Designing & launching Salesforce’s new Analytics Cloud

When Salesforce made me an offer and let me choose between joining four different teams I was immediately drawn to the work the company was doing in analytics. A year earlier Salesforce had acquired EdgeSpring, a startup whose core technology could run big data queries significantly faster than competitors.

Salesforce’s vision was to democratize data through a mobile-first WYSIWYG visualization tool that didn’t require a data-science degree to master. Once it was announced that Analytics would be the keynote product of Dreamforce 2014, my team had less than a year to get EdgeSpring’s product ready for the big show.

The Analytics Cloud was the keynote product of Dreamforce 2014 and Salesforce’s largest product launch ever

Challenges & Approach

When EdgeSpring was acquired the company had dozens of engineers and only one part-time designer. While the product could run queries on big data at lightning speed, the original design required some reworking.

My primary focus was to refine the core data visualization tool, which had some basic usability issues related to feature discoverability and information hierarchy. I worked daily with director-level product managers to define high-level product flows,

created low-fidelity mocks to pitch new, concepts, and was responsible for exploring direct manipulation, drag & drop functionality, and product on-boarding patterns.

As one of only four product designers on the team, I contributed to every part of the desktop product, which also included early concepts for the dashboard builder tool, file management and collaboration screens, and template creation patterns.

Initial research studies revealed that the original Wave interface (above) had a number of usability issues related to feature discoverability and information hierarchy. Much of my work focused on refining existing features and introducing new patterns to improve Wave usability across the data visualization tool (shown here), the dashboard builder tool, and collaboration functionality.
Early low-fidelity wireframes exploring how users might be able to preview and share dashboard files.

Results

Improved usability, successful launch, and major coverage

Multiple usability studies research team found the patterns I proposed significantly improved the usability of the Wave product. My work was also regularly presented directly to CEO Marc Benioff for feedback and approval. At Dreamforce, the interactive functionality captured the imagination of Salesforce customers.

The Analytics Cloud launch generated considerable buzz throughout the industry, achieving positive coverage in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and GigaOm. Ultimately, the Analytics Cloud was successful in catapulting Salesforce as a major player in the business intelligence industry.

Screens at Dreamforce were set up with the Wave desktop playground so customers could try their hand at navigating through real data
Wall-sized screens at Dreamforce let customers compare different dashboards and visualizations