UX Design of data-intensive applications

We’re living in an age where data is the most precious thing. Data has the power to distort or empower people’s perception and individual decision making capabilities. As a UX designer, it’s on us to design applications that convey the right kind of data in the right way to help make correct decisions.The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte is a book that talks about the same thing. Jeff Hale shared an interesting story in his book review.“A good chart can inspire action. Early epidemiologist John Snow’s 1854 map with data appears to have saved many lives. Snow showed the location of London’s 13 public wells and 578 cholera deaths by stacked bars perpendicular to their location. His graphic, in part, appears to have helped convince the city to shut down the infected well.”

UX Design of data-intensive applications | Humble Bits

We’re in the 21st century now and I feel we still have a long way to go when it comes to designing data-intensive applications. A data-intensive application is driven by the huge amount of data it consumes. Working with this overwhelmingly huge amount of data has just one problem. It creates various problems for the application because now one has to take care of various aspects such as consistency/standards, usability, scalability and maintainability of the application.

Scalability and maintainability are something that require good application architecture and quality code. But for the scope of this blog, let’s skip that part and talk only about the design.

As designers, we first need to understand that data visualization plays an important role in defining the user experience. The way data is represented on the UI defines how the users are going to interpret and use it. Only when we understand the ‘why’, we’ll be in a position to empower the end users of the application in making informed decisions.

How to design compelling data-intensive applications?

Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems: Kleppmann, Martin: 9781449373320: Amazon.com: Books

The first step in designing data-intensive applications is determining the mode of representation of data. One can represent data through charts, tables, maps or a combination of these. One of the most common ways to represent data is through dashboards which give a bird’s eye overview of data and share insights that allow users to quickly make decisions or iterate on their current implementation.

For now, let’s talk just about these dashboards and how designers can pay attention to the little details of designing dashboards. Although, different products demand different approach to designing dashboards, but I feel that one can keep a check on the below points to make sure that whatever you design is useful and reliable.

Choose the right visualization method

Future according to Designing Data-Intensive Applications | nexocode

One of my friends recently recommended me an app for managing my finances. She raved about the mobile app so much that I had to download it. I realized it later why she was all praises. The app gave me so much information just at one glance. I could look at my monthly expenditure as well the breakdown of money spent on food, movies, travel etc.

Looking at it from a designer’s perspective, I now know why it clicked for me. For different data sets, they have used an appropriate visualization method.

For example, the monthly report used the line graph so that user can easily identify spikes in expenditure at one glance. Similarly, expense categories are shown in a pie-chart and color coded, so that it’s easier to identify in which category the person spent the most.

So, just before you begin the design of the dashboard, start with an initial understanding of what kind of data you have and what’s the most suitable data visualization method that you can use.

Here are a few data visualizations methods that you can frequently use in dashboards of digital apps-

Line Chart– Line chart is great for showing data trends.

Bar Chart– Bar chart helps in comparing data values of related categories quickly.

Pie Chart– It divides a circle into proportional segments to show percentages between categories.

Gauge Diagram– It’s not a very popular choice, but it can be used in situations where you want to take a different spin on data visualization. For example, in showing the voter’s opinion during the elections, or a client’s opinion on product’s feedback.

UX Design of data-intensive applications | Humble Bits

Plan your layout keeping in mind your end users

A good layout keeps things in place and makes navigation easier for users. Think in terms of the physical space in your house. How do you know which utensils are kept where in the kitchen? How do you wade through the pile of clothes in your closet? It’s because of the layout and the place you’ve fixed for everything.

In the same way, for websites and mobile apps, layout plays an important role. It takes a greater precedence if the application is data-intensive. This is because when you have lots of data, understanding and deriving insights from it is time-consuming.

Therefore, it’s a good practice to keep below practices in mind-

Cut down on extra options

The more choices you give people, the more confused they’ll be. And the more time they’ll take in picking their choice. By the way, that’s not my personal opinion, it’s what the Hick’s law states.

No wonder, why do we take so much time in shopping malls.

But, as a designer, you can be the change you wish to see in the world. All we have to do is resist the temptation to show everything in one single interaction. Not every piece of information can be useful as well as critical. Even if it is, show only that information which is urgent and important for them and which motivates them to take action.

Use progressive disclosure technique to reveal the rest of the information. This way, the users can digest the information quicker and accomplish tasks faster.

