HTML5 reporting tools figure heavily into many organizations' future data analysis and application efforts. Over the past few years, HTML5 has risen to prominence by promising a faster, more agile and ultimately, lasting version of the reporting tools so critical to enterprise development. However, the language and its frameworks cannot do all of this work by themselves. Success with HTML5 applications, as with any Web-based tools, depends upon a dynamic, sophisticated synthesis of the user interface and its tools with the expectations of both programmers and employee reporters.
Designing programs for use on the Web is not as simple as it used to be. Although the tools themselves can help mitigate the amount of legwork that must be performed to build applications from the ground up, the inundation of reporting tools and programs means that expectations are higher. Any project's stakeholders, at least on the programming side, are apt to have more ingrained ideas about what works and what doesn't. This can help programmers take shortcuts, but over time it can also erode one's ability to experiment with new perspectives and ways of doing things. On the other hand, there are more people counted on to work with data analysis tools effectively that have little to no experience with them. Enterprise end users may have to generate insights and reports with little knowledge of how HTML5 reporting tools actually work.
The tenets of Web design
Effective design of HTML5 reporting tools can be guided by a few central methodologies, which both simplify the user interface without entrenching developers into comfortable approaches that restrict innovation. GitHub contributor Veltman recently highlighted some important principles of designing applications for the Web.
"The best way to make something durable and flexible is not to get too fancy in the first place," Veltman wrote. "You only have to fix the Web to the extent that you break it first."
This is a good piece of device for any developer, especially one tasked with creating HTML5 reporting tools for use in the enterprise. Ultimately, what the program can accomplish will be a lot more impressive than a particular design flair. Unnecessarily complex applications or ones with a steep learning curve probably will not be all that feasible for many end users. If the application doesn't work for the people who need to use it for data analysis, it's probably not going to last very long. Data visualization and analysis is one area in which many companies continue to struggle, but if basic usage and understanding are seen as barriers, it's a good bet that the reporting tool will be phased out before long.
Many of the suggestions Veltman made are basic design principles that become more important as applications grow larger and are capable of performing more queries. Redundant labels, icons and colors, as well as click targets and fonts that are sized correctly, create a much more engaging and fluid user experience. Additionally, there is nothing inherently wrong with basic charts. The limited capabilities of programs such as Excel have turned off some people, but in the end the chart is a highly effective method for displaying information. As long as the spreadsheet reporting tools are effective, charts will be fine for value comparison.
Applying design lessons to the lifecycle
Application programming interfaces can add complexity to the development lifecycle, according to ProgrammableWeb. Concurrent API development and environment restrictions can hamper API performance during development. As with other stages of design, simplicity is key. Creating an internal version of the API can alleviate some of the problems that can spring up under the traditional lifecycle. This can also help programmers identify and diagnose potential issues at an earlier stage, facilitating a faster time to deployment.