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Mobile BI Design Framework: Consistency Principle

by Kaan Turnali, Global Senior Director, BI, SAPFriday, December 06, 2013

In mobile business intelligence (BI) design, the “consistency principle” is the most powerful tool to effectively deliver a mobile user experience. Developing components that are both consistent and repeatable greatly accelerates the “mobile learning curve,” leading to higher user adoption.

We apply the consistency principle at two levels:

  • The macro level occurs at-the-project or engagement level and covers all resources or artifacts that are used to deliver and support implementation of mobile assets (like user guides, communication, online stores, and support).
  • The micro level deals with the design of each individual mobile BI asset (like a report or dashboard).

Here are three key design fundamentals of the consistency principle.

Teach Once, Use Many Times

Each design component on a mobile BI asset, whether it involves a specific functionality or the use of a specific color/text, has to be developed and applied in a consistent manner throughout the same target mobile user interface (UI). Expanding this concept to the macro level, the application of the consistency principle will affect the entire portfolio or a specific set of reports. It will include every aspect of the delivery infrastructure, ranging from how mobile assets are accessed to how they’re downloaded or consumed.

By using a consistent design, we teach the user all they need to learn to consume the mobile BI asset at the first touch point. By re-using the same elements (buttons, links, swipes) and in the same context (use of colors or text), we have a chance to accelerate the learning curve. This approach significantly improves the “mobile user efficiency” because the user will be able to use many times what they’re taught at the beginning.

Simplicity Begets Consistency

In mobile BI design or implementation, I often observe that project teams hesitate to keep things simple. Don’t be afraid to simplify your design elements at every chance. Remember to simplify to the point that it makes sense both for the end user and for your back-end operations.

Many times, simplicity can provide the prerequisites to a consistent design because it compels us to use fewer parts, an approach that will force us to think creatively and methodically. Taking this simplicity approach is more beneficial than following the urge to build the most intricate solution possible.

Think for a moment about how this plays out in our everyday lives. How many of the features available on a TV, PC, or smartphone does an average user actually get around to using? Do most regular users even have time or a desire to explore all the other available features?

Don’t Design What You Can’t Explain

As simple as this might sound, this is one rule that, if it’s broken, can be the most costly mobile design infection because it can destroy trust.— a cornerstone of any business transaction or engagement, especially in the integration of business and technology.

This deficiency can surface anywhere in our design because it’s easily overlooked or taken for granted. It can be as basic as the location of a button on the screen (for example, placement near the close button results in frequent accidental exits) or the incorrect use of a color to highlight a specific text or number (for example, red for negative numbers on one page and positive numbers on another page).

In more serious cases, it may involve major differences for the same functionality that may be completely superfluous.

Bottom Line

Business users are always pressed for time, and businesses are continuously concerned about productivity. If the goal of mobile BI is to enable faster, better-informed decisions, there’s nothing that can help you get there that’s more powerful than applying the simplicity principle consistently to business and technology.

How do you see the consistency principle benefiting your mobile BI initiatives?

About the author:

Kaan Turnali is a Global Senior Director, Business Intelligence (BI), for SAP’s Global Customer Operations (GCO) Reporting & Analytics Platform, Kaan is responsible for the development, oversight, and execution of strategy for the BI platform across GCO’s worldwide user base. In addition, he manages special mobile BI projects for the Office of co-CEO Bill McDermott and the GCO senior management team. His background and experience in the integration of business and technology span over two decades. He is also an adjunct professor, teaching BI in the doctor of business administration program at Wilmington University. Read more at http://www.turnali.com/ or Follow @KaanTurnali on Twitter or on LinkedIn

Originally posted on The Decision Factor Blog

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