From Idea to Dashboards

By Betty Zhang

I joined TribalScale Venture Studio in March this year as a designer. In 14 weeks, we came up with ideas and turned them into products. This was a very unconventional process for product, design, and strategy. I wanted to write about how we executed ideas and turned them into the final MVP pitch.

There are a couple of pages in any digital product which I call ‘basic pages’: the dashboard, profile, settings, etc. You can find these pages on almost every digital product you use. And without thinking, some designers automatically put these pages in every product they design — rarely do web and mobile products leave out dashboards. They’ve become part of the process and not so much the solution. Although, I don’t think they are a must-have.

The Masterplan

To first briefly explain the Venture Studio process… The first 8 weeks were mainly about ideation and exploration and in this period, we were looking for problems and needs in the fintech, automotive, and media spaces. Throughout the process, we worked with industry advisory groups (IAG) to identify areas of need, innovation, and/or disruption. We also did exploratory interviews with potential customers.

author

The Brainchild

After 8 weeks, I started to wireframe and test early assumptions through prototypes — establishing the user journey was crucial because we were building products that had no previous definition. In my design role, it was about making the idea tangible by focusing-in on the core aspect of the idea that directly addresses the problem. Since we went so far into the ideation rabbit hole, we needed to zero-in on the feasible and most valuable points of the product to build an MVP.

A pain point that I found was that we were following traditional delivery processes. There seemed to be a disconnect between the innovation in ideation processes and then the method in which we executed.

Or as PanuK would put it, there was an imbalance among the design arenas: purpose, beneficiary, artefact, and evaluation. We were working with a clear deadline that forced a linear design process.

I found that the easiest way to display an idea always came down to the dashboard. So when it came to creating a User Interface (UI) for any of the ideas that we decided to build, it was difficult to steer away from making a dashboard and then calling it a day. But why? Agree or disagree, but we assume every digital UI has to have a dashboard, but not many dashboards have actually been useful in my experience using products.

The benefit of a dashboard is that you can show what kinds of data or product offerings are in one page. The problem with this is that while building a totally new product, you have no true data or even an idea of how data would be used. So instead, let’s show features. But for us, some of the ideas we were working with were even too early to be shown as features on a dashboard. So, the dashboard ends up showing what the product could be rather than what the product is.

A quick Google search will show you that all beautiful dashboards have already been made and generally look the same; numbers and charts. They’ve become so generic that when I sat at my desk trying to design a dashboard for the last product, I felt like copy and paste was the most creative thing I could’ve done.

author

A beautiful dashboard in the inception of a product doesn’t really say anything. In my opinion, dashboards are like book titles; they should be created at the end of the process when you know what the rest of the content holds.

The Key Takeaway

Over these last few weeks, I’ve had a burning question, “why do we go directly to dashboards when making a product tangible?” But most importantly, I asked myself:

“Does the beautiful dashboard also work to answer those opportunities and problems we found in discovery process?”

Rather than jumping to the dashboard, design the most complex pages of the product, and if that data or features are important to show as a summary, then the dashboard is definitely needed.

About the author

Betty is an interaction designer, she designs experiences and immersive installations. She mainly works in product design, design strategy, practice-based research, and creative technology in digital and tangible media.

Currently, Betty is a UI/UX designer at TribalScale Venture Studios and in her personal work, she’s exploring wearable technology, gestural interactions, biofeedback, and sound installations

Visit Us on Medium

You might also be interested in…