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Mobile BI Design Framework: Design Elements

by Kaan Turnali, Global Senior Director, BI, SAPTuesday, January 28, 2014

The advent of the mouse and large screen-dependent design elements of the PC era influenced the makeup of traditional business intelligence (BI) solutions. Similarly, mobile BI comes with its own design elements that replace the mouse with touch screens, which merge the input and output components into a single device.

The “mobile BI design framework” promotes the idea that mastering these mobile design elements can benefit mobile developers (not just mobile BI teams) in order to deliver on the promise of mobile.

Here are several key design elements that I’ll cover in more detail in this series.

Real Estate Is King in Mobile Design

Just as the saying goes “There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location,” the screen on a mobile device is the most valuable design property. We view the content on it, and maybe more importantly, we use it to interact with our mobile device by coming into contact with it (tap, swipe) for all of our mobile interactions.

This constitutes a major change for a typical PC user and developer who is accustomed to using separate devices (mouse, keyboard, touchpad) to send instructions versus viewing the data (external monitor, laptop screen). Maximizing this limited real estate is crucial to mobile design.

It’s All About Designing for Fat Fingers

When using a mobile device, we typically don’t employ any external device. Without such a steering wheel, per se, our fingers are left to perform all of the tasks related to driving on a mobile screen. There are no clicks in the mobile world— instead, we navigate by tapping on the screen or making other gestures that are the equivalent of performing arts for our fingers as we convey instructions to the mobile device.

Hence, we need to remember to design for the “fat finger”, or outlier. . Unlike a glove that may come in different sizes, the glove for mobile must be one size fits all.

The Consistency Principle Accelerates the Learning Curve

Our design must be consistent so we can leverage what I refer to as the “Teach Once and Use Many Times” concept. The idea is a simple one: If you build consistent stacks (micro components of your design such as choice of color for text, how you display additional detail, or organize your content), then the mobile user becomes familiar with how each micro component (stack) works.

Familiarity can lead to consumption of your solutions with ease and confidence, which is a prerequisite for increased adoption. Don’t underestimate the impact of the consistency principle, especially for users who may not be tech savvy.

Designing for Utility Value vs. Visual Appeal

There’s a big difference between a mobile user interface (UI) or user experience (UX) that’s designed to deliver “utility value” for mobile (like utility in economics) and one that’s designed to enhance visual appeal.

Some argue that these two pieces don’t have to compete against each other, but the reality is that operational efficiency requires a greater focus on execution, which may offer limited options for desired visual appeal. This disparity becomes even more evident when you consider your audience and its mobile requirements (for example, C-level executives as opposed to analysts).

Don’t Make Me Guess, Chase, or Assume

We need to approach every part of our design with a mindset determined to eliminate all of the possible mobile BI “design infections” that force the user to guess, chase, or make assumptions about the mobile BI content. These infections can contaminate not only the functionality, but also the actual layout and presentation of data.

If the goal of mobile BI is to enable faster, better-informed business decisions, there’s nothing more detrimental than causing the user to speculate about data—mobile or not. This point is so important that I always emphasize it in my lectures.

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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