One Billion PCs

According to Forrester Research, by the end of 2008 there will be more than one billion personal computers in use worldwide. And more than two billion PCs in use by 2015, representing more than 12% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2003 and 2015. Can you image the world before PCs?

  • Are you old enough to remember it?
  • Do we now live in a paperless world?

You may not remember the world before PCs but, looking at my office, the paperless world has not arrived yet. We may be the only generation that has to cope with screen and paper on a regular basis and to ensure that information is presented in a meaningful and usable way in both media.

Screens typically show less information than a sheet of paper but do provide easier drill down facilities so can access more details more quickly. The importance of personal dashboards which show targeted information for each individual is increasing and the need to design them carefully remains paramount.

A good dashboard design will clearly communicate key information to users and makes supporting information easily accessible.

Dashboards tools improve an individual's "span of control" over a lot of business data. They can help people visually identify trends, patterns and anomalies, reason about what they see and help guide them toward effective decisions. As such, these tools need to leverage people's visual capabilities and, as a result, the issue of visual information design is more important than ever.

Probably the most important element of design is to have a detailed understanding of user needs - both at a high level (business goals, decision requirements, workflow) and at a low level (appropriate metrics, context and visuals).  This is not as easy as it sounds - users often find it difficult to elucidate their needs.

It may be necessary to model needs to help clarify requirements and ensure common understanding:

  • The business users need to be able to create various "walk-through" scenarios to understand if the design will handle their various requirements;
  • The technical staff need to be able to understand what data and infrastructure will be required for the application; and
  • The overall design and project team can then refine these ideas into a visual design and a supporting technical architecture.

See the next article for more information on designing dashboards.

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