So what makes information dashboards so appealing to the human mind? What is it that the human mind seeks that is so nicely provided by information dashboards?

Desire to Control

We love to be in control. Imagine a situation where you are unaware of what’s happening around you. Very soon your panic button is switched on and you want to know what’s going on and what you can control.

From an evolutionary standpoint, if we are in control of our environment we have a better chance of survival. Our subconscious mind prepares us for all kinds of danger (fight or flight) based on our perceived level of control.

An information dashboard gives you that control. Whether it’s a personal finance dashboard that makes you conscious of you spending trends or an enterprise marketing dashboard that helps you keep track of your marketing budgets, both heighten your awareness of a situation, giving you the sense of control you crave.

Most information dashboards use a three-pronged strategy to establish a sense of control:

  1. Giving you a clear understanding of things to help establish a feeling of certainty
  2. Giving you the resources to predict and plan for the future
  3. Helping you complete critical tasks in time to avoid last-minute panic

Patrick’s reasoning makes total sense. I buy it!

I’m not sure where it originated, but there’s an oft-quoted “rule” of marketing in startup circles that claims the first priority of a website is to explain what the company or product does.

It goes a little something like this, as captured in a recent comment on a Hacker News post:

It took me about 7-10 seconds to understand what your product is. I should be able to understand within 2 seconds.

I’d say no. Focus less on these kinds of false aphorisms and spend time understanding potential users, how they arrive at your site, and how your homepage can pull them one step further in the process of choosing your solution.

Mobile devices have their own set of Information Architecture patterns, too. While the structure of a responsive site may follow more “standard” patterns, native apps, for example, often employ navigational structures that are tab-based. Again, there’s no “right “way to architect a mobile site or application. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the most popular patterns: Hierarchy, Hub & spoke, Nested doll, Tabbed view, Bento box and Filtered view:


Hub and Spoke

Nested doll

Tabbed view

Bento Box/Dashboard

Filtered view

Testing usability is an art and a science. There are many times when usability testers rely on qualitative measurements, intuition, opinions and feedback from users and experience. However, there are also factors you can test quantitatively to ensure that a site is usable.

In this post, we’ll discuss six crucial factors that affect usability. For each, you’ll be provided with some tips, tools and ideas on how you can measure these usability factors.

We’ll focus on practical usability testing, so the emphasis is on pragmatic and inexpensive strategies that most site owners can do. These things apply regardless of what type of website (blog, e-store, corporate site, web app, mobile device, etc.) you’re evaluating.

  1. User Task Analysis
    • Learnability
    • Intuitiveness
    • Efficiency
    • Preciseness
    • Fault Tolerance
    • Memorability
    • Affordance
  2. Readability
  3. Site Navigability
  4. Accessibility
  5. Website Speed
  6. User Experience

Some great insights!

Larry Page asked them via IM “if you were to redesign Google, what would it look like?” They wondered if it was a joke. He never talked to them. They knew that if it had a chance to be a real thing, they had to move quickly.

He asked them about the redesign in January, became CEO in April and told them to redesign Google and “launch this summer.” (at which point they looked for the absolute last day of Summer – Fall Equinox).

The namespace for Google projects that have anything to do with space or fast are pretty much taken, so they named the project Kennedy, since he made the call to go to the moon. Google+ had an imminent launch (April 1), but they took the design and embraced it, which the press took as “Google+ redesigns Google!”

The design was created in a vacuum, but once it was approved, it had to be taken back to all the groups and get everyone on board to create the redesign across all product in an incredibly short timeline. It was hard for the designers to test the designs back and forth, so they created a static HTML prototype that everyone could use. They could add a grid, change fonts, etc., and test it across all of the properties. They thought about a Google font, but they shelved it for the redesign. They added the consolidated product toolbar. Button gradient – they made a gradient that designers would notice, but nobody else would (218ms fade – Nicholas’ birthday). Supported modern browsers with degradation for older browsers.

Google+ was a big part of the redesign and all the products unified to help prop it up. It was not Google’s intention to create a lot of isolated products and with the redesign they were able to bring the products together. They created a flexible design that would work across all screen sizes.

They created the prototype, as well as a deck of design specs. Because people were already taking the CSS and applying it to their products, even as it was changing. So they created an HTML style guide that could be used and had all the design included. This help have a really clean rollout.

The scope of the project was huge, but the prototype/style guide and enforcing office hours for all teams helped get the project completed on time. There wasn’t push back because even the teams that were considered “out of scope” jumped in and completed the project with everyone else.

Sunday, March 11 at South by Southwest Interactive Conference, Austin, TX
Google Panel Consisting of Evelyn Kim (Visual Designer for Maps), Jon Wiley (Lead Designer forGoogle Search), Michael Leggett (Design Lead, Google Apps & Gmail), Nicholas Jitkoff (User Experience Designer for Chrome), Chris Wiggins (Google Creative Lab)

Building a vocabulary around the topic of information overload should be a goal of serious IA practitioners. Why? Because it seems like everyone else is having a discussion about it. Type the phrase information overload into Google News, and you’ll see what I mean.

We commonly associate information overload on the Web with the voluminous numbers of email messages, tweets, feeds, and other social interactions that inevitably put a drain on our productivity. According to Basex, a knowledge economy research firm, as of 2010, the productivity drain that information overload causes costs the U.S. economy at least 997 billion dollars per year in reduced productivity and innovation. Armed with this estimate—give or take a few billion dollars—we can make the case that mitigating information overload is a worthy cause for UX professionals.

  • Feedback
  • The Utility Gap
  • Filter Failure
  • Information Abundance
  • Volatility
  • The Literacy Gap

In his presentation at An Event Apart in Atlanta, GA 2011 Jared Spool detailed the importance and role of links on Web pages. Here are my notes from his The Secret Lives of Links

Common Issues

  • It’s easy to know when your website scent is bad. Use of the back button, pogo-sticking, and using search are all signs that the scent of your links is off.
  • Usage patterns are the same across all websites. In 15 years (and thousands of sites) things have not changed much. Only 42% find what they are looking for. 58% do not find what they are looking for. For these people the scent is not coming through.

Tons of other great stats. Luke Wroblewski aka LukeW takes great notes ;)