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May 29, 2024

The power of design in data-driven products

Post by
Aaron Monson

Great design may not be top of mind for teams evaluating data products to adopt, but given the complexity of data-driven products and the modern data stack generally, the importance of great product design can not be overstated. Data Engineers, Data Analysts, and Business teams operate within a fast-paced environment where efficiency and reliability are the top priority. At Sifflet, we understand the needs of our users and prioritize product design so our data observability platform is easy to use, looks great, and empowers our customers to get more done.

The discipline of Product design includes both user experience design (UX) and user interface design (UI), which intertwine the functionality and aesthetics of a product to create an overall pleasant customer experience. UX design includes many activities such as conducting user research to understand needs and behaviors, clarifying user personas, crafting thoughtful workflows, and prioritizing user efficiency throughout the product. On the other hand, UI design deals with the visual aspects such as layout, spacing, reusable components, typography, color, icons, etc. Both UX design and UI design are important to enable users to navigate their work with confidence and ease.

Only having a well designed user experience goes a long way, but products which stop there without improving their visual interface are likely to develop poor visual consistency and interaction patterns that will create user frustration overtime. Conversely, a product with only a strong UI may seem great to use in the short term, but it will never make up for the fatigue users will develop after navigating through overly complex and unintuitive workflows. Having both a great user experience and user interface has a multiplier effect on a user’s perception of the product. At Sifflet, we begin with a solid UI foundation in order to make the experience intuitive to navigate, clear to understand, memorable to use, and inclusive through accessible features.


Ironically, despite the importance of UX, a strong user experience can be relatively illusive to a user. According to the psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik effect, it can be much more obvious for users to notice when products lack good UX design since they can remember incomplete or interrupted tasks much easier than smooth flows or completed tasks. So, when UX is at its highest quality the user will rarely think much of it but it will allow them to complete their work without any frustration or unwanted points of friction.

Creating a smooth user experience starts with understanding user objectives and what job the user is using the product for to begin with. Through our user interviews and surveys, our Sifflet product team can understand the complex tasks facing data users, and with this knowledge we create experiences to meet their needs. Along with user research it is important to remember that users approach data-driven applications with natural bias. The psychological principle of Jacob’s Law teaches that users spend most of their time using other products and they will unconsciously transfer expectations they have built around one familiar product to another which appears similar. For example, if a user has a strong familiarity with the behavior of input form controls, they will extend that learned behavior to any new form controls they come across. Even if form controls are visually appealing, it's crucial to ensure their behavior aligns with users' expectations. Users are prone to struggle with unconventional behaviors, as they naturally apply familiar interaction patterns from past experiences and unconsciously judge products which do not meet expectations. This underscores the significance of prioritizing user experience design across a product, as it directly impacts usability and user satisfaction.

The Sifflet user experience aims to be as intuitive and familiar as possible so it is easy to use

The problems facing Data Engineers, Data Analysts, and Business teams are uniquely complex and product features should have a UX to help them solve their problems as efficiently as possible. Having a tool that enhances user efficiency allows users to reallocate time to focus on more pressing issues of the moment. As an example of how UX can solve customer problems, our Sifflet product team recently introduced the Sifflet Insights browser plugin to simplify the workflow of Data Analysts and Business users. While viewing dashboards in BI tools like Looker, Tableau, and Power BI, users are often faced with the question if the data in the dashboard can be trusted. We created the Sifflet Insights plugin so Analysts can stay in their BI tools and also quickly see all the Sifflet metadata of their dashboard as well as know if there are any active incidents on upstream datasets which may affect the overall data quality of the dashboard. Sifflet Insights can help answer complex data questions more effectively and help Business users and Analysts find more actionable conclusions from their data.

The Sifflet Insights browser plugin brings data quality updates into their BI dashboard experience. 


One of the key aspects the Sifflet design team uses in our user interface is maintaining consistency with information and interactions. Sometimes, the words used in a feature have just as much importance in helping users accomplish tasks as how those features are designed in the first place. At Sifflet we use our established UX writing guidelines which inform the tone and style of the writing throughout the product. These guidelines bring consistent and predictable messaging throughout the app that customers learn to trust. We also follow consistent design patterns for user interactions so users can develop habitual ways for finding what they are looking for.

Our UI foundation is built on a library of smartly designed reusable components which act as the lego building blocks of the larger experiences that customers interact with. This atomic design approach to our product allows us to build a visually consistent foundation that can combine to form pages and experiences that all share a common theme and brand message. At Sifflet, we naturally work to build the features and tools our customers need, but we also approach our work with the intent of making that experience as pleasant looking as possible. Studies on the Aesthetic-Usability Effect state users often perceive aesthetically pleasing products as more usable. Well-crafted user interfaces can encourage exploration, grow customer loyalty, and even help users tolerate lacking features when the design aesthetic foundations are solid.

An important aspect of our Sifflet UI design is the commitment to accessibility. Without designing in an inclusive way, there is a significant population that is excluded. The sobering reality is that 16% of the world’s population has some kind of permanent disability and in the US alone there are over 84 million disabled internet users. Our Sifflet design approach is to be as inclusive as possible and cater to the needs of all types of people. Consider our approach to color usage as a clear example. A significant portion of both male and female users experience color blindness, impacting their interaction with digital products. In many data-driven interfaces, colors like red, yellow, and green are employed to signify important statuses like danger, warning, or success. However, for users with certain types of color blindness, these distinctions may not be apparent, potentially leading to errors and frustration. At Sifflet, while we still utilize color to convey data object status, we supplement it with iconography and descriptive text labels to ensure clarity and inclusivity for all users.

Using a combination of color and iconography is a simple way to make messages clear and accessible


As businesses navigate the complexities of their modern data stack, it's clear that finding tools and products which balance function and form is crucial to create the tools customers will love and rely on to get their work done. By prioritizing design in product development processes, Sifflet creates solutions that not only meet user needs but also delight and inspire. We are committed to make design a strategic priority, integrating it seamlessly into our business strategies, and empowering teams to create products that drive user satisfaction and long-term success.

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