A multi-national manufacturer of frozen foods engaged Teradata to assist in the design and development of a MicroStrategy dashboard that would allow the CEO and his global directors to compare employee compensation spend to net sales and gross profit.
The client requested one dashboard that could serve both the CEO and his direct reports, could be filtered to three regional levels, and could display monetary values in a user’s local currency.
Teradata built a team of onshore and offshore resources consisting of a project manager, data architects, MicroStrategy developers, and a dashboard designer to complete the project on a very strict timeline and budget.
I had three weeks to complete my tasks, from requirement gathering to final designs.
The stakeholders for the project were located on different continents and we knew they had very limited availability. To maximize our time a few teammates and I traveled to the client’s headquarters to kick-off the project, gather requirements, discuss data readiness, and hold sketching sessions with the client’s stakeholders.
In advance of our working sessions I created a presentation to jumpstart the conversation and get the client’s creative juices flowing. The presentation showed how MicroStrategy dashboards work, a few very rough wireframes based on the client’s metrics, and some final mockups from dashboards I’d designed in the past.
The stakeholders were very engaged during the working sessions, and we took turns sketching ideas. I came away from the sessions with a solid understanding of how I could wireframe the dashboard.
Back in New York, I combined all the notes I’d gathered, photos of whiteboard sketches, and created low-fidelity wireframes in a PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint is an unconventional way to create wireframes, but I wanted the client to have the ability to make edits to the wireframes or requirement notes themselves. It seemed like a good way to collaborate… (more on that later!)
During the wireframing stage of the project I was in constant communication with our team’s data architects and developers to make certain the designs could be achieved with the client’s data and within the MicroStrategy framework. Because of the tight timeline I didn’t want any surprises once development had begun.
Because the stakeholders had demanding schedules it was sometimes a challenge to get feedback on the designs quickly. The wireframes were starting to take more time than expected, and it became clear that I would have one week to create the high-fidelity mockups. Additionally, the client’s marketing department was unable to provide an official style guide for branding purposes. It was getting right down to the wire, and I was determined to meet my deadline.
So I took a risk, and as soon as I felt the wireframes were 99% in place I started the high-fidelity mockups. I used fonts, colors, and other graphic elements from the client’s website to create the dashboard’s look-and-feel. At this point I was still editing wireframes and designing the high-fidelity mockups in tandem.
Fortunately, the stakeholders were pleased with my initial high-fidelity designs. The wireframes received sign-off, and the high-fidelity mockups went through only one round of modifications. I created a style guide, packaged the graphic assets, and delivered the mockups to the developers on time.
What I Learned
Group sketching sessions with focused stakeholders is very valuable, and gives the project a strong start.
Having rough wireframes going into the initial meeting can be helpful especially if the clients are new to the design process. The visuals give clients something to respond to, and allow you to start gathering feedback quickly.
Never, ever, EVER use PowerPoint for wireframing! Just don’t. The tool produces clunky graphics and makes iterating on multiple slides very time-consuming. There are far superior tools such as Sketch, Axure or Adobe XD that will give you nearly pixel perfect designs along with prototyping capabilities.