HR information: point-of-decision provision and designing experiences

In our recent guidelines article we highlighted what we feel is an oft-overlooked foundation of developing good data communication: designing experiences.

“The starting point for any dashboard design should be the experience you want to facilitate for the user. You need to think about what they want to create, understand and communicate and how your information will help them do that.  People don’t want dashboards for their own sake – they want great insight to help them make effective decisions to meet their personal goals.”


As important as the intent of the user is understanding when they will likely need the information. This is the critical point for understanding the demands of mobile access of HR data; predicting in which situations the question is likely, where the person will be, who they will be with and what they need to do after consulting the data. These questions all have implications for the way that you present the information; be that on a traditional browser, via email or increasingly to be consumed by a mobile, touch, interface.

Historically our information was provided at a different time and place than when the decision needed to be made. We would take a question away from a conversation, find data that reduced our uncertainty and often reconvened another conversation to discuss and decide. Given the lag between question and answer either decisions were made with incomplete information – follow-up questions only were resolved if defined at the original time – or an iterative process where start where no decision ultimately would be made.

Users are frustrated at this detachment and decision-supporting information needs to be designed to be provided when it is needed – in the location and at the time when the original question is raised. Information needs to be presented at the point-of-decision.

Designing for experiences

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Henry Ford.

The most effective way of understanding user needs is by watching them. Few people are great at explaining needs and data, an area which isn’t a core skill for most HR people, is particularly hard to define.

Video can be a useful tool to help understand needs. Certainly testing information communication using usability-lab techniques can help drastically improve how effective a tool is at delivering on its promise. These tests need to study not only using the tool but the activities before and after. The observer needs to understand the intent behind why the user would reach for the tool, what they would expect to see, how they would use this information. All these activities need to be mapped and their paths made straightforward.

For a tool or display to be regularly used it needs to improve the life of the person using it. In working life using it will make their activities easier than not using it. How it becomes easier also needs to be understood. One should not assume that just because something provides value for the company it provides an incentive for the individual to use. Ideally it needs to provide value to the firm and the individual.


  • Information needs to be presented in a way to support decisions
  • It needs to be available when the decision needs to be made.  In many instances this implies mobile provision
  • It needs to fit into users ways of working, or enable new ways that improve their lives