The 5 Principles of Responsive Design for Business Intelligence

Wayne, PA, USA / Langenfeld, Germany  October 23, 2013 – 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. Global BI and planning software provider arcplan recognizes the need to cater to these workers, and with its latest release – arcplan 8 – is positioned to offer unparalleled flexibility for mobile business intelligence deployments for developers and users alike.

arcplan 8's new HTML5 client was designed with the principles of Responsive Design in mind. It delivers state-of-the-art BI applications that only need to be designed once, yet can be deployed on any mobile device. arcplan calls this DORADesign Once, Run Anywhere. Its design principles are simple and effective, and can be used as a guideline for developers to create responsive BI applications for mobile users:

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.
The available real estate on any mobile device is significantly smaller than the real estate available on a desktop or laptop, which means that developers must prioritize the information that will be displayed. Selecting the most relevant BI content for the smallest mobile device first will help streamline your app from the beginning. In so doing, business users can easily access their most important KPIs right away without unnecessary scrolling.

3. Remove non-essential content from mobile apps.
Focus on the key tasks users want to accomplish and provide options to drill down for additional details. Remove extraneous elements and adjust visualizations to maximize the amount of information per pixel. For instance on mobile devices, gauges or speedometers are not a good idea; they take up too much room without providing much information. Instead, try a simple box that highlights the speedometer metric – a much better pixel-to-information ratio. 

4. Design for interaction.
It is possible that some mobile BI app users will simply want to view the status of their metrics, but certain users will see the mobile app as their primary means of accessing corporate information – particularly executives, field sales and floor managers who are constantly away from their desk. As a designer, you will want to accommodate their need for interaction with design modifications. Large touch targets, as wide as 72 pixels to accommodate thumb navigation, are imperative for users who need to input data, switch filters, and drill down. Include enough space between actions so users will not accidentally hit the wrong target. From the beginning, think of how users will want to interact with their data and make it as easy as possible to drill down, add commentary, and share insights. 

5. Create a style guide.
To keep your business’ applications consistent, create guidelines and best practices for developers to follow. Having a style guide is not a specific requirement for responsive BI applications, but the more devices you design for, the more important it is to have documented best practices to keep your apps consistent. arcplan users can create style guides as arcplan documents, which enable them to directly copy and paste the formatting from the style guide to a BI application.

The key question in Responsive Design is "which functions are important for a specific device?" Your users' purpose is to find what they are looking for and act on it. If your BI app facilitates this, it will be successful.

"Responsive Design is a huge step forward for business intelligence developers and users," explained Hans Peter Wolff, arcplan's CTO. "arcplan 8’s built-in Responsive Design saves our customers up to 70% on BI app development time and maintenance costs for mobile projects. We wanted to help companies reduce the effort and cost of mobile BI while keeping a superior user experience at the forefront of the design process."

Learn more in arcplan's white paper, A Guide to DORA.

About arcplan
arcplan is a leader in innovative Business Intelligence, Dashboard, Corporate Performance and Planning software solutions for desktop and mobile use.  Since 1993, arcplan has enabled more than 3,200 customers worldwide to leverage their existing infrastructure for better decision making. Empowering all users to connect and collaborate with relevant information is crucial for improving business performance. With arcplan – it simply works.

arcplan's flagship product arcplan Enterprise® was rated the #1 3rd party tool for SAP BW, Oracle Essbase, and IBM Cognos TM1 in The BI Survey 12 (2012).