During my time at Tableau, Tableau Exchange directed a lot of resources into the expansion of their Accelerator offering type. Accelerators are Tableau dashboard templates meant to provide a quick way to help users get started on their data analysis journeys. However, prior research of mine showed that these offering types were actually fairly difficult to use because it was difficult for users to import their data. This prompted the design of a more efficient way for users to “map” their data into the Accelerators to begin using them more quickly.
While a wireframe prototype was being developed by our design team, I posed foundational questions surrounding user expectations and mental models for the data mapping experience specific to Accelerators, which became the basis for this study. And due to the early nature of the prototype the senior designer wanted to be as closely involved with the research as possible, which I happily welcomed.
Throughout the research process, I worked closely with the senior designer because he wanted to be able to conduct studies of his own in the future. It was a great exercise in collaboration as well as in self-reflection, because every decision I made needed both reason and explanation.
When we began, the study was meant to be an unmoderated user test. The designer and I carefully walked through the data mapper prototype and wrote out specific questions along with detailed step-by-step instructions for the users to be displayed during the tests. Questions were broken up by task and touched on user impressions, confusions, and several specifics that the designer sought direct feedback about. However, we discovered after five sessions that the data mapper in its current state was far too complex a process for an unmoderated study and we switched gears to a moderated plan. We then held nine more live user tests over web conferencing tools in which I conducted six and my designer conducted three.
Prior to the study, I held multiple informational meetings with the designer in order to coach him on best practices when interviewing. And following each session that he chose to lead, we would immediately brief on how it went and areas he could improve.
To recruit participants for both the pilot and the study proper, we used a recruitment software that found groups of Tableau users separated by their experience with the tool - experienced, novice, and non-users.
Once the study concluded, I presented the findings in a small readout to the immediately involved team members within design and engineering.
From the user tests, the designer and I found that the data mapper prototype was missing critical context explaining the function and outcome of the mapping process, and was lacking more explicit guidance. This departure from their mental models resulted in user confusion at several different stages of the user flow. Additionally, it was difficult for users to get through the flow without a moderator there to guide them. These findings pointed to the need for more guidance and context within the mapper itself, as the ability to remap fields was necessary for many users.
Most importantly we received pushback on the fact that there was no way for users to go back and adjust or change their data mappings with the current design, something which engineering had told us would not be possible before launch due to technical limitations. However, I was adamant that this was a non-negotiable requirement that could have dire consequences if not included.
These findings were immediately responsible for the inclusion of a way for users to revisit their data mappings after assignment in the V1 release, something I was very adamant about as it could have spelled disaster for the tool if it were not a capability. The findings also greatly informed the next design iteration and another study is currently in progress to test the impact of the design updates.
Additionally, the senior designer that I mentored and gave feedback to is now more comfortable and confident in running his own research. He has expressed a desire to moderate more research sessions in the future.