User Onboarding

How to Create a Value Based Dashboard for Your Users

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By providing value within your product you help users achieve their desired goal by utilising a process or system that is unique to your product. Not only does this enable users to see the ROI in your product, but it also sets you apart from competitors.

Peter Loving:
Hello, and welcome to this talk, where we're going to talk about how to create a value-based dashboard for your users. I'm Peter Loving, I'm a product designer and consultant, and I've worked with software companies for a number of years, basically helping them make product improvements, helping them satisfy their users and help them to achieve their goals. So the reason why we've created this talk is that the dashboard is often one of the places where I find we can make the most impact when working with software companies that need a few design improvements, and getting a really good value-based dashboard can make a huge impact. So let's take a look at how and why we'd go about doing that.

Peter Loving:
First of all, I want to start off by just clarifying what we mean when we talk about the dashboard. Some people asked me when I was preparing this talk, they said, "Do you mean the analytics dashboard or something in the reporting area, or do you mean the welcome screen?" And it's that welcome screen that we're talking about. When a user first logs in, what they see there, the information, they get the updates, the welcome, and basically it's the beginning point of their journey. That's what we're taking a look at, and it's a very important first impression piece of the software.

Peter Loving:
So, before we move on, I'd like you to imagine that you're getting into your car and you're going to embark on a journey. Now, let's just take a moment to consider everything you need to get there. First of all, you need to have a destination in mind. Now, how does this car, the dashboard, and the tools available to you, help you reach that destination? Well, first of all, you've got the actual tools: the steering wheel, the accelerator, and the brake, the indicators, they help you to maneuver the vehicle and actually drive. Secondly, you've got information data.

Peter Loving:
So let's look at that map on the dashboard that you can see there. That helps you to navigate. You put your destination in, and you can see the routes, so you can navigate there, too. And then thirdly, what you need is some feedback, some updates and notifications on your journey. So you might have, for instance, a road closure, or you might be running low on gas, or electricity in the case of this Tesla, and you'll need some feedback. So your dashboard will alert you to things that you need to know about on your journey. So with these three things, this car dashboard gives you what you need to achieve your goal, which is reaching your destination, and a software dashboard can do very much the same. Before we look into why, let's just consider why you'd create one.

Peter Loving:
Sometimes, I find the dashboard gets overlooked, particularly in early stage software products, and it's evolved over time as the product has more features added to it. Now, the reason why it's good to take a step back and rethink your dashboard from the user's perspective is that you really give them the chance to first of all, have an incredible first impression and receive value on their very first login to your software. After that, you increase retention and you also increase utilization. So, if you're satisfying your users who have to do repeated tasks over and over again, they can often become more frequent users of your platform because of the experience and the value that they're getting. In turn, this helps you to develop a much better NPS score as well. So furthermore, that helps you to onboard new users and benefit from word-of-mouth, viral marketing too, so it's a great place to invest in improving your product. That's why I often touch on the dashboard. Things that are important.

Peter Loving:
It is difficult though. So, why is it difficult to improve your dashboard? Well, the fundamental reason is that you most likely have different user profiles. It's very common for software companies to have about four or five different user profiles that all need to log in. And they all have different goals, different desired outcomes, and they need to see different information when they log in. So, having one dashboard catering to the four or five different profiles is really difficult. So imagine you've got an HR company here. The lady on the left here, imagine she's the hiring manager. You've got a CEO in the middle and you have a candidate on the right. Now imagine they're all using the same hiring platform. They're going to log in and have a very different experience. With the HR manager, monitoring applicants, taking them through the process. The CEO might be reviewing how that process is going in terms of logging in for a status update. And the candidate might be logging in and seeing the candidate-facing part of the software where he attends interviews and can prepare and submit video interviews as well. So, that's just one example of how this can get really complicated.

Peter Loving:
And here's an example of a complicated dashboard that is doing some of the very common mistakes. And this one's actually the London transport dashboard. This is a web website called citydashboard.org. You can visit it now, it's a live dashboard, and it hasn't got the greatest UX. And the reason I've picked this out is because it's a good example of lots of common mistakes. And I see these in software companies, too, plenty of SaaS companies have some of the problems that we see on this dashboard, but what are they? Let's just run through some of them before we move on.

Peter Loving:
First of all, there's quite a lot of information here. I'd say there's information overwhelm. The way that information is presented in terms of the hierarchy is also confusing, too. It's very difficult to see what is the most important information here. It's all in different sizes, too, so some information is tiny, some is really big, and that also confuses the brain. When you're trying to visually glance at this and take in information quickly. It's also suffering from the kind of structural instability, there's a bad layout on this page. Each of the elements have different sizes and they're fitted together. They're cobbled together in a fashion. So, the layout design is quite poor.

Peter Loving:
Then also we've got too many conflicts in colors, font sizes, and font colors too. So there's a whole bunch of mistakes. Many of them are designer things, but there's a kind of thinking and overview of the way they thought about this that's lacking. I daresay it fulfills its purpose, which is just a quick overview. They don't have the same requirements that software does, but they've had a stab at just getting everything on the page.

Peter Loving:
Now, what I'd like to do is show you five software companies that have a really good dashboard. And in each of these cases, I'm going to pick out one lesson that can be applied to your dashboard when you're thinking about how to do yours. So let's start here with this company, Holded, who are a Spanish company that have an ERP SaaS that helps SMEs manage every aspect of their business. Now, I've been speaking with Holded over the last couple of years, and I got to speaking with one of the founders about how their dashboards were developed. What you see here is their third iteration of their dashboards. And the first two didn't quite satisfy what they felt they needed to, and users weren't utilizing the dashboard very much. So, that's always a telltale sign.

Peter Loving:
So, what happened was that Holded decided to list out their user profiles. They say, "Okay, who are the groups of users that use our software that we need to think about?" And in doing that, they actually came up with the job titles of these people. And that really helped them, because once they started to think about the people in terms of their job titles, they could think about the goals and the information that they needed. So with Holded being a software for managing SMEs, they picked out the key C-level exec users here. So they've got the CEOs, and this is an example of the CEO dashboard. They created a COO dashboard, a CFO dashboard, a CMO dashboard, and they created six. So, what they were able to do is to customize each dashboard, to give each of these profiles or job titles within the companies that are using their software, the exact information that they need to do their day-to-day jobs successfully using Holded. So, that's a really great place to start. Think about your user profiles and think about how well your dashboard is catering to each of those groups.

Peter Loving:
Whilst we were talking about this process, Javi said to me, he's one of the founders at Holded. He said, "We're always looking for the state that best serves most users in each segment." And that's a good way to think about it. You're never going to get to a hundred percent, it's often evolving and you're always making incremental improvements, but as long as you can segment your users into user profiles, you can start to really satisfying the majority of each and doing a really great job.

Peter Loving:
The next one I'd like to take a look at is Personio. Personio are based in Munich originally, and they're one of the fastest-growing software companies in Europe of the last couple of years. I've raised a series B up to date and there it's still expanding rapidly. When I was speaking with the Head of Product at Personio, he gave me a really good insight into how they developed this dashboard, which is their second iteration, and they really feel like they hit the nail on the head with this one. And, the key learning for them was to provide a contextual experience.

Peter Loving:
So, Personio is a software for managing your people at companies, an HR-related software, but they like to call it people management. Now, they decided to interview their users, and from their series of user interviews, they identified that the HR managers wanted to have relevant information on the dashboard when they logged in, that was sensitive to their current situation. So they wanted to have a quick overview of who was in the office that day, who was off sick, who's on holiday, what kind of tasks they had coming up, any interviews or performance-related reviews with staff. They also wanted to see which staff were going through training. So all of this information became very contextual. It means it's always updating every time they log in, they're seeing the most relevant, up-to-date information that they need at their fingertips.

