IBM SPSS Statistics is one of the most widely used statistics applications, first developed in 1968. However, less experienced users often were intimidated by the complexity of the software. Therefore, the latest redesign has focused on simplifying workflows, reducing the overall complexity of the UI and interactions, and providing beginners with an easy on-boarding to statistics and the application.
MAR.—JUN. 2017 | 9 MIN. READ
AUTHOR: Robin Auer, Design Research, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software
During the first months at IBM was working for two products at the same time. SPSS Statistics was one of them. The project started with a redesign of the “Download-and-Go” Experience of the product. We realized pretty fast that the application needed to be rethought completely. The first step for the team was a redesign of the whole user interface. At the same time, I was able to conduct user research to understand what the general issues are that our users had to deal with. For the first few months on the project, I was the lead user researcher and planned all research activities. We conducted several interviews in Europe and the United States with Students, Statistic Teachers, and professional Market Research Analysts.
David Townsend – Director of Design, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software
Caroline Law – Design Manager, IBM Data and AI
Douglas Stauber – Senior Offering Manager
Dirk Willuhn – Design Lead
Eva Cochet-Weinandt – Design Lead
Phil Brucker – Visual Design
Marion Bruells – Visual Design
Christian Fritsche – Visual Design
Dimitri Hoffmann – UX Design
Jaehee (Chloe) Lee – UX Design
Oleksandr Sabov – UX Engineer
Stephan Feger – UX Design
Sammy Schuckert – UX Design
Stefan Schwarz – Visual Design
Robin Auer – Design Research
IBM SPSS Statistics has three different main users. Psychology, sociology, or anthropology (etc.) students who have statistics in school. As well as the professors and lecturers who are teaching statistics and using SPSS Statistics as an entry-level tool. Not to forget the professional users who are working as Data Scientists and Market Research Analysts in the business.
Max is a business student at a university who is taking a statistics class as part of his requirements. This is his first statistics class, so he is learning statistics and using SPSS Statistics or similar software. He takes other classes as well. He uses social media on his phone a lot. He is used to and expects modern user interfaces.
Market Research Analyst
Angela is an experienced market researcher working for a large tech company. She conducts quantitative research for the channel sales team and she uses SPSS Statistics.
Robert is a professor who teaches statistics for students in the social sciences. He has been teaching for 15 years and uses SPSS Statistics in his classes.
After we identified the three personas, we needed to understand the needs of our users. The first challenge was to ensure that we didn't want to serve all persons at once but to focus on one persona. We decided to focus on the biggest user group SPSS had in the past: the students. Max was our primary persona for the redesign. Even though it was clear for which user we wanted to work, we could not completely ignore the other users. Nevertheless designing for an experience like SPSS Statistics is challenging especially due to its big amounts of features, complex workflows, and many advanced tasks. The new interface should incorporate these complexities seamlessly. For that, we had to rethink, and not simply rebuild, SPSS from scratch. In the words of Arin Bhowmick, Vice President and Chief Design Officer, IBM Hybrid Cloud, the overarching goal of the project were “to make data analysis a delight that lets the user go from point A to point B without taking away the great features.”
While the team was already working on a visual design concept for the new SPSS Statistics, I was planning User Interviews with participants of each persona group. The research objective was to understand the user needs and pains in the current user interface. One of the first discoveries we made was that first-time users like Max 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. This is why people very often used only a small subset of the complete functionality. SPSS Statistics is a powerful product that can perform many tasks with varying levels of complexity. However, secondly, we have learned that as the attention of users gets worse, working with multiple open windows leads to visual overload, requiring a different approach that provides very focused experiences.
The discoveries and user insights we got from the interviews were used to create need statements. With them as a foundation, we conducted a design thinking workshop with the whole design team. In the workshop we came up with big ideas and drew storyboards for our very first ideas. We focused first on making the software’s core features more accessible. Studying user interaction patterns and features commonly found in other applications helped us to make navigation easier without impacting the application’s main functionality. For example, the addition of tabs modernizes the product by incorporating a feature people are used to seeing in common 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 software’s power of flexibility.
A new analysis catalog helps especially beginners like students find the right type of analysis quickly. Unlike most statistical packages, which require some 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. We worked on an getting started to experience that provides an easy-to-digest user flow and makes intensive study or training unnecessary.
Vice President and Chief Design Officer, IBM Cloud, Data and AI
Our Design Team in Germany worked together with Development, Product Management, and with customers to deliver the new user interface for SPSS Statistics. The new UI modernizes the software and is a major milestone for SPSS Statistics.
Leveraging the IBM Enterprise Design Thinking framework, we created a modern version of a classic tool that is not only easy and intuitive to use but that users can enjoy. Our hard work paid off, winning IBM the prestigious international 2018 Red Dot: Communication Design Award for design excellence.
Another impressive feature is the training guide. It is led by a character named Simon, who serves as an in-application persona to guide users through different functions of the software. Simon will help new and current users get started in less than 5 minutes. Experienced users who don’t need the guided learning tools can choose not to use those features and can invoke them later if they wish.
Vice President and Chief Design Officer, IBM Cloud, Data and AI
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.
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Red Dot Design Award
IBM SPSS Statistics
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