An example could be from a news reading website. Showing the entire news could be a little straining for readers. On the other hand, if you just show them the snippets, the readers feel far less cognitively strained.

Do more with less

Some people think that simplicity ruins creativity. But it’s the other way round. Simplicity empowers you to do more with less. It reduces the cognitive load on the users and helps attract attention on the most relevant details.

Be consistent

Consistency is important to help users retain and understand information. We see consistency in almost every aspect of our life.

Consider this as an example- Imagine the chaos in your life if you discovered that the state/country you are visiting has different signals at traffic intersections. In that fictional state, Red no more means stop, Green no more means GO, and yellow is replaced by purple. Now, you have to learn these conventions all over again. Wouldn’t that be messy?

Similarly, in web and mobile applications, it becomes difficult for the user if you keep changing icons, colors, layout, CTAs, etc. An ideal approach that you can take is to make users learn once, use anywhere. 

Select an appropriate color palette


Every color tells a story and that’s why finding the right color palette for data visualization is probably the most crucial step. Choosing appropriate colors also impacts the accessibility of your applications as people who are visually impaired can benefit from your color selection.

There are a few things that you need to remember while choosing your color palette-

Be consistent with colors

If you are using two color variables in a chart, don’t confuse your users with different representation of colors for the same variable.


The Do's And Don'ts of Infographic Color Selection - Venngage

Use desaturated colors for visualization

Desaturated colors like white, black and shades of grey work the best as they do not attract unnecessary attention from the user, rather they convey the information subtly. The more colors you use in your visual representation, the more difficult it becomes for the user to decode the information.

UX Design of data-intensive applications | Humble Bits

Use saturated colors only to draw attention to changes (state) 

If you want to highlight the most important aspects of your chart, use a saturated color instead of throwing all colors together. Make grey your best friend and use it as a base to make sure you neither miss showing the important data points, nor do you overdo with too many colors.

The reason why data-intensive applications deserve more attention while designing is because these applications are complex. Moreover, there are multiple touch-points in such applications which need a touch of innovation so that users interactions become smooth and useful.


VMware’s Tanzu: Can Assist in charting a clear route to Modernised Apps.

VMware Tanzu

For most enterprises, the digital journey feels like a rough cab ride through New York City at the height of construction season. In rush hour. The route from legacy estate to modern platform is filled with detours, road closures, emergency braking and many other surprises. And, everyone in the cab has a different opinion about how to get there.

But getting there is critical. Every company recognizes that they need to transform their applications and operating models to respond to market changes and keep pace with emerging disruptors. A modern IT estate helps organizations transform business-critical systems and practices to support next generation operational models which are the lifeblood for new business models.  This forces entities to streamline and re-imagine processes to increase business agility and achieve heightened levels of customer and market insights.

That’s why we think the VMware’s release of Tanzu and solutions for delivering and managing cloud applications is an important step forward in the evolution of modern cloud platforms. Tanzu is a collection of products and services that will help companies break down silos between business units that have been perpetuated (and reinforced) by legacy IT.

VMware Tanzu

For example, companies spend a lot of time, energy and money managing traditional applications on legacy systems in their own way and with their own teams, resources and development methods. Meanwhile, the same organization manages modern applications on cloud in a different way, with a different staff, resources and methods. Tanzu enables companies to manage traditional workloads never designed for the cloud along with modern applications in the same way, viewing them in a single pane of glass.

Tanzu introduces traditional applications to a modern platform and also connects those applications with modern methods and tooling, preparing the way for future modernization efforts. It makes it easier for IT and development to create integrated, cross-functional teams that are organized around products and customers. And it helps organizations and teams evolve from individual approaches, capabilities and technologies to successful combinations that are applied to specific customer journeys in progressive engagements (tied directly to business outcomes) to achieve compounding business impact. This makes Tanzu much more than just another management console. It makes it a platform for transformation.

Many of our clients have ongoing IT and application modernization projects that will benefit from the Tanzu suite. We look forward to using Tanzu with our customers not only for application transformation, but also as a platform for teaching organizations how to operate in modern ways.

Modern platforms are the basis for creating modern applications, and they’re also the foundation for thinking and operating in new, disruptive ways. Tanzu will help companies finally bridge the divide between legacy solutions and modern applications to drive value, improve customer experiences, while radically reducing costs and driving efficiencies.

