5 ways to nail data visualization on mobile

Written by Matthew Jones

In the age of the data obsessed consumer, user demands are growing and they now expect an app to be able to display meaningful insights wherever they are. However, data visualization on mobile is notoriously difficult to pull off well; the replication of a browser-based dashboard with static, meaningless data is no longer sufficient. Fluid interaction that enables quick decisions is king.

fast mobile charting

The business case for improving your mobile offering has already been made in previous articles. In this post, I identify 5 ways to nail mobile charting and data visualization.

1 ) Make it spectacularly fast

Displaying large amounts of data can be hugely processor-intensive, which can be a problem when users want data to be displayed in the here and now. A slow load time can frustrate users just like a website’s page speed. On mobile, the frustration of waiting is amplified, so developers have to start in a place which lets them pack a punch on speed.

As discussed in previous blog posts, HTML5 struggles to give the performance needed. Instead, look for an openGL solution that harnesses the power of the device. Such a solution will also ensure a solid performance over time, given the rate at which the processors in mobile devices are improving.

2 ) Make it comfortably familiar

iOS users expect their apps to work in the same way as the rest of their mobile device. And Android users expect their apps to work just like Android apps on their tablets or smartphones. Being unable to do something, or being forced to do it differently, is alien and frustrating for users.

Just like they do in other popular apps such as Google Maps, they want to be able to tap, double-tap, press, pan, tilt, pinch, and zoom. Familiarity and usability is key to satisfying users and making them stick with your app. Look for a product that offers feature parity across platforms. This will not only speed up development, but will also ensure a consistent experience for your users.

3 ) Make it deeply meaningful

Just because mobile can make things look great doesn’t mean that apps can skimp on delivering a meaningful experience. If users can’t make sense of and action the data you’re showing them, what’s the point?

As discussed in our white paper, Andy Kirk, author and blogger on the subject of data visualization, told us: “Many web/mobile developers are far too easily charmed by fancy-looking visual tricks that might look impressive but have either no value or a detrimental one. If you have the foundation of good visualization practices and on top of that can offer an experience that ticks the ‘cool’ box, perfect.”

4 ) Make it highly interactive

Being able to interact with the data that is displayed results in user engagement. The mobile is in the user’s hand, so that’s also where they expect the control to be. They want to flick between different charts and graphs to find the most helpful representation. They want to cross-correlate different data sets in an instant and compare year-on-year trends. They want to see and work with the entire data set in one go, without losing any data integrity, even if that’s a quarter of a million points. They want to see everything, and then in the next moment dive in to see one specific thing.

5 ) Make it fluidly animated

Animation isn’t and shouldn’t be just a funky trick. Used well, it adds a whole new dimension to data, and can be used to differentiate your users’ experience from that provided by your competitors.

Animation can instantly highlight the extremes in a data set. It can focus the user’s attention on problem areas, or important issues for today and tomorrow. And since highly interactive reporting can’t be clunky, the animation has to be seamlessly fluid and work within mobile paradigms.

What next?

To help address the changing landscape for enterprise apps and to share our data visualization expertise, we’ve released a new white paper, Charting in mobile apps; style and substance in mobile retail banking –  available to download here. In it, we explain how to improve your own mobile strategy and charting so you can attract, engage and retain your users.

Download White Paper