Application users are increasingly mobile: Nurses access patient information on a tablet. Manufacturing workers review machine downtime data on the floor. Sales managers look at their latest forecasts while on the road.
If your application has embedded dashboards and reports, they need to work on every mobile device regardless of screen size. But effective mobile analytics design means more than resizing a couple charts. Designing responsive mobile analytics requires a whole new set of skills, both in terms of dashboard design and scaling for a variety of screen sizes.
Let’s look at the best practices for designing mobile BI (business intelligence)—along with one of the biggest pitfalls.
Best Practices for Mobile Analytics Design
#1: Show only relevant information
If you include too much content or present content with an overly complex design, your end users may not bother using your analytics at all. Less is more for mobile BI design. Consider the information your end users truly need. If you’re designing a dashboard for a sales team, for example, don’t include visualizations on marketing campaign channels. Placing sales and marketing metrics together will only confuse users with information they don’t really need.
#2: Hide some content
Every piece of information doesn’t need to appear on your mobile dashboard all at once. Don’t be afraid to let users drill down into some data points. Utilize icons, pop-up windows, sliding trays, and other expandable areas to show longer blocks of text as users dive deeper. Selectively showing content also has the added bonus of speeding up load times—and as any developer knows, poor performance is a killer for application engagement.
#3: Embrace white space
Determining where to put every element of your embedded analytics is an important undertaking that can make or break the success of your mobile dashboard. Negative space (or white space) is a crucial element of dashboard design of any type. It increases readability and breaks up blocks of information. Adding padding between objects also makes the application easier to use on the smaller screens of mobile devices.
#4: Use iconography
Content isn’t limited to data and charts. To support a great user experience, especially on a mobile device, application teams are using icons in navigation panes and reports. Icons are typically small graphic images, sometimes accompanied by a one- or two-word description. They help users easily navigate analytics, understand exactly what they’re looking at, and quickly discern what action to take.
#1 Pitfall of Mobile BI Design: Starting with your desktop experience
When it’s time to design your responsive analytics, your first inclination may be to start with the desktop dashboards you already have. But you’re actually 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. You have to choose only the most important elements, rather than paring down content from a robust desktop application with seemingly unlimited screen space. This method also allows you to add more content and features as the screen gets larger, rather than removing elements as it gets smaller.
Looking for more mobile analytics best practices? Read the ebook on Designing Responsive Dashboards >