Applied User Research


Client: Multinational financial services corporation

Product: Data visualization dashboard to gain insight into the health of retirement savings plans across multiple countries. We were asked to evaluate both a new prototype and the current minimum viable product

Users: Financial advisors located in the United States, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong

Research goals:

  • Gain deeper insights into what information users require from the dashboard

  • Learn how, when, and why users might access the dashboard

  • Uncover specific usability issues with the current prototype and MVP

Team: Myself and a senior staff member at the Bentley University User Experience Center


  • Develop the moderator’s guide

  • Recruit ten participants across three countries (United States, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong)

  • Conduct a remote, hour-long testing session with each participant

  • Aggregate & triangulate data

  • Report findings and make actionable design recommendations


Participants appeared overwhelmed by how the information was presented. The key theme we uncovered was how little context the design provided for each visualization. The information was presented clearly and concisely, but without background information as to why it was important. Participants demonstrated a need for more background information in the form of a help center, better labelling, and consistent terminology. We were careful in the report to remain objective and reduce focus on the negative feedback, instead opting to make actionable design recommendations targeted towards each finding.

Example Findings and Recommendations

  • Finding: The laws and regulations surrounding retirement savings across the multiple countries are so diverse, participants felt that comparing much of the data was incommensurable

    Recommendation: Provide more context for the data, such as interactive captions and help buttons. Users demonstrated a need for better access to information on the different ways people save for retirement across the globe

  • Finding: Countries use different terms to express key financial concepts; the dashboard used these terms inconsistently and interchangeably

    Recommendation: Be consistent with terminology. Default to the local terminology depending on where the user is located

  • Finding: The dashboard did not consistently convert monetary values to the same unit of currency

    Recommendation: Use the same currency across the entire dashboard. Allow users to easily toggle between currencies on-the-fly. Default to the local currency depending on where the user is located

  • Finding: Participants had difficulty locating certain navigation features justified to the right margin

    Recommendation: Position all navigation controls within the left-hand menu

  • Finding: Some histograms incorporated a color palette with insufficient contrast and a texture that was too busy

    Recommendation: Adjust the value of specific hues for better contrast and accessibility