AI Applications in Documents

Ce que les fondateurs de l'IA pensent des emplois humains pendant et après la pandémie | Forbes France

We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge

This is a famous quote by John Naisbitt which shows the key difference between information and knowledge. Advancement in data engineering techniques and cloud computing have made it easy to generate data from multiple sources but making sense of this data and getting insights is still a huge challenge. The data volumes have now increased exponentially and along with the traditional structured data, data can now reside in different formats like unstructured social media text, log files, audio/video files, streaming sensor data etc.

Applying manual methods to process this diverse data is not only time consuming and expensive but is also prone to errors. Hence the need of the hour is to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) based automated solutions that can deliver reliable insights and also give a competitive advantage to customers. Here are few examples of how customers across industries can benefit from AI driven solutions.

Microsoft Azure based AI solution

Build and operate machine learning solutions with Azure Machine Learning - Learn | Microsoft Docs

In 2017, more than 34,000 documents related to John F Kennedy’s assassination were released. The data volume was huge, and data existed in different formats like reference documents, scanned PDF files, hand written notes and images. It would take researchers months to read through this information and hence manually reviewing this data was not the most optimal solution. Microsoft Azure team applied AI based Cognitive Search solution to extract data from these diverse sources and gained insights. Technical architecture for this use case was built using Azure Cognitive Services components like Computer Vision, Face Detection, OCR, Handwriting Recognition, Search and core Azure components like Blob Storage, Azure ML, Azure Functions and Cosmos Database. This solution also annotated text using custom CIA Cryptonyms.

Hospitals usually deal with a lot of patient data which could reside in electronic medical records (EMR), handwritten prescriptions, diagnostic reports and scanned images. AI based Azure Cognitive Search could be an ideal solution to efficiently manage patient’s medical records and create personalized treatment plan. Many downstream use cases like Digital Consultations, Virtual Nurses and Precision Medication can be built once the patient data is optimally stored.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) based AI solution

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for Machine Learning & AI | by crossML engineering | crossml | Medium

GCP introduced Document Understanding AI (beta) in Cloud Next 19. This is a serverless platform that can automate document processing workflows by processing data stored in different formats and building relationships between them. This solution uses GCP’s vision API, AutoML, machine learning based classification, OCR to process image data and custom knowledge graph to store and visualize the results. Customers can easily integrate this solution with downstream applications like chatbot, voice assistants and traditional BI to better understand their data.

Customers who deal with Contract Management data like Mortgages are usually faced with a lot of manual tasks to ensure that the contracts are complete and accurate. This could mean processing contracts in different formats/languages, reviewing the supporting documents, ensuring that the details are accurate and complies with regulatory standards across documents. By using Document Understanding AI and integrating it with a well-designed RPA framework, customers will be able to efficiently process Mortgage applications, Contracts, Invoices/Receipts, Claims, Underwriting and Credit Reports.

Use cases from other industries

5 use cases of Hyperautomation across industries in 2021 | Vuram

Document Management AI solution can also be applied to diverse use cases from other industries like processing claims related to damages to shipped products by e-commerce companies, handling know your customer (KYC) process in the banking industry, invoice data processing by Finance teams, fraud detection during document processing etc.

As more and more companies embrace the digitization wave, they will be faced with different variations of data/document management challenges. Based on the current trend, number of use cases are only going to increase and an AI driven solution is probably the most efficient way to solve this problem as it can reduce manual work, save cost and deliver reliable insights. This will ensure that companies can spend more time on building their business and less time on manually processing documents and data preparation.

New victim in the town: Manipulated TeamViewer Attacks

TeamViewer: The Remote Desktop Software

Government agencies were in a state of shock when they realized that their systems have been compromised with the malicious TeamViewer software. The attacker who was responsible for this attack is a Russian speaking man. TeamViewer is one of the most popular tools for the remote access of desktop, desktop sharing, file transfer between systems, web conferencing etc. The motive behind the attack is probably financially driven. The software was manipulated by adding malicious TeamViewer DLL to the original software. This mala fide software can steal sensitive data and money from even government and financial networks.

A malicious email posing to be sent from the U.S. Department of State was delivered in the inbox of the government employees and had ‘Military Financing Program’ as its subject line. The email had a malicious XLSM attachment with embedded macro.

Employees were duped by the malicious email since the emails coming from the U.S. department of state are generally marked as top secret. Once the victim opened and enabled macro in the decoy document, two files were extracted from the hex encoded cells in the XLSM document. The first one was the genuine AutoHotkeyU32.exe program. The other one was the corrupted AutoHotkeyU32.ahk which is an AHK script used to communicate with C&C server and to download the additional script and execute it.


