Sometimes in the grind of data wrangling, slinging some DAX code, and laying down some sweet charts, graphs, and tables, we can forget that the softer “non-data stuff” can really drive usability and adoption. 

It’s very easy for us (the report authors) to underestimate how much better we understand our reports than our users do. We just implicitly “get” the meaning of each metric, and are aware of each interactive capability. It’s important for us authors to try to step outside our own knowledge and history in order to see things from the naïve user perspective.

A good data visualization is like a good joke – it shouldn’t need to be explained. I frequently use that phrase when teaching our students about report design. However, sometimes a little context about what a visualization is communicating is necessary.

Let’s look at an example.

Here’s a Sales Snapshot for Stores with the Contoso company. Pretty snazzy huh? You don’t have to be a data pro or MBA to get the general idea. Green is good, red is bad, and yellow is eh.  Most of the report is pretty intuitive. However, it’s also completely fair for someone to want some more understanding and context to feel comfortable making decisions based on what they learn from this report.

Enter the FAQ page. Seems obvious right? But for some reason, we don’t use them in our empirically-driven reports enough. But we should.  It’s such a simple way to enhance report usability.

For example:

  • How are the arrows and their colors calculated?
  • What are the thresholds to determine the arrow direction and color?
  • What do some of the metrics mean?
  • How are they calculated?

These are probably only a handful of common questions that most stakeholders would ask.

I suppose you could add a bunch of text boxes with questions and answers. But, what if you have several questions and there isn’t enough space? I’m reminded of something a fantastic boss once told me, “Never pass up an opportunity to wow someone and grab their attention with your work.” So, let’s add some wow effect to this by leveraging the bookmarks and buttons functionality.

Bookmarks and buttons allow us to create a user experience that is intuitive to the user and that allows them to navigate around the page easily by just clicking. In this case, click on a FAQ and the answer appears. Click on the FAQ again or a different FAQ… I think you get the point.

Here’s how we are going to do this.

First off, be good to your future self. This is something we love to say in our training classes, and it holds true here. A little organization will go a long way. We are going to have a bunch of items on the page and we’ll want to keep them all straight. The selection pane is going to be your friend here, so let’s turn that on (View > Selection Pane)

We start by adding our buttons (Insert Tab). Select a blank button and format it as needed. In this report, I have two buttons for each FAQ. One for the collapsed FAQ, which is dark, and the other for the expanded FAQ, which is white. I like to create all of one set (like the collapsed) first and then all of the expanded afterward. This allows me to copy and paste so I don’t have to reformat buttons.

For each FAQ the dark (collapsed) and white (expanded) sit right on top of one another. Using the General section in the Formatting pane make sure you have both buttons with the same X and Y location and width and height.  It’s important.

Now we can add an image that we can use as an icon. I used a chevron pointing to the left or right to indicate expand or collapse. As you can see the number of images will start to add up. Now, I am what some people call “particular” (I’m sure some other adjectives have been used as well, but we’ll stick with that). I use consistent naming conventions for all of my buttons, images, and objects so I know what is what. I can’t say this enough… Be good to your future self.

Once you add all of your buttons and lay them on the page, you can add your text boxes with the FAQ’s answer.

Now that I have everything I need on the page the number of objects in the selection pane can be a bit overwhelming, but no need to fret – Groups to the rescue.

In the selection pane, hold control and click on the objects that would be grouped. Then click the ellipses by one of them and select Group. In this case, I created two groups for each FAQ – one for collapsed and the other for expanded. I know… particular. And yes, I rename my groups.

Now we can start to add our bookmarks. Add the bookmark pane (View > Bookmarks). Using the selection pane, we want to hide all the objects that shouldn’t be visible. We do this by clicking on the eye icon. Once you have only the objects you want visible, select Add on the Bookmark pane. Double-click to rename. Should you rename? Of course you should!

Now repeat the process of hiding and displaying different objects for each of your FAQs. Once that is completed we can go to the collapsed button for each FAQ and by using the formatting pane, slide the Action slider to On, Set Type to Bookmark, Select the appropriate bookmark (see why you renamed them?), and if you want, add a tooltip to provide some additional instruction when someone hovers over the button. Extra points if you do this.

Ok, final steps. Let’s add some Page Navigation buttons. First, we’ll add a Back button on the FAQ page to take users back to the Snapshot. Once you add the button, go to the formatting pane and under Action select Page Navigation and select the name of the page.  On the Snapshot page, I want a button that when clicked will take someone directly to the FAQ page. I use the information button. Follow the same process we used to create the Back button.

And there you have it. This is one of those small details that goes a long way to making your report more impactful.