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Applying design to supply chain data.

Supply chain data are complex, multilayered, and sometimes hard to untangle. When it comes to using data to make decisions, design has a crucial role in ensuring data are efficiently understood. With the right presentation and interpretation, supply chain data can be transformed into actionable insights that lead to more sustainable, more secure, and more robust supply chains.

For three years now we’ve been collaborating with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy Programme (GCP) to visualise supply chain data on Trase.Earth. The platform currently provides data and insights on 13 commodities from eight countries. As the number of platform users increased, the experience and needs of those people diversified too. From journalists revealing the links between burgers and deforestation to companies wanting to understand the environmental impact of their supply chains, people across the world are using Trase to understand the links between forests and the food on our plates.

So, after a careful review of the google analytics and research by the Engagement Team at Global Canopy that includes interviews with people who use the platform, we embarked on a redesign that provides more guidance to first time users and offers faster access for all users. In this blog we’ll review some of the goals we wanted to achieve with the redesign, and explain how they make complex data easier to understand.

Goal 1. First-time users feel comfortable with the tool.

When Trase.Earth was first created, the teams at SEI and Global Canopy often gave presentations or one-on-one introductions to those who were interested in using it. While this was an amazing opportunity to get an expert’s insight into the intelligence within the dataset, it’s not a scalable approach. To make the data more accessible to those who don’t have a trade data expert on hand, our designers reimagined the entry points to Trase’s data tools.

The goal our designers wanted to achieve was making first-time visitors feel welcome and spark their curiosity. To leave them feeling like they’ve been shown what they can do with the data, and what insights they can extract from it. By reducing the friction that comes with learning how to use a new tool, we are able to draw people deeper into the data while giving them context and interesting numbers to sink their teeth into.

Goal 2. Navigation that’s easy as 1,2,3.

Easy, fluid navigation is crucial for both first-time and returning users. For Trase, our designers created a step-by-step approach that introduces the different data options while showing users how the tool works.

Upon arrival on the data tool page, the first step is to select a commodity.

The second step is to select a specific country.

The third step is to view the data selections in ‘flow view’ or ‘data view’.

In just three clicks, the user has filtered through the options and received relevant insights. With such an easy entry point, the data has been made easier to access and use.

Goal 3. Consistency across the data tool.

Learning requires effort so there’s little sense in using different filters for different parts of the tool. That’s why our designers unified the appearance of the flow and data views, and set the same filter options for each one. By doing this, they have decreased the time it takes someone to become familiar with data tools, and made it faster for people to find answers to their questions.

Furthermore, a simple toggle button allows the user to quickly and easily switch between the flow and data views. By making things easy for users, the chances of them coming back for more data in the future increases.

Goal 4. Accelerate the speed at which data are used to create change.

Consistency is key to creating a user experience that is pleasing, especially when a platform is focused on something as complex as the international trade of tropical forest-linked commodities. Effective understanding of complex data accelerates the speed at which that data can be used to bring about change. When people have the data they need to answer questions like — “is my supply of beef linked to deforestation in the Amazon? — businesses can choose suppliers that allow them to meet their sustainability targets.

Traceability has never been more important, and with reputation and profits at stake, tools — like Trase— reduce the uncertainty around global supply chains.

Many thanks to Pablo Henares García, one of our Trase designers, and María Ricart, Business Explorer, who helped with the preparation of this blog!

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Posts on data design, user research, open data, and software development. We create tools and applications with a lasting benefit to society and the environment.

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Camellia Williams

Camellia Williams

Lead Writer at Vizzuality.

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