PowerPivot in Denali: User Feedback and the Fourth Golden Rule of Interface Design

Here, we will look at an example of PowerPivot user feedback that is improved in Denali from SQL Server 2008 R2.  User feedback is a vital part of any software. In particular, this is especially important in the case of error handling, regardless of whether it is a pre-emptive measure in preventing error handling, or a post-error warning after the error has taken place.
Schneiderman has specified a series of 8 ‘Golden Rules’ for interface. Generally, I think that the ‘golden rules’ apply fairly well to graphs and charts, and I’m interested to explore this idea – hence the current series of blogs! 
Schneiderman’s Fourth Golden Rule is to offer a Design Dialogue to give the user a sense of closure. Thus, the activity has a beginning, middle and an end. The information at the end of the activity provides a sense of closure to the user; it means that the path to the next step is clear for the user, who can move on from anticipating any errors or issues with the activity in question.
There is one improvement in PowerPivot Denali which is illustrative of this point. In the current 2008 R2 release of PowerPivot, the ‘New Measure’ box provides us with an opportunity to check that the Measure formula is correct. Here is an example below. Can you spot what the issue might be? 
Check RELATED formula with Red ball

The issue is that, although the formula is technically correct, the initial visual feedback to the user shows a red ball. Generally, in the West, red denotes a ‘warning’ colour, to show a problem; so we have red traffic lights, for example.  A more appropriate notification to the user would be a green icon, which would indicate ‘success’ or ‘go’.  In Denali PowerPivot, this is exactly the improvement that we see, and this can be seen from the same screen in the Denali version. Here is an example below:

Check RELATED formula with green ball

Although this seems like a little thing, it is extremely effective. If you’ve ever held your breath to see if your PowerPivot formula has worked, and felt the sense of relief of realising that the red ball means ‘Success’ in 2008 R2, then you’ll know what I mean! I am hoping that the tick will cater for colour-blind people as feedback if the green colour is an issue, and I look forward to your comments on this issue.

Little things make me happy!

Leave a Reply