Do I need a navigation bar in my Power BI report?
Probably the most obvious answer is yes, but knowing the reasons why is the goal of this post and giving you a brief introduction to some User Interface and User Experience principles applied to report design.
Navigation is an essential part of the User Interface.
There are two concepts that we are going to develop very briefly in this post, the first one is the User Interface (UI), which consists of a set of elements (visual or functional objects) with which the user interacts, and the second one is the User Experience (UX) that focuses on the overall experience of the end-user on the product, so the UI is one of the aspects that encompass the UX and contributes greatly to the user experience of a digital product such as our Power BI report.
Following this idea, we can start by adopting another approach to our reports and start to see them as digital products; as such, we can consider certain usability principles, so we take up a UX principle called Jakob's Law, applied to web design; but why would I want to consider UX, UI or web design principles in my reports?
Well, it's all about familiarity and learned experiences, but let's see what Jakob's Law says:
"Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know."
What are the implications of this principle of report design?
Users build mental models of experiences learned around using a familiar product and transfer them to similar products.
For our task in the design of a report (our digital product), we take advantage of the mