DevExpress Newsletter 7: Message from the CTO

29 July 2009

My Message from the CTO in our seventh newsletter:

Information overload

We live in a world of information. It comes at us from all angles, via lots of different ways, and from many people. We get information from books, newspapers, blogs, Twitter, and so on. If we're not to drown, we quickly evolve ways to snatch relevant tidbits from the fire hose of information that blasts past us. We may use filters to only see the items that interest us, we may search for relevant data, we may apply some kind of tool that provide a different visualization of the information, we may look for aggregators that do the filtering and the checking for relevancy for us, and so on.

Your users are the same way, except that the fire hose of information they have is being pumped by software you wrote.

You should be providing ways for them to pick out what's relevant from what isn't. Provide search boxes. Provide the ability for them to filter the information, or to group and sort it. Provide "aggregators" or dashboards that do this for them, with the ability to drill down if they want to see the fine print. Provide different visualizations, such as charts and the like, to help them understand what's going on.

Even simpler: categorize the way you display information so that you are showing what's relevant in a higher contrast than that which is not as relevant (our Mark Miller has a series of blog posts about this kind of relevancy visualization).

So, think of your users. How can you provide tools to help them filter out the relevant streams of information from their fire hose?

It's amazing to look at software these days versus that from ten years ago, say. Then you had a Help button if you were lucky, but these days the ubiquitous Search box provides a better user experience. What's next I wonder?

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