From 2011-2019 I led the research team Lexia Learning, committed to evaluating the efficacy and validity of our products, informing product design, partnering with customers to evaluate their implementations and student progress, and disseminating research findings and best practices.
A large part of my job is to develop dashboards and data visualizations to help communicate findings to evaluation stakeholders. In an effort to be more personalized in our reporting, I’ve been thinking a lot about the balance between scalability and customization – relying on templates vs. creating fresh content for each project or constituency.
Recently, one of the largest school districts in the country requested custom reporting for Lexia® RAPIDTM Assessment, my company’s online literacy screener. The request came through internal Lexia staff working with the district. Initially, I was told that they “just need the basic info” organized into networks of schools. I took our existing templates and mocked up what seemed like a small adjustment.
The following week I presented samples to the district leaders, and they said that the graphs and tables didn’t look like the report designs that they were used to. I shifted quickly and turned their attention to characteristics like format, levels of summaries (grade, network, district, school) and graph type (stacked columns, bar) to better understand what resonated with them. Then I asked for samples of their commonly used reporting so I could pull design elements that were familiar.
A few weeks later I presented the updated reporting to the district leader. She commented that she “saw her feedback” in the revisions and how “heard” she felt by our team. Success! She provided a final round of feedback related to color choice and ordering of groups – easy to adjust in time for the final report delivery. The training for all administrators is this week, and I feel confident that they will be able to use the information in the customized reporting to make instructional decisions at the network and school level — the whole point of assessment!
Lesson Learned: No matter what you’ve heard from your colleagues or others involved in a relationship, always start with a needs assessment to start “from the beginning” with the evaluation end-user.
Hot Tip: Get samples from clients/customers of reports created by their internal team! Using chart types and dashboard setups that stakeholders are familiar with will facilitate their understanding and support usefulness.
Pay attention to details, something as small as a color choice or the order of the items in a stacked bar chart bring meaning to the information. Check assumptions about those qualities along your design journey.
Check out the before and after photos here!
This article first appeared on the American Evaluation Association 365 blog at https://aea365.org.