Recently I was on a road trip with a couple of girlfriends. It was a gorgeous early summer weekend. We were driving from Boston to Maine, about three hours away. What do you do on road trips? You eat snacks and sing loudly.
We were in the mood for a little U2. One friend plugged her iPod into the iPod-specific jack on the car stereo—a media package I paid extra for when I bought the car. The stereo came with upgraded speakers and sounded pretty good when I went for a test drive, and it was purported to support iPods and iPhones.
The first challenge came when the stereo didn’t recognize my friend’s iPod. Maybe her iPod was too old. So she plugged in my iPhone 4. The stereo recognized the device just fine. But we spent nearly 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get to my U2 collection. The interface seems fairly straight forward, upon first glance. But what is “PTY/CAT?” “What is “A.S?” What is “RDM?” After you push PTY/CAT, A.S, or RDM, then what?
It would have been fine if we could have interacted with the stereo using the iPhone, which has a very intuitive user interface. But the system requires that you interact with your mobile device via the stereo panel rather than your device’s screen.We eventually stumbled on an “artist mode” option, but it looked like the only way to get from the As to the Us was to manually page through the artists, pushing a button over and over to move down through the list of artists. After a few moments of that we switched our choice from U2 to Abba (QlikTech’s Swedish roots have gotten to me!). But someone pushed something and we couldn’t figure out how to get back to artist mode.
We pulled over by the side of the road and took the half inch-thick user manual out of the glove box. We tried to follow the instructions to get to the music we wanted to hear. But we eventually gave up. My friend pulled out her BlackBerry and pushed play, and we sang loudly to the tinny sound of Abba songs coming out of the tiny speaker in her handheld device.
Wait, wait, don’t go. I’m not hijacking The QlikView Blog to complain about my car stereo. My point is this: even if a car stereo has the best technology behind the face plate—the highest wattage, the best digital sound processing, the finest magnets—all that goodness is of no use to me if I can’t figure out how to use it.
The same is true for BI software. Even if all the company’s data is on the back end, and a skilled BI team spent months building out the richest, most comprehensive dashboard, if the user can’t figure out how to ask a question and get an answer, ask another question and get another answer—without having to get in the queue to ask IT for a new query or report—than nothing else matters. It’s all about the user experience, and the user experience is more than just a pretty (inter)face.