Case Study

Data Explorer

UX / Research / Data Visualization

Fluxx is a cloud-based relational database software for nonprofit organizations that supports deep customization and Salesforce levels of complexity. As a product designer for Fluxx, I conducted user research and prototyped new interfaces to help daily users export their data quickly and easily.

Problem: Daily users can't get the data they need out of the platform because they often don't understand how their data is structured

Goal: A new set of patterns for exploring, visualizing, and exporting data for users that don't have access to reporting tools.

Team: Myself and 1 other designer, 1 product manager, product and engineering leadership as stakeholders

Timeline: 3 months

Background

The primary unit of Grantmaker’s UI is a “card”, a filtered list of records. Most daily users build up dashboards of cards, laid out in a specific order to support their approval workflows. These cards can be simple list views, tables, summary statistics, or data visualizations.

The data that underlies these card dashboards is extremely specific and complex, and many users have a hard time analyzing the data that makes up their day-to-day-work. Advanced users have access to robust reporting tools, but when most staff need answers to questions like “How much total giving has my program done so far this year?”, many were lost and frustrated.

A Fluxx dashboard showing chart and table cards
A Fluxx dashboard showing chart and table cards

Process

To understand the issues Fluxx users were having in finding and leveraging their data, the team set up a series of interview-style research sessions with volunteer users. My design partner and I conducted 7, 45-minute interactive sessions via Zoom. We encouraged our interviewees to narrate their thought process and pain points as they navigated a report-creation workflow. We took turns leading the sessions and taking detailed notes.

A typical user research call
A typical user research call

By the end of this interview process, we'd heard dozens of complaints like:

“My admin only allows us to run reports, not create them. Often the data I want is missing, but I don’t know how to get to it”
“I have some access to reporting, but it’s intimidating. There are hundreds of fields on each record. I don’t know where to start to find my data.”
“Sometimes I’ll export everything and just delete 90% of it, it’s easier than trying to build out what I need”

The collected insights were transcribed from the interview notes, anonymized, and organized by theme in Airtable for further analysis.

Airtable database of anonymized feedback from customer interviews, organized by theme and insight.

"Ease of use" emerged as the most popular pain point theme from our user research, so I started sketching on ways to help users find the data they want, and generate reports seamlessly.

Example report creation workflow sketch
Example report creation workflow sketch
Example report creation workflow sketch
Example report creation workflow sketch
Field list wireframes
Example field list wireframe sketches

Solution & Further Considerations

Helping our daily users find and deliver simple metrics about their records was a matter of combining multiple interfaces that were formally different but categorically the same. The final designs involved several new flows to guide users from their lists of records through to a streamlined report building interface, along with an overhaul of the system's standard data visualizations and field lists.

Chart view overhaul showing a line chart of a time series, with integrated data table and refined controls
Chart view overhaul showing a line chart of a time series, with integrated data table and refined controls
Chart view overhaul: line chart filtered by timeline brush, with data point hovered
Chart view overhaul: line chart filtered by timeline brush, with data point hovered
Chart view overhaul: categorical bar chart, options action menu open
Chart view overhaul: categorical bar chart, options action menu open
Chart view overhaul: data table field configuration menu open
Chart view overhaul: data table field configuration menu open
Chart view overhaul: categorical pie chart
Chart view overhaul: categorical pie chart
Chart view overhaul: categorical stacked bar chart
Chart view overhaul: categorical stacked bar chart

Although the research was well-conducted and well-considered, the project was de-prioritized due to complexity, with engineering resources diverted to developing a third-party platform for data analysis and reporting. A disappointing outcome, but not an unusual one for a resource-constrained organization. If the project were to be re-considered, I would have liked to explore a solution that integrated more "wizard"-like flows to guide users through reporting, along with robust user acceptance testing.