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Why are you fixing data errors instead of preventing them?

Incomplete or wrong customer data is a costly frustration. You might feel that the way to fix it is through more training, more rules and more validation - but there’s a better approach.

Make the systems you use to capture that data more friendly and fool proof to begin with.

People don’t choose to make mistakes, but errors often creep in because of poorly designed systems. We obsess over making our customers’ experience smooth and simple to access, but not our colleagues' experience. By investing the same care and attention on our own internal systems, then we can prevent many data quality issues before they happen.

Focusing on User Experience (UX) helps to address these issues

Here are six top areas to consider:

1. Simplify your forms for the minimum data set

Do you need a title field, or can you live without it? The less data you try to capture, the more likely a user is to complete the form - and not just fill it with nonsense to save time.

If you'd like to capture more information, try progressive data capture, where you collect additional information each time you interact with the customer.

2. Split out the forms, show progress and success

Don’t overwhelm with one giant form. Instead, group the types of data into different sections and show progress to completion. This way, users know how much more of their time this might take and it will make them more patient.

Be clear about whether the information they've entered is of the right type, exactly at that moment. Don't wait to validate the fields on submission, because that will force users to scour the forms again, to find and correct what's wrong. It’s far easier for users to correct as they go - and even better if you let them know what’s required of them before they try to fill it out.

3. Accessibility makes things easier for everyone.

High contrast colours, larger type, clearer labelling and being ready for audio readers, are all necessary to achieve AA level accessibility compliance[1]. But this isn't a box checking exercise, these practices make everything clearer for everybody. Just as dropped kerbs make it easier for everyone to cross a road, but are designed for wheelchair users, so clear, simple design makes life easier for all users.

Design for accessibility first, rather than trying to force it on an existing design.

4. Make the value exchange clear

If a user doesn't understand what they're going to get for giving away a piece of information, then they are much less likely to share it.

Make it clear why you need it, and the benefit they'll gain from telling you. If it's Personal Data or PII Data, then this will also help you to comply with GDPR, CCPA and other data protection and data privacy regulations.

5. Do the hard work for them

The harder a user has to work to get you the information you're asking for, the less likely they are to get it. So, if there is anything you can do to make it simpler to complete the information, fall over yourself to do it. For example:

  • Don't require them to calculate their monthly spend on groceries; allow them to connect to open banking to work it out automatically.
  • Don't require them to type in bank card information; let them use the phone camera to scan it.
  • Make sure that fields are formatted so that the browser can auto-fill them.

As soon as a user has to go away and refer to documentation, you have failed.

6. Treat your own staff as well as your customers

Always remember your internal users are just as important as the customers. There's a cost to training and retaining staff. If you have beautiful in-house systems which are easy to use and navigate, churn drops.

When you build customer facing solutions, architect it so you can release the same interface to your own staff. It will raise the quality of their work.

Data forms very often are created from an engineering point of view, to serve the system that needs it. Real people take the path of least resistance every time, we don’t always think too much about things, we are messy, we are flawed.

Great design accounts for all of this.
Great design gets you closer to great data.

Charles Joseph helps organisations get more value from their data by applying data governance and improving data quality, focusing on pragmatism and the benefits delivered.

Ben Gonshaw has been tuning user interactions and creating interfaces for 20 years, earning BAFTA nominations and Cannes Lions for UX along the way. He obsesses over understanding users’ needs to create solutions that genuinely help them, in the most elegant way possible.

Ben and Charles are keen to find out your experiences in applying UX to Data Quality. Let us know in the comments below.

[1] Web page accessibility is set out by W3, where AAA is the highest level and AA is viewed as good practice. See

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