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Designing with Data in Mind

Tricks to designing beautiful interfaces built to display large amounts of data

July 14, 2015

Data is the driving force behind any mobile or web application. But how do you create beautiful, functional user interfaces that present a large range of data? At MTC we work with a number of healthcare and retail companies, two industries in which enormous amounts of data are collected, so this question is one we must answer often. Unfortunately, there is no single answer for designing the perfect interface for big data, but there are a number of things to consider when designing interfaces to handle such a wide range of information.

Know Your Users

Take the time to understand who your users are and how they work. This information is key to designing effective interfaces that manage large amounts of data effectively. Information that is vital for one user is not always relevant to another. By understanding the workflow of your users you will be able to determine what information is needed for each user to do his/her job. This will enable you to create simplified groupings of data and present information that is relevant to a specific user type.

Visualize the Data

“The whole is often greater than the sum of it’s parts.” When it comes to large sets of data this is often the truth. In many cases users need to see the big picture and not the individual pieces. Providing the user with a visual summary of data above all of the granular pieces in a table will provide an easy to read overview that can often be more effective than singular strings of data. These overviews also help to put the data in a context that is often overlooked at a granular level.

Other Tricks

Use Icons - Replacing text with icons can simplify the look and feel of the interface you are designing and provide a much needed visual break. Icons can present the same information or function as text, but in a way that mentally makes the user feel as though they are being presented with less information.

Filters and Sorts - In some cases there are constraints that may prevent a client from designing and building custom interfaces for multiple user types. If this is the case, filters and sorts are a great option for enabling the user to access the data that's meaningful to them.

Spacing - White space isn’t always a bad thing. Many app and web designers fear white space because it can make an interface look barren or oversimplified. But in cases where there is a large amount of data being presented, white space can provided a visual break that makes the data more easily viewed and more effectively absorbed.

At the end of the day there is no perfect formula to design. But by applying these few simple tricks you are well on your way to creating a more effective interface for displaying large amounts of data.

Are you in need of big data design solutions? Looking to build a user-centric mobile or web application? MTC is here to help. Reach out today at 617.250.3220

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