Differentiating between Design & Data
Any application has a mixture of design & data. Both of these constituents cannot be imagined of without the other. In fact, it is the gelling of the design & data together that leads to the greatness of any application. Any user will always look out for data but the way that he manages to access this data ultimately depends on the design of your application. So it is important to understand the difference between the Data & the Design while visualizing the importance of each of them.
User Interface vs User Experience
Gone are the days where User Interface was the talk of the town. We are in the era where User Experience (UX as they call it) is the buzz word. Users are more concerned with How it feels to use the application rather than how the application looks in itself. In such scenarios, as a design-architect/lead of any development project, one needs to assess what can lead to a better user experience and what can contribute to it. One of the crucial components to a better user experience is to show the user what they want to see! In the following section, we will mention the various methods of doing so.
Showing users what they want!
The most popular way of letting users see what they want is to have a search facility. A lot of websites/applications create a difficult time for users when they let them graze amidst volumes of data while all they need to see is just a couple of records. Ensure that you have Search facility across your application at all relevant places. Search is all the more important when users are viewing records & documents which are common to all user groups.
Empower your users with the ability to filter & drill-down to access what they are interested in. Reducing no. of clicks to reach to a particular page/section is a great asset. When the user needs to view data based on specific criteria, provide them with an advanced search/filtering facility, where they can drill down to the most relevant records/data.
ToolTips & MouseOvers
Another efficient way to let users see interesting information is to provide them with interesting tooltips & mouse-overs. Sometimes these come as handy replacement to opening the entire document. If you can display the crucial information on the mouse-over, the user can just move across his mouse and view multiple records within a matter of seconds.
Provide users with a navigation that can help them navigate between any two end-points within the application with the least no. of page transitions. Effectively use radio buttons, dropdowns, check-boxes, buttons, links, etc. to help the User navigation between multiple pages without complete transitions. Also, ensure users know what they can find on each click, before they actually land up there.
Have sufficient statistics that can help users know the numbers at a single place. This can drastically reduce user navigation and give him a snapshot of the numbers as they stand.
All the above mentioned steps go on to enhance the usability of the application and after a few visits your users accustomed to your application because of your user-friendliness.