Peter Loving:
So Personio put that all together and presented this really nice, neat dashboard with a clear design that I really think is a good example of contextual experience. So if you can think of places where you can do that to enrich the experience for your users, have a thought of providing that contextual experience that they're going to value every time that they look at.

Peter Loving:
Geckoboard is another company that has done a good job on dashboards. Now, they actually have a software- if you're not familiar with them, they're a software that enables the user to create their own business dashboard. You could create a dashboard of anything you like, but the majority of the applications are for metrics for monitoring your business. Now, Geckoboard are a self-service platform. So if you logged in as a new user with it, and you use it within a new account, what you're going to see is a user journey experience where you're guided through the process of creating your own dashboard.

Peter Loving:
Now, Geckoboard know only too well that people struggle to create their dashboards the first time, because often users think "I would like a dashboard to monitor my business metrics." But the minute that they log into Geckoboard after creating an account and start that process, they suddenly are hit with the realization that they're not exactly sure which metrics they want to show and how to show them. So, Geckoboard identified the goal of their user. The desired outcome of their user is to create the dashboard and have a handle on their business metrics. So Geckoboard designed for that journey. They lead the user through the journey of achieving that goal of creating a dashboard. And they do this by a clever use journey, centered around navigation that prompts the user and encourages the user through that process. So Geckoboard are a great example of goal-based navigation.

Peter Loving:
As you know, most of your users begin their journey on the dashboard. They log in, they see the dashboard, and from there, they continue on to perform any task that they were planning to do any work they needed to perform when they logged in. So, the dashboard should really be a hub of providing them with the navigation that they need to achieve those goals. I had a nice chat with the Head of Product, I think it's the VP of Product Venue, Ben Newell, at Geckoboard. He says, "Quantitative data shows us where the problem is, and qualitative data tells us how to solve it." So, as the VP of Product, Ben and his team, they do lots of user research. They look at the analytics and the behavior of their users. And from their analytics, they can see where users drop off on their journey. Where did you users typically get to in creating a dashboard, and then they stop or they struggle, or they kind of bounce, and they never finish it? Observing that shows Ben and his team where the problems are in that journey.

Peter Loving:
But the qualitative data actually tells them what tells them how to solve it. So going and speaking to the users, understanding their context, understanding why at that certain step, the user struggled and didn't finish the task. And once they have enough insight into all of these different users and their different unique circumstances, they can then apply that to the product, to make that user journey seamless in a manner that's scalable, that works for all of their users. So I thought that was a really powerful message from Ben based on his experience that I wanted to share in this talk with you.

Peter Loving:
So let's move on to the next example, which is a company called Force Manager. Force Manager is a CRM for sales reps. Now, if you're looking to manage a team of outbound field-based sales people, then you will want to manage their metrics, their targets, quite closely, monitor their activity. Now, Force Manager knows how important targets are in sales, and they've done a very clever thing on their dashboard. This is the mobile version that you see on the screen here, but they have a desktop application too. And what they've done is to enable the user to enter- well, I should say configure, because this is a customizable feature. They can configure the dashboard with whichever metric they need so their key target, their KPIs, are sitting here, right on the dashboards. Every time the sales rep logs in, they see their progress against their targets for the current month or current week or whatever the time period is. And from there, all their activity that they do within the platform relates to moving these KPIs in order to hit targets.

Peter Loving:
So it's very goal-based, it supports the desired outcome of the user. The dashboard is the information and the reference point for everything relating to the desired outcome of the user, and sales tools are a great example of this because they have such clear targets, but every SaaS product has users with desired outcomes. So if you get really clear on the outcomes that your users are looking for, you can really gear up through your dashboard to make it as easy as possible for them to achieve that. So, that's a really nice example.

Peter Loving:
And the last one I'd like to share here is from a company called Adzooma. Adzooma did something I really like on this dashboard. They show the users, the ROI of using their product on the dashboard every time they look in. Adzooma is a tool for managing paid advertising. So you connect up your paid ad platforms with Adzooma, and it helps you optimize and increase efficiency in your advertising. You can see the metrics and you can see where there are issues and where there's success, but this blue widget on the right hand side of this dashboard is the key area that has a lot of power.

