With half of the world's businesses expected to embrace the bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend by 2017 and more than 80% of employees already using personal devices in the workplace, it's more important than ever to make your business intelligence mobile-enabled. In surveying our customers, arcplan has found that those deploying mobile BI cite the need to deploy apps to many devices while maintaining a consistent design and low maintenance effort. So our next platform release this Fall is built on the concept of DORA – Design Once, Run Anywhere – the ability to create BI apps one time and have them automatically adapt their layouts to appear optimized on the end user's device. And in today's world, that can be a huge range of devices:
But even with DORA, dashboard designers need to do some work. The process involves laying out the dashboard elements for each screen size up front so the application can call up the optimized format. So let's review a few things you'll want to keep in mind as you design your company's mobile dashboards.
Think about the context in which the mobile dashboard will be used. Your users are likely going to use the app in bursts – when traveling to an appointment or walking around on the plant floor – so you'll want to accommodate that type of usage with design modifications. If your desktop dashboard has 6 charts, stack them on top of each other in the mobile version. This keeps each chart large enough to be understood on the smallest device without too much zooming.
Mobile devices are not designed for heavy analysis. There's a reason you don't see ad-hoc reporting being done on an iPad – it's simply not a good idea to try to drag-and-drop rows and columns on such a device. Their forte is quick consumption of data. Your mobile dashboard should have limited functionality – usually just drill-down, filters, and data entry if need be. You should employ large filters for quick status checks and live tiles for highly relevant updates.
You should also consider how your navigation may need to be adjusted from the desktop dashboard to the mobile app to emphasize content and common tasks. If your desktop dashboard has navigation tabs at the top, you may consider moving navigation to the bottom of your mobile app so it doesn't get in the way of users' primary tasks.
Speaking of ways to navigate through your mobile BI app – if users need to choose filters, select radio buttons, or input data, you must consider sizing your "touch targets" appropriately. Apple and Microsoft recommend sizes that are much smaller than the average human finger. To avoid problems, implement touch targets that are 45-57 pixels wide, and be sure to include enough space between actions that users won't accidentally hit the wrong target. But think about this – most phone users holding their device in portrait mode use their right thumb to navigate apps. For smartphone apps, consider making touch targets 72 pixels wide. Your goal is improving mobile usability and something as simple as touch target widths go a long way toward user satisfaction.
As your company's dashboard designer, your job is to ensure that your dashboards help users find the information they need quickly so they can act on it. With a few tweaks, you can deploy mobile dashboards that make users even more efficient when they're away from their desks.
I'd love you to share more design tweaks that are working for your mobile dashboards!