data

Julia Grosvenor
| November 12, 2018

Designers don’t need to use data-driven decision-making, right? Here are 5 common design problems you can solve with the data science basics.

What are the common design problems we face every day?

Design is a busy job. You have to balance both artistic and technical skills and meet the needs of bosses and clients who might not know what they want until they ask you to change it. You have to think about the big picture, the story, and the brand, while also being the person who spots when something is misaligned by a hair’s width.

The ‘real’ artists think you sold out, and your parents wish you had just majored in business. When you’re juggling all of this, you might think to yourself, “at least I don’t have to be a numbers person,” and you avoid complicated topics like data analytics at all costs.

If you find yourself thinking along these lines, this article is for you. Here are a few common problems you might encounter as a designer, and how some of the basic approaches of data science can be used to solve them. It might actually take a few things off your plate.

1. The person I’m designing for has no idea what they want

Frustrated
A worried man sitting in front of a laptop

If you have any experience with designing for other people, you know exactly what this really means. You might be asked to make something vague such as “a flyer that says who we are to potential customers and has a lot of photos in it.” A dozen or so drafts later, you have figured out plenty of things they don’t like and are no closer to a final product.

What you need to look for are the company’s needs. Not just the needs they say they have; ask them for the data. The company might already be keeping their own metrics, so ask what numbers most are concerning to them, and what goals they have for improvement. If they say they don’t have any data like that – FALSE!

Every organization has some kind of data, even if you have to be the one to put it together. It might not even be in the most obvious of places like an Excel file. Go through the customer emails, conversations, chats, and your CRM, and make a note of what the most usual questions are, who asks them, and when they get sent in. You just made your own metrics, buddy!

Now that you have the data, gear your design solutions to improve those key metrics. This time when you design the flyer, put the answers to the most frequent questions at the top of the visual hierarchy. Maybe you don’t need a ton of photos but select one great photo that had the highest engagement on their Instagram. No matter how picky a client is, there’s no disagreeing with good data.

visual_hierarchy-small

2. I have too much content and I don’t know how to organize it

This problem is especially popular in digital design. Whether it’s an app, an email, or an entire website, you have a lot of elements to deal with, and need to figure out how to navigate the audience through all of it. For those of you who are unaware, this is the basic concept of UX, short for ‘User Experience.’

The dangerous trap people fall into is asking for opinions about UX. You can ask 5 people or 500 and you’re always going to end up with the same conclusion: people want to see everything, all at once, but they want it to be simple, easy to navigate and uncrowded.

The perfect UX is basically impossible, which is why you instead need to focus on getting the most important aspects and prioritizing them. While people’s opinions claim to prioritize everything, their actual behavior when searching for what they want is much more telling.

Capturing this behavior is easy with web analytics tools. There are plenty of apps like Google Analytics to track the big picture parts of your website, but for the finer details of a single web page design, there are tools like Hotjar. You can track how each user (with cookies enabled) travels through your site, such as how far they scroll and what elements they click on.

If users keep leaving the page without getting to the checkout, you can find out where they are when they decide to leave, and what calls to action are being overlooked.

hotjar2.0
Hotjar logo
Google Analytics
Logo of Google Analytics

When you really get the hang of it, UX will transform from a guessing game about making buttons “obvious” and instead you will understand your site as a series of pathways through hierarchies of story elements. As an added bonus, you can apply this same knowledge to your print media and make uncrowded brochures and advertisements too!

Inverted-Pyramid-small

3. I’m losing my mind to a handful of arbitrary choices

Should the dress be pink, or blue? Unfortunately, not all of us can be Disney princesses with magic wands to change constantly back and forth between colors. Unless, of course, you are a web designer from the 90’s, and in that case, those rainbow shifting gifs on your website are wicked gnarly, dude.

red_VS_green_Question
A/B testing with 2 different CTAs

For the rest of us, we have to make some tough calls about design elements. Even if you’re used to making these decisions, you might be working with other people who are divided over their own ideas and have no clue who to side with. (Little known fact about designers: we don’t have opinions on absolutely everything.)

This is where a simple concept called “A/B testing” comes in handy. It requires some coding knowledge to pull it off yourself or you can ask your web developer to install the tracking pixel, but some digital marketing tools have built-in A/B testing features. (You can learn more about A/B testing in Data Science Dojo’s comprehensive bootcamps cough cough)

Other than the technical aspect, it’s beautifully simple. You take a single design element, and narrow it down to two options, with a shared ultimate goal you want that element to contribute to. Half your audience will see the pink dress, and half will see the blue, and the data will show you not only which dress was liked by the princesses, but exactly how much more they liked it. Just like magic.

Obama_A_Btesting
A/B testing with 2 different landing pages

4. I’m working with someone who is using Comic Sans, Papyrus, or (insert taboo here) unironically

This is such a common problem, so well understood that the inside jokes about it between designer’s risk flipping all the way around the scale into a genuine appreciation of bad design elements. But what do you do when you have a person who sincerely asks you what’s wrong with using the same font Avatar used in their logo?

Mercedes-Benz
Logo of Mercedes Benz

The solution to this is kind of dirty and cheap from the data science perspective, but I’m including it because it follows the basic principle of evidence > intuition. There is no way to really explain a design faux-pas because it comes from experience. However, sometimes when experience can’t be described, it can be quantified.

