Cindy Howson of the B-eye-Network recently released her latest research on aesthetics and usability in BI tools. While highly subjective and hard to measure, she found them both to be vital in creating a successful BI project. The average respondant to her survey of 225 people ranked "ease-of-use" second only to "quality of data" in importance. In fact 32% rated ease-of-use "essential" for the success of a BI project, compared with just 20% for tool functionality. It is not difficult to see why. Difficult and technical BI takes all of the joy and excitement out of data analysis visualization and makes it a fraustrating chore, inaccessible to the impatient and those short on time. The graph below from the study confirms our suspicion that non-intuitive BI solutions lead to lower usage rates and wasted investment (click to enlarge).
Perhaps more surprisingly, power users were more likely than casual users to cite products as difficult to use. Does this show a skin deep commitment to design quality by many vendors? Even if a power user has the patience to put with the clunky functionality of traditional BI, it is still a waste of thier time and effort to expect it. Poor design leads to time spent working out how to get anything out of your data rather than how to get the most out of it, no matter how powerful the tool used.
While people are now begining to understand the importance of asking "how you can..." rather than just "if you can..." when evaluating software, the look of a product is something much more likely to be ignored during purchasing. Cindy points out that for users that do not have to use data in their jobs, unappealing interfaces are likely to encourage them to revert to relying on gut feeling or leaving analysis to others. As much as appealing designs add pleasure for keen users, it is probably as important that they remove displeasure for the unconverted.