Before anyone ever heard the term data science, there was IBM SPSS Statistics. From punch cards to the cloud, SPSS has made countless innovations in the past 50 years. Now a complete redesign of the user experience is helping SPSS Statistics to chart a course for the next half century by keeping data analysis fresh and exciting for new generations of users.
Leveraging the IBM Enterprise Design Thinking framework, the IBM Hybrid Cloud team has created a modern version of a classic tool that is not only easy and intuitive to use but that users can enjoy. Their hard work paid off, winning IBM the prestigious international 2018 Red Dot: Communication Design Award for design excellence.
By simplifying workflows, reducing the overall complexity of the user interface and interactions, and providing beginners an easy on-boarding to statistics and the product, the redesigned software speeds and streamlines many aspects of the data analysis process. Hereâ€™s a look at some of the updates in more detail.
Making statistics approachable
In the words of Arin Bhowmick, Vice President and Chief Design officer, IBM Hybrid Cloud, the overarching goal of the project was â€śto make data analysis a delight that lets user go from point A to point B without taking away the great features.â€ť
One of the first discoveries the team made was that first-time users needed to spend a considerable amount of time reading documentation and textbooks and viewing tutorials before getting started due to lack of familiarity with the domain and product environment. Designers determined the product needed an immersive getting started experience that would provide an easy-to-digest user flow and make intensive study or training unnecessary. Secondly, they wanted to go beyond merely providing a product to helping users acquire a sound understanding of statistics.
â€śWe asked ourselves how we could help the student be a better citizen of statistics by giving them a fundamental understanding of the domain and letting them drive through the experience of completing tasks,â€ť said Bhowmick. â€śThat meant we needed to take a tool that was highly complex for first-time users and transform it into something thatâ€™s easy to dive into and grasp.â€ť
The teamâ€™s answer was Simon, an animated, built-in persona that guides first-time users through the software. Designers spent considerable time figuring out how students interacted with system, down to the specific language, voice and tone that would resonate with their target audience. Details like on-screen text and illustrations help connect beginners to the system and keep them engaged as they complete tasks such as exploring a dataset, learning basic statistical concepts and performing a simple analysis.
â€śWe find we can really impact the learning experience of first-time users and improve their adoption of the product by giving them a fluent onboarding interaction with the product,â€ť explained Bhowmick. Experienced users who donâ€™t need the guided learning tools can choose not to use those features and can invoke them later if they wish.
Improving access to core functionality
Once the team tackled the getting started experience, they turned their attention to making the softwareâ€™s core features more accessible. SPSS Statistics is a powerful product that can perform many tasks with varying levels of complexity. However, as user attention spans grow shorter, designers have learned that working with multiple open windows actually leads to high cognitive load, necessitating a different approach that provides very focused experiences.
Studying interaction patterns and features commonly found in consumer software helped the team simplify navigation without impacting the applicationâ€™s core functionality. For example, the addition of tabs modernizes the product by incorporating a feature people are used to seeing in their favorite web browser. The popular syntax capability now enables users to write syntax in context, without moving back and forth between windows. Enhancements like these have improved access to functionality without diminishing any of the softwareâ€™s power of flexibility.
A new analysis catalog helps beginners and intermediate users find the right type of analysis quickly. Unlike most statistical packages, which require some type of programming to arrive at the right techniques, SPSS Statistics now includes 19 categories of analysis and hundreds of techniques to choose from, ensuring more accurate results.
The design team also felt it was important to mimic the data grids/tables people are accustomed to seeing in commercial software such as Microsoft Excel or Google sheets. Datasets are now viewable in a readable table that enables users to interact with their data in a familiar setting and stay in context.
Showcasing IBM design
Designing for a product like IBM SPSS Statistics is challenging due to its vast amounts of established features, complex workflows, and many advanced tasks. To create an interface that incorporates these complexities seamlessly, designers had to rethink, and not simply rebuild, a best-of-breed solution. The Hybrid Cloud Design team has proven that IBM can be known for great software design and should be congratulated for their level of detail and hard work, which has transformed data analysis for countless users.
Are you ready to be excited and delighted by your data analysis tool? Download a free trial of SPSS Statistics today.