Ask this person to look up the top competitors in their sector. Then ask them to find similar businesses using this design element you’re concerned about. How do these organizations compare? How many followers do they have on social media? When was the last time they updated something? How many reviews do they have?

If the results genuinely show that Papyrus is the secret ingredient to a successful brand, then wow, time to rethink that style guide.

giphy

5. How can I prove that my designs are “good”?

Unless you have skipped to the end of this article, you already know the solution to this one. No matter what kind of design you do, it’s meant to fulfill a goal. And where do data scientists get goals? Metrics! Some good metrics for UX that you might want to consider when designing a website, email, or ad campaign are click-through-rate (CTR), session time, page views, page load, bounce rate, conversions, and return visits.

This article has already covered a few basic strategies to get design related metrics. Even if the person you’re working for doesn’t have the issues described above (or maybe you’re working for yourself) it’s a great idea to look at metrics before and after your design hits the presses.

If the data doesn’t shift how, you want it to, that’s a learning experience. You might even do some more digging to find data that can tell you where the problem came from, if it was a detail in your design or a flaw in getting it delivered to the audience.

When you do see positive trends, congrats! You helped further your organization’s goals and validated your design skills. Attaching tangible metrics to your work is a great support to getting more jobs and pay raises, so you don’t have to eat ramen noodles forever.

If nothing else, it’s a great way to prove that you didn’t need to major in accounting to work with fancy numbers, dad.

Savaram Ravindra
| August 19, 2019

Data democratization is a complex concept. The concept, in any organization, rests on four major pillars: data, tools, training, and people.

Data democratization allows end-users to assess data in a digital format without requiring help (typically from IT).  The culture of a company and how its employees think are driven by people who are quite passionate about data.

Today, Data democratization can be a game-changer because it makes it easier, faster, and simpler for employees to access the insights they require. Data democratization safeguards the company from becoming a top-down organization where the highest-paid person’s opinion wins. Users are given more ownership and greater responsibility with data democratization and need no longer be driven by hunches or assumptions. Let us see how this happens.

Pillars of data democratization

1. Data

A considerable percentage of data exists in silos and is spread across the enterprise.  It could be stored in flat files accessed by Microsoft SQL Server; it could be saved in folders on an employee’s hard drives, or it could be stored at (and shared by) partner companies. As you’d expect, this is not conducive to viewing the “big picture.” Enterprises have created cloud-based data warehouses to tear down the silos. For data analytics, warehouses serve as a solitary, consolidated source of truth.

2. Tools and training for data democratization

Data democratization can be empowering to users, but only if the data is properly used.  To make sure data democratization doesn’t lead to misinterpreting data.  After training (typically by IT), users may reinforce that training by creating or joining mailing lists or chat rooms; they may even ensure that beginners and experts physically sit next to each other.

As companies identify which business users need to explore the data more deeply and freely on their own, they must also understand the different levels of user needs when it comes to data. Instead of limiting the analytics by offering just summarized or just raw data to all users, a multi-tiered approach is essential to provide the right depth of data to a user’s analytical skills and needs.

A first tier might provide only dashboards and static reports, and the second tier might add interactive, dynamic dashboards where the users can drill down to additional insights.

The third tier could include guided analysis that a senior analyst prepares for an individual user or a group of business users to work in a safe and rich environment in which technical users can follow the analysis process through annotations and explanations.

The fourth and final tier provides access to a visual data discovery tool so business users can visually explore a broad set of data (perhaps through a simple, familiar tool such as Excel) instead of using less intuitive means such as data tables and SQL queries. An enterprise will need to ensure that the more data a user can access, the greater their understanding of that data must be to avoid data misuse or misunderstanding.

3. People

Expertise in data analytics is strongly associated with open, persistent, positive, and inquisitive people. Enterprises must ensure that such enquiring minds are regularly challenged and involved.  Employees need to be motivated and engaged to think, play with data, and ask questions. Engage them with regular seminars on key concepts, tools, and modern technologies.

4. Challenges faced while implementing data democratization

The main challenge enterprises face in their move to data democratization is that data teams are struggling to keep up with the rising hunger for data throughout the organization.  More data demands a more complex analysis. For many organizations, moving to data democratization may require more resources than they have.

This problem can be addressed by self-service analytics. It enables everyone in the company to become a data analyst.  In many cases, users need only a dashboard that provides real-time data; others need that data available in analysis tools. Putting the technology in place is not just enough to make it work. The training that is essential for the staff must be offered to bring real value. Thus, data democratization is made highly efficient by self-service analytics.

Conclusion

To enhance data democratization in your enterprise, you must keep in mind that this is a slow process in which small wins are brought via incremental transformations in a culture that drives the next culture change. Today, more organizations are trying to provide access to data to all their staff via data democratization and this, in turn, is helping them enhance the job performance and overall health of the organization.

Learn more about data science at our Data Science Bootcamp.

Related Topics

Web Development
Top
Statistics
Software Testing
Programming Language
Podcasts
Natural Language
Machine Learning
Hypothesis Testing
High-Tech
Events
Discussions
Demos
Data Visualization
Data Security
Data Science
Data Mining
Data Engineering
Data Analytics
Conferences

Up for a Weekly Dose of Data Science?

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter & stay up-to-date with current data science news, blogs, and resources.