redesign the in-house research portal.
Part of my job is to curate, maintain and update our worldwide research portal — which I see as a crucial component to getting people information faster regardless of their location. As I was thinking about the layout, I kept trying to imagine a new user going through the portal and trying to find information. I wanted it to be as simple as possible for anyone looking for a particular data set. I don’t know if I got it right, only time will tell, but the role of the user really important. Research isn’t much good if no one can find or use it.
As analysts, researchers and analytics people build the next generation of ‘information sharing’ tools whether it’s a database or some data visualization or a portal, there is a lot to be gained by thinking like a designer and considering the user. In fact, now seems like a great time to get away from that spreadsheet or database and share your morning coffee with the design team. Chances are, they’ll have some great insights on building tools with the user in mind and your information ‘product’ will be better for it.