Peter Loving:
What it does is it shows that the user all of the work that Adzooma is doing to improve their results. So you can see, it says there are 37 opportunities all created by Adzooma based on their ads. And then also time-saving of two hours because Adzooma has gone in and increased efficiencies on managing their ads. So the user can start equating their investment in the Adzooma platform to direct results that it has on the business in terms of time and money, actual revenue. So the opportunities will lead to sales that they can start to quantify the revenue and the timing. They can also quantify how much time they've saved the revenue that that gives them. So, for people that get a lot of value from Adzooma, it's an absolute, no brainer to pay for this tool and for this service. And it's easy for users to forget. So it's quite nice that they have this reminder and they also get the snippets of insights of exactly what it's doing for them. So I really liked that feature.

Peter Loving:
David Sharpe, one of the founders at Adzooma, he put it to me this way, when he was explaining this process of how they developed that dashboard. He said, "We needed to quantify time and money saved in order for our users to understand the value we were adding." And isn't that great? Because often you, are very aware of the value you're adding, but often the prospect or your customer might not see all of that behind-the-scenes value. And this is a nice way for Adzooma to show that if they needed to quantify it for the user to understand and appreciate them, then that's what needs to be done. And it's been done in quite an elegant way, I think.

Peter Loving:
So I'll try to summarize that the five principles from the dashboards that I've shared with you, and I'll summarize this by saying, help users achieve their goals by providing the framework to succeed. So, your software is a tool that they use to perform work, but think of your tool as providing a framework that leads the user through to their desired result, a desired outcome. That's a really nice way to think about it because when you start building a framework into your product, it means there's a system in there. And that system's been thought out very clearly to make sure that your user does succeed with your product. And obviously that's going to increase, like I said, at the beginning of this talk, utilization, retention, give you a better NPS, improve your ability to market your product. Not only that, but once you have a really well-designed dashboard, it's very easy to share that as a graphic, as a sales tool for prospects to visualize using your platform.

Peter Loving:
So I developed a framework. If you're thinking about making improvements to your dashboard, I have a framework here called the Value Mapping Exercise that I created to help you think about each element that's worth considering in order to design a really powerful dashboard. So over on the left-hand side, you would start there and list out your user profiles. Think of all the different profiles you have. And then on the far right-hand side, you've got the desired outcomes. Now they might be the same, but they might be different for each person. So you want to list those out. Now in between that, you've got the different states each user is in when they log in. So there's usually three states that users are in when they log into a platform. They're either looking to discover the product itself or discover something about the product, they're either going in to create [inaudible 00:23:18] perform tasks to do actual work, or they're in this third state, which is a kind of review states. They might be looking for progress updates, looking for information, or looking to gain a report or share a report.

Peter Loving:
And that leads us to the goals. So the fourth column there, just the penultimate one on the right, the column for goals, thinking about your user, based on what state they're in, you want to think about the goal of their session for that state that they're in. And how does that goal lead to the overall desired outcome? And then in the middle, we've got interactions. This column really is where you list out the physical interactions that this user needs to go through in order to reach that goal that ultimately works towards the desired outcome.

Peter Loving:
So that's, that's the kind of brain mapping exercise to increase value. And hopefully that can help you when you're thinking about yours. So thank you for listening to this talk. If you'd like to get in touch with me, feel free to write to me at peter@peterloving.com. I also run a product design and consultancy agency called you UserActive. So, that's useractive.io. So if you want any more information or slides to this talk, or would like to reach out, have any questions, I'd be more than happy to connect with you. Feel free to reach out to me there. Thank you for listening.

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Gretchen Duhaime
Peter Loving
Founder at UserActive
Helping SaaS companies make product improvements that drive growth. Peter is a product specialist who helps SaaS companies make improvements that drive growth. He has helped over 100 tech companies improve user experience and interface design.