You can read the press release here. But how did we go about this challenging project?
Greenlight for changeTo find out, I spoke to Louise Green, global marketing director at Bureau van Dijk.
Green joined Bureau van Dijk in the early days when it was delivering innovative CD-ROMs containing company data.
"Bureau van Dijk was really leading the way with CD-ROM technology and data delivery in during the late 80s and early 90s," she says. "CD-ROMs were novel and changed the way people worked completely."
Since then Green has witnessed the continued innovation of information delivery in the company as we migrated our company databases to DVD and then to various internet versions, and now also workflow platforms via our Catalysts.
In recent years, Green has been part of the strategic team behind these changes. Other members of the team include our chief technical officer, Bernard Duyckaerts, various project managers, external usability experts, and of course clients.
"Our databases are hugely popular and users appreciate how powerful they are," explains Green.
But, she adds, "both Fame and Orbis had become a little cluttered. Their features and functionality had grown organically, and they'd become less intuitive and findable in the process."
The "database housed a wealth of very useful content and functionality," says Green, "but we want users to be able to really get the best out of our content and functionality, however they want to use the products, and we needed to review the interface to optimise this."
By 2014 the company had formally started working on the project.
Client consultationOur products have always been built in very close consultation with our clients.
And they've proved a crucial part of the solution in recreating the interface, according to Green. "Clients are always at the centre of our developments," she adds.
Green continues: "For this project, we brought together a diverse group of users to be interviewed on our existing platforms by external interface usability experts."We asked them about what they liked, what they didn't like (which was very important), how they used the services, and differences they might want to see." Importantly, adds Green, "we made sure we didn't just go to our biggest fans."
"We used the information we gathered to test the proof of concept for the new interface and develop a number of typical search scenarios," says Green. "During the testing phase it was obvious that our improved navigation was a standout and much-appreciated differentiator," she adds.
Several key themes emerged, such as:
- Creating new reports and formats for simple interpretation and customisation;
- Improving users' search experience – "our research showed that users were using the same search criteria over and over again," says Green, so we added a new favourites area for quick retrieval;
- Providing simple ways to share these saved reports and searches with colleagues;
- Simplifying and improving ease of use – so our clients can spend less time on internal training;
- Making it easier to search by company name, especially when searching for more than one company at a time;
- Offering more data transparency – now simple 'click throughs' show how data points are derived;
- Improving how users can interact with other tools such as Excel – we've added Excel-friendly worksheets and an enhanced Add-in;
- Presenting information in a more visually digestible way; and
- Optimising the platforms for tablet use.
The process didn't stop there, of course, and this group of users have fed back their opinions on various iterations of the new platforms that they helped test throughout the pre-launch development phase.
And the interface will continue to evolve post-launch.
Show simplicity, offer complexity
From the outset, the project's unofficial mission has been to "show simplicity, offer complexity".
In the old version of the interface, too many options were visible at once.
The simplification of the screens and the addition of a new navigation bar have improved this in a stroke, reducing the clutter and focusing people's tasks, with the bar acting as a 'spine' for each user 'zone'.
The bar includes a tools zone, where users can find useful and time-saving tools like our new pivot analysis. It also has zones for searches, results, reports, exports, alerts, and integration and personalisation.
"None of the existing functionality of either service is lost," says Green. "It's just better presented, more easily findable, more usable and faster."
Most immediately pleasing, perhaps, are the new ways we present the data visually.
"Our new 'company profile' has lots of visuals and prominent text to help users get an instant overview of a company," explains Green.
The one shown here is for Levi Strauss Limited in the UK.
This profile provides:
- Name, registered number and address;
- Who the Global Ultimate Owner (GUO) is;
- Internet and social media links;
- Snapshots of the most recent figures for turnover and profit and loss;
- Indicators on significant news stories from the past month; and
- Many other useful pieces of information, such as details of ownership and directorships.
"We've added new visualisation tools throughout," adds Green, "including an 'ownership explorer' that really brings our corporate ownership structures to life.
"People will get an impression of a company much more quickly from these graphics."
In this diagram the big crown icon indicates the Global Ultimate Owner, and the person icons (with or without little crowns) indicate people, in some cases beneficial owners.
Feeling at home
Finally, the labelled screenshot below shows the route into these various elements of Orbis. The experience for Fame is very similar.
New homescreen explained; note the new vertical navigation bar on the left
See our short taster videos for the new Fame and new Orbis.
And, whether you're an existing customer or not, do let us know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue developing the interface in consultation with the market.
Read the press release here.