Consumer reporting interfaces have more fun

Open up your CRM reporting tool. If it looks anything like the tools I’ve seen, it’s all about filters and metrics and bland line graphs. Now imagine it worked a little more like the new Google Finance dashboard:

Google Finance

or like the Baby Name Wizard:

Baby Name Wizard

or had an interface like News Map by Marumushi:

News Map

Why is it that consumer data visualization tools are so much cleaner, easier to understand, more polished, and engaging than enterprise reporting/analysis tools? I have a few theories:

  1. Reporting comes last. Reporting is typically the last thing considered and created in development projects. Visibility into the data becomes less important that ensuring data entry, integrity, management, and access. Alternatively, it is a matter of the developers playing to their strengths. Design and data visualization clearly aren’t passions - or they’d be unable to launch with these tools.
  2. Reporting trumps analysis. There is too much emphasis on delivering raw numbers, and not enough emphasis on presenting information in ways that allow users to understand what is going on. Put another way: success is defined as delivering accurate data filtered as the user has defined it. What if success was about delivering new insights about what’s going on in the enterprise?
  3. Comprehensiveness is king. I can just imagine the list of requirements stacked on the desk of the team tasked to build the reporting interface. It’s a long list and shoehorning all of it into an interface is hard. The irony is, from what I’ve seen, really useful data views are left out (like time series and animation).

The examples above offer smooth-animation, mouse-over discovery and highlighting, and a consistent color palette. The baby name explorer and NewsMap are also specific tools that address one specific need very well.