I’m puzzled why more hasn’t been written about the display of management reports on the iPad. From our perspective, it’s an ideal device for displaying high density (a la Edward Tufte) reports and dashboards.
Before I outline the benefits of the iPad for reporting, let me just say that I have not been a big fan of reporting/analytics software on mobile devices such as the Blackberry or iPhone. I’ve always felt that these platforms are too small and too slow for any serious analysis. For me, waiting 10-20 seconds to see one chart on a mobile device is just painful — I would rather just get the raw numbers in an email if I’m on the road.
So what makes the iPad and other tablets different? For one, the larger screen allows the user to look at multiple charts at one time — this type of viewing is critical for managers looking at performance reports, trends, etc. Secondly, the zooming gestures on a tablet emulate (or are superior to) the experience of viewing a paper report where you look first at the entire report and then take a closer look at individual charts or numbers. The tablet also seems to connect the user much more closely to the data since you’re literally touching the data for drill-downs and hovers. This type of connection is just not the same when viewing the report on a desktop or laptop. Finally, since many management reports are viewed during meetings, the tablet format is well suited since it’s light weight and doesn’t create a barrier like a laptop between meeting participants.
We’ve optimized our new reporting portal to make it very easy to use on tablet devices. We used several design principles during this process:
- Utilize spacing and icons that are suitable to the touch experience
- Reduce the number of “touches” to the absolute minimum to reach the desired report
- Achieve sub-second response times whenever possible
- Support sharing of reports with multiple users simultaneously
Let’s hope that the tablet will, over time, significantly reduce the traditional mad rush to print management reports prior to meetings.