A new focus on user-friendly data analysis

Developers and investors look to close the gap between data analysis and user experience.

BackType2.pngThe ability to easily extract meaning from unwieldy datasets has become something of a Holy Grail in data analytics. Technologies like Hadoop make it possible to parse big datasets, but the process isn’t to the point where an average business user can run reports and conduct analysis.

Roger Ehrenberg, managing partner at IA Ventures, touched on the importance of user interface in a recent interview. He noted that in some ways, we might be developing in the wrong direction:

There’s a new-found appreciation for an even greater focus on UI and UX. The experience that a consumer has with a product or application — it’s almost as if you need to start there and work backwards as opposed to [saying], “Hey, I’ve got a cool technology or application. Let’s see if this thing works,” and then hacking together a UI. Oftentimes, the UI is a secondary consideration and the core technology is the primary. But in many ways you almost want to go the reverse.

The gap between technology and user experience is not lost on developers — or investors. BackType, a social analytics company that developed ElephantDB to export data from Hadoop, just brought in $1 million in investment funding. The company’s platform serves as an interface for users to measure social media impact.

The day before BackType announced new funding, HootSuite launched a social analytics dashboard that lets users track social brand performance across platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google. Adobe has also joined the fray with Adobe SocialAnalytics, a service scheduled for later this year that expands on Adobe’s SiteCatalyst product and other Adobe Online Marketing Suite tools.

One additional signal to watch: Social data, which is the current focus of most of these companies and dashboards, may ultimately serve as an entry point for different and deeper types of data analysis. Once users get accustomed to asking big questions against big data, they’ll likely expand their queries beyond the social realm.


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