How did the attacker successfully deploy the attack?

Hollywood and Hacking: Into the 21st Century - Real life hackers, computer punks and Hugh Jackman dancing

There are three different kind of malicious AHK scripts including ‘hscreen.ahk’, ‘info.ahk’ and ‘htv.ahk’. These three scripts affect user’s system in different ways.

hscreen.ahk: This script takes the screenshot of the victim’s personal computer and upload it on the C&C server.

hinfo.ahk:  Victim’s username and computer information is sent to the C&C server.

htv.ahk: A malicious version of TeamViewer is downloaded, executed on victim’s system and login credentials are sent to the C&C server.

The attacker hid the genuine TeamViewer interface while the TeamViewer software with malicious ‘htv.ahk’ was being run. DLL in order to take over the control of the software. This allowed the attacker to replace the genuine TeamViewer with the manipulated version.

The attack targeted Public financial sector and government officials belonging to Kenya, Italy, Liberia, Bermuda, Guyana, Lebanon and Nepal.

Earlier in the month of January, a security researcher who goes by the name of FewAtoms found a URL containing a malicious self-extracting archive which is a spyware disguised as TeamViewer.

The researchers have found a link of an avatar connected to a Russian underground forum user known as EvaPiks.

What could have been done?

Famous Hackers and How They Got Caught | Alpine Security

  • Ensure that the AHK script is compiled with ahk2exe, which is the part of AHK distribution.
  • In order to prevent de-compilation, provide a good password.
  • Always check the extension of any attachments present within the email.
  • Organizations should implement a multi-layer defense and put mitigation protocols in place to detect intrusions and act against them.
  • Enhance settings for macro malware attached emails.
  • Ensuring the application of these methods so that the program runs normally. It will also ensure that attacker would have difficulties in modifying the program.
  • However, the most effective strategy is to empower employees against social engineering attacks and provide periodic knowledge imparting sessions.

App or Website? Choose ‘the one’ for you!

As the world is going digital, all start-ups and businesses are indulged in developing their website and mobile applications. However, the question that arises is which amongst the two makes your business thrive and skyrocket its profit? The broad idea is that everyone in the coming times would have a mobile phone rather than laptops or any other. Besides, mobile apps are the latest things due to the popularity of mobile phones.

So far, the mobile apps get developed after the website has been launched, but is this the best decision for your business? However, should it be the only thing you start with? Especially if one’s budget doesn’t allow to launch both? Does that mean the web is dead?

Furthermore, having a mobile phone does not merely translate into downloading mobile applications. So, how to surpass your competitors on the web? Through a web vs app? There are many advantages and disadvantages involved in both. You must opt for the right platform for your start-up. The answer is, of course, selected according to your needs and the kind of customers you want to attract.

Should I start with an App or Website?

Therefore, before you choose, you must consider the importance of a mobile-friendly website as well as a mobile app. Going through this guide answers the most frequently asked question – What should I begin with – Mobile App or Website?

1. Product Line

Product Line

Does your product include GPS, navigation, or location-based elements? An instance of it would be Ola or Uber. Such start-ups must have a mobile app rather than having a website. Their business links the passengers with cab drivers willing to drop them to their desired destination. Similarly, if you plan to build an application for people to track their route or an application facilitating the runners map the distance covered and the number of steps taken, then you can provide your clients with the best possible experience only through a mobile app since GPS is the lifeline for a business.

Similarly, a flight or train booking business needs an app to make it accessible from everywhere. If you are into developing Android applications or even online games, to-do lists, notes, alarm clock, reminders, social media, or email, then mobile apps involve more users and interact with them in the best way possible. The business can only be successful by comprehending the requirements of its audience and target market first.

On the contrary, if you are an event management company who needs people to go through your catalogs and know about your business, or if you are a photographer or a hairstylist who needs people to checkout pictures or samples of your work, you can very well go with a website as it serves your purpose better.

2. Budget

A budget with a vision and direction; The Times of India, February 2, 2018

The first thing that you need to think about after getting your Company Registration completed is the budget you have for going over the internet. Furthermore, you need to set aside at least some amount to keep your platform, weather website, or mobile application, updated. Most Web Designing and Development Companies suggest that you develop a website first and then a mobile app since it is an economical option. You get the advantage of showcasing all the content on a single interface on a website. Besides, updating the content takes fewer efforts in case of a mobile app as compared to a website.

