MicroStrategy 10's adoption of HTML5 brings and end to platform-specific design constraints.

MicroStrategy users and developers will recognize this challenge instantly: create documents for desktop web, create documents for tablets, create documents for mobile phones, and then struggle to keep each of them individually updated and maintain identical functionality across all platforms as enhancements are released. The documents created for mobile phones were optimized for the latest iPhone 6, and are nearly unusable to users with an iPhone 4 or a Samsung Galaxy S III Mini. The documents created for tablets were optimized for Microsoft Surface 3’s larger screen size, and will bleed off the edge of the screen if the user tries to access it from an iPad Mini. To make things worse, each of these documents needs to be edited by different developers independently each time there is a change request, while somehow maintaining consistency. What if it didn’t have to be so complicated?

With a new movement towards the use of HTML5 in MicroStrategy, BI app designers can restack business expectations and fundamentally change the way that information delivery development teams approach these problems. By implementing the sustainability and scalability of responsive design as a dashboarding and reporting solution, we’re able to decrease development costs and reduce the time to launch, while eliminating the frustrations of platform-centric design constraints.

Responsive design originated as an innovative approach to traditional web design, with the goal of solving the problem of having no control over the device or screen size that a user is using to view a website’s content. Traditionally, websites were designed and optimized to be viewed at a certain size or screen resolution or in some cases, even a specific web browser. As mobile phones grew in popularity, and web usage analytics started to reveal that more and more users were trying to access websites from mobile devices, web designers were put into a tricky situation of now having to create device-specific versions of a single website – one for desktop users, one for mobile users, one for tablet users. It didn’t take long before even this wasn’t enough to solve the problem. Multiple mobile phone manufacturers, each with multiple devices and models available in varying sizes, made it almost impossible to create a device-specific solution that covered the needs of every user. Trying to predict the answers to questions like whether the user base was more likely to be on an iOS or Android platform, on a mobile phone or tablet, or holding the device in portrait or landscape mode was focusing on the wrong problems.

Responsive design in business intelligence apps

MicroStrategy 10's adoption of HTML5 brings and end to platform-specific design constraints.

The solution was responsive web design, which instead puts into place a fluid, flexible framework that determines how the website and its content reacts and adapts to the user’s screen size. A user’s experience with the site will always be optimal, because of the flexible nature of the site’s structure or framework, which resizes, rearranges, and reorganizes the content to fit the screen, regardless of its size. A popular metaphor for understanding how responsive design works is by thinking of web content as if it were a liquid. If you place liquid in a teacup, it takes on the shape of the cup. If you put it in a salad bowl, it takes on the shape of the bowl instead. Responsive design uses the same principle to deliver the same content through any device.

Responsive design in business intelligence apps

What Benefit Does Responsive Design Bring to Business Intelligence Teams?

Because of the platform-specific nature of Business Intelligence software, responsive design has not previously been a viable solution, but with the recent push towards the integration of HTML5, the principles of responsive design are starting to become usable in a dashboarding or reporting environments, and platform-centric design constraints are starting to disappear. BI tools are now trending toward universal accessibility and general applicability.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies have become increasingly more popular, and BI professionals have moved beyond the idea that work can only be done sitting in front of a standard issue laptop, so the BI industry is now starting to face the same problems that the web design community faced (and possibly solved for us) years ago. Like websites, BI applications are now expected to function perfectly on every device, with the same content and a seamless experience regardless of where or how the user accesses it.

Responsive design offers several benefits that make it an attractive solution for organizations to take advantage of in business intelligence applications:

  • Cost Saving and ROI:
    Responsive design significantly reduces development cost, as it requires only one code base, which provides identical functionality and content across any and all devices. Responsive design has actually been shown to offer as much as a 70% reduction in development cost in comparison to building platform-specific tools across multiple platforms.
  • Scalability and Ease of Update:
    Management and maintenance to an application becomes substantially less time-consuming, as updates only need to be made once. Responsive design allows content and functionality updates to be pushed across all devices simultaneously.
  • BYOD Policies and Universal Accessibility:
    With responsive design, it becomes faster and easier to get analytical content into the hands of an entire team. With the ability to access the same content from any device, users are no longer tied to a laptop in a cubicle, and can now perform the same work in the same tool from their mobile phones while eating breakfast, or from their iPads while waiting for a flight.
  • Cognitive Ergonomics and a Seamless User Experience:
    Previously, when designing mobile-specific versions of desktop applications, product teams would often have to make sacrifices on what content needs to be available on a mobile device. This led to disconnected user experiences, where a desktop tool becomes preferable for some functions, while a mobile device becomes the tool of choice for other functions. With responsive design solutions, the user experience across all devices remains constant, and users have access to all the tools and functions that they are familiar with and expect to be able to use.

Mobile BI will only continue to grow, with demand for more and more support for new devices hitting the market. As platform-centric design constraints build up, responsive design stands out as the most effective solution, allow organizations to deploy analytical tools across all devices with a single code base, in an efficient and scalable way.

Gareth Botha

Author Gareth Botha

Gareth is a UI/UX Designer in Atlanta, focused on creating beautiful, engaging, usable and accessible user experiences for mobile and web apps and digital products.

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