According to a recent study by Google, 57 percent of all users now leverage more than one type of device on an average day. This is only expected to grow in the years to come.
For the developers and product managers who are embedding business intelligence in their applications, this trend toward multiple screens and mobile devices has introduced a whole new set of challenges. Mobile business intelligence requires a whole new set of skills—both in terms of dashboard design and developing scalable dashboards for a variety of screen sizes.
But creating responsive analytics means more than making sure your dashboards look good on any device. It means you have to design dashboards from the ground up with mobile business intelligence in mind.
Of course, mobile screens aren’t new. And many development teams think they have a handle on what it takes to design an effective responsive dashboard.
Here, we outline the four most common misconceptions about designing responsive dashboards for mobile business intelligence.
#1: Responsive Is Not a Given
Yes, responsive design is critically important in today’s mobile-first world—but that doesn’t mean it’s right for every scenario. Some applications simply aren’t conducive to mobile use and should be confined to desktops and other single-location environments.
In other cases, many of your application’s features may be great for mobile, but some may not be useful on a mobile device. Spending resources making those features responsive is a poor use of time and money.
Before you design your responsive dashboards, make sure every element and the application as a whole is delivering clear value to the user.
#2: Hiding Content Helps Your Users
You don’t have to display an entire content block with all its text on every mobile business intelligence interface. Instead, you can input a clickable icon that pops up the full text when pressed.
Consider a data grid that has 100 columns. You might not want to serve that to a mobile audience. Instead, consider giving them a small snippet—just the important information in a mobile context.
To hide analytics content, utilize pop-up windows and sliding trays. This has the added bonus of speeding up load times—and as any developer knows, poor performance is a killer for application engagement.
#3: Negative Space Is Positive
Negative space (also called white space) is a crucial element of all dashboard design. For mobile interfaces, this may seem paradoxical: How can you afford to leave space blank when you’re trying to fit all your relevant content on a four-inch screen? But in reality, negative space is especially important for responsive dashboards. It increases readability and breaks up blocks of elements.
Leaving space between objects also makes the application easier to use on small screens. Consider a user who has big fingers and has trouble using applications that don’t have adequate spacing between elements. He’ll wind up pressing buttons and links that he never intended intend to hit, which can be very frustrating.
CSS properties such as margin and padding can also accentuate a specific element’s importance. In a dashboard, for instance, surrounding a particular statistic or chart with more negative space makes it stand out to the user.
#4: Don’t Base Your Design on a Larger Dashboard
It’s time to start designing your responsive analytics. If you have some existing desktop dashboards, you should start with those as the basis, right?
Not quite. You’re better off starting from scratch and designing for the smallest screen first. In most cases, this will be a smartphone.
Starting on a small screen forces you to prioritize content, choosing only what is most important, rather than paring down content from a robust desktop app with seemingly unlimited screen space. This method also allows you to add more content and features as the screens get larger, rather than removing elements as you go smaller.