Furthermore, the UI of an App must be adjusted for every platform like Android, iOS, and Windows. An app-only business model might face issues reaching out to consumers across all the platforms. It is said that you are required to spend more on developing different apps for different platforms. It reduces your cost per OS. If you have started your business with a limited amount, it won’t make sense to start developing a mobile application.

3. Marketing Plan

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Marketing Plan

In the beginning, all the businesses only have restricted resources. As the business scales up, you can go for additional platforms. Still, if a company is opting to go app-only, it risks missing out on a broad market of potential customers. Mainly, if their app does not happen to feature amongst the top few apps of choice for a consumer.

A famous example is Myntra, the leading fashion e-commerce marketplace in India. A few years back, it announced that it is going app-only. The company claimed that this step was taken to improve personalization. Without a doubt, the loyal users of Myntra were compelled to download the mobile app. This approach was adopted to push out the competition. As consumers would be more captive in a particular environment and shopping around for discounts would decrease. But the move only backfired. Within a year, Myntra was compelled to relaunch its mobile website.

4. Tools Required

Tools Required

Are you launching something complicated? Would you require to show data analysis or reports and more? Will your users need sophisticated numbers, reporting, or calculations? It is almost impossible to utilize these tools on a website. So in this parameter of the website vs app, the mobile app is a clear winner due to its optimized UI, which displays all the data. For instance, if you will be needing complex calculations, numbers, reporting, then you should acknowledge that it will be next to impossible to use these tools without a dedicated app.

5. Frequency of Usage

Coronavirus: online food & beverage sales delivery methods U.S. 2020 | Statista

Do your targeted customers need to access your services on a daily or hourly basis? If you want your users to check into your platform a few times a day, then it makes more sense to start with an app. It is far more convenient, faster to access, and it has the option of notifications for the users to keep updated. But you must make sure that your app is not slow to launch or perform the desired actions. It will become a barrier that stops people from using your app.

6. User-Friendly

What makes an E-commerce Store user friendly - VAR Sales Management Blog: News, Tips & Many More By VARStreet

Most of the websites have a navigational UI. However, mobile apps need to have an interactive UI to be successful.  Again the example of games comes to mind. A mobile app will be a better choice for a game development company as compared to a website. A responsive web design approach acknowledges as well as resolves many of the usability problems for a mobile-friendly website. So, you must consider the needs of your business and the choice as well as the comfort of your users.

7. Accessibility

Evaluating Web Accessibility Overview | Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) | W3C

Even today, accessibility to the internet is a major problem in many parts of the world. So, do in-depth research on how long would a customer need your services. For offline accessibility, you must build location-dependent, parallel apps. Therefore, mobile apps will be more appropriate for offline mode of navigation rather than a website. If you think that your business would serve mostly to offline users, then it is much better to develop a mobile app where the user can access your services whenever they need it. For instance, dictionaries facilitate accessibility to know words, even without an internet connection. Users can use it whenever they need, wherever they need.

8. Speed


Those who’ll use your app or website pretty often during the day would want to have their interaction to be smooth and lag-free. Nobody would want to wait even for a minute to play games during their 15-minute metro ride or while waiting for a cab. Nobody has the time to bear with a slow platform for their needs. Imagine if you always had to access your favorite Social Media like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn through your browser first and then having to sign in. Only after doing all that every time would you be able to read that message or know of the newly vacant position. Wouldn’t it be much better to get an immediate notification as soon as you receive the message? However, if you are targeting customers who would not be accessing your platform frequently, then installing a mobile app will be more time consuming as compared to visiting a website.


Many companies and businesses may want to go for a mobile app first. It is a much more advanced and trending way to connect with consumers. But it can be a huge mistake too. Unless you have a mobile-based start-up, developing a website first, is the way to go, rather than spending some significant part of your budget in making a mobile app. Instead, you can try to make your website more user-friendly or even pay extra to make it rank up on the Search Engines. The final verdict is that there are many points that you must carefully consider before you make a choice should I start with an App or Website?. Amidst the Website vs. Mobile App, it’s challenging to pick an absolute winner. It all depends on you and your business requirements. With this article, we have all the advantages and disadvantages served before you, which you will have to weigh for yourself.

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