There was a lack of clarity around the data in the application. Was it enough? Should there be more? What didn’t they know? Users were asking all of these questions as they became more savvy with the application.
Clearly, the customer was looking to my team to provide a level of leadership that transcended “making the user interface look pretty” or “making it sexy.” To be honest, the task of making a user interface look good is pretty easy these days. Pretty design is simple, but good design is not. As I started thinking about the main issue that the customer had identified, I realized that what this customer was really looking for was a no-left-turn approach to UX design. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, it is the approach the United Parcel Service (UPS) has implemented to save fuel, improve on-time performance and safety, and ultimately, deliver more packages. All of this makes UPS a more profitable company.
Turning Data into Design
After conducting much research, UPS figured out that, by eliminating left turns and sending its drivers on routes on which they would only make right turns, they could meet all of these goals. Left turns are more dangerous and require drivers to wait longer to make their turn, thus wasting fuel and time. So they sent drivers on routes that may appear longer on a map, but are actually much more highly performant.
I started thinking about this in terms of UX design and the overall user experience. How do we allow something to happen? How do we make something happen? What could be our own no-left-turn mantra that would deliver multiple benefits? I believe part of the answer to these questions has to do with data. What data we display, how we display it, and what is necessary to complete a process or task. All of this could contribute greatly to the success of an application or experience.
These days, if you ask any data scientist about how they feel about all the data that is now available, you will hear a common theme. Overall, it’s a great thing that we now have access to the data we need. However, this data is completely useless unless we are able to gain insights from the data and transform those insights into something actionable. To be fair, as the wealth of available data increases, even the best data scientist needs help discovering these insights. Software that can identify or help predict trends or the next, best action someone will or should take elevates the role of data to something truly powerful. With that capability comes a critical need to inject design thinking into your analytics capabilities. UPS had the data about the routes their drivers actually took, and they needed to design the most highly performant routes. Without that design effort, the data was meaningless.