Modern websites and applications must work well for both end users and developers; they need to keep users happily engaged on their preferred device while maintaining the sanity of developers working behind the scenes. Responsive Design is an approach to web development that caters to both groups. The idea is to present the same content regardless of the device type, but the layout “responds” to the device “asking” for the content. In the business intelligence world, it means a master app can be designed one time, then slightly reconfigured for each device with very little effort – no copy and no separate app. Users get an optimized experience that keeps them coming back.*
Responsive Design is gaining traction with many organizations today due to the rapidly growing number of people who depend on mobile devices for access to business information. Mobile users cite benefits like increased efficiency and productivity, improved communication, and streamlined business processes, and 85% of IT managers agree that mobile devices make their company more efficient. Getting on the Responsive Design bandwagon is the way to ensure that your business apps meet your employees’ needs while maximizing the use of your IT team’s time.
Whether you decide to responsively design your website or your business applications – and in many cases, internal business applications are websites, including web-based mobile BI apps for business intelligence dashboards and reports – here are some of the benefits of a Responsive Design approach for users and developers…
Responsive Design is the backbone of next-generation mobile BI. Responsively designed BI apps enable you to deploy one application to all devices – one design that adjusts to any screen size, keeping development simple and maintenance efforts low. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when designing responsive content for a mobile interface.
1. Use tiles or panels
Design content in a series of modular tiles or panels. The tiles can then form a grid layout, which makes it easy for users to scan the app for relevant content.
2. Think symmetry
When designing tiles, make them symmetrical in terms of height and width. In so doing, you’ll be able to rearrange content easily and even re-use it between multiple BI apps.
3. Shrink your work
Not every piece of content visible on a large screen needs to be present on a smaller tablet or smartphone screen. Pick out the most relevant content for a mobile audience and hide unnecessary features that only make sense on a desktop app.
4. Shrink images
Remember that smaller devices such as smartphones have limited bandwidth, so stick to images that can be resized proportionately and downsized to a lower resolution to save space.
The end of each year warrants a look at the key trends that may take hold in the coming months. Mobility, cloud computing, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and big data topics are clearly influencing the business intelligence industry. However, major market players such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung and others are producing the technology to make these developments possible. The question becomes: are the trends paving the way for these companies to produce the technology, or is the existence of the technology influencing the trends? I believe the latter – that Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung are the true pioneers of the BI industry.
In 2014, we’re not going to see much in the way of wholly new trends, even though some experts are already forecasting more innovations. Gartner, for example, has singled out voice-controlled BI as a hot topic. However, the idea of being able to control BI processes by voice instead of through user interfaces is more of a fantasy than a realistic business requirement. Instead, the focus for 2014 will be on developments that are already possible and how to integrate these into the corporate IT environment. Big data for one has been a subject of discussion for years. In 2014, there will be more talk about the benefits and value provided by the increasingly larger amounts of data. Primarily though, it is the underlying technical innovations created by industry giants such as Amazon and Apple that are driving the development of BI and the requirements of the market.
Mobile BI Thanks to Tablets and Smartphones
In the wake of the BYOD movement, organizations are challenged to support multiple devices for accessing business information while providing the best mobile experience for end users. Seamless mobility is now an expectation for many knowledge workers who rely on smartphones and tablets to do their work. With arcplan 8, our latest release, we offer unparalleled flexibility for mobile business intelligence deployments for developers and users alike. arcplan 8 was designed with the principles of Responsive Design in mind. Developers can use our HTML5 client to build state-of-the-art BI applications that only need to be designed once, yet can be deployed on any mobile device. Let’s examine the 5 principles of Responsive Design – design principles that are simple and effective, and can be used as a guideline for developers to create responsive mobile BI applications:
1. Design with mobile in mind.
Designing with mobility in mind leads to a better user experience across all devices and platforms. When designing a BI dashboard application, think of the charts as modular tiles. These tiles will need to be rearranged depending on the device’s screen size and orientation, so it helps if they are designed with similar widths and heights. Desktop monitors and tablets in landscape orientation can accommodate all the tiles arranged in two rows, but smartphones and tablets in portrait mode will be better served by tiles stacked on top of each other so the charts are large enough to be understood without too much zooming.
2. Start with the smallest device first.
Business intelligence is the key to unlocking insights from data and empowering company leaders to make impactful decisions, act swiftly even in volatile market conditions, and plan strategically for the success of the organization. arcplan is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and BI has been around at least as long as we have. Over the last 2 decades, we’ve seen companies make similar mistakes – mistakes that undermine the success of their BI initiatives. Those new to BI should learn from their predecessors. Here are 5 common BI worst practices and how to avoid them:
1) Blindly buying technology without considering your analytical requirements
BI projects do sometimes fail; it’s not something anyone likes to talk about, but most of the time these failures can be blamed on a lack of requirements gathering. Vendors like us have to ensure that we understand our customers’ requirements inside and out in order to deliver a solution that will be successful and demonstrate concrete ROI. But the truth is, some companies don’t have a thorough understanding of their users’ needs before they start evaluating solutions. Too many organizations start “feature wars” with vendors and end up buying the solution with the most perceived bells and whistles – features they barely understand and will never have a use for.
This is a much of a problem for customers as it is for vendors; it’s our job to ensure that what we’re selling you will have value to your organization, and a lot of that comes down to understanding your users’ needs. But if you don’t understand your users’ needs, how can we?
The first thing you must understand before you try to purchase a BI solution is the analytical problems your company is trying to solve. Don’t get side-tracked by fancy bells and whistles that will not solve your business problems. Avoid the feature wars and make your shortlisted BI vendors prove that their solution is a match with a custom demo or proof-of-concept application.
2) Using BI as a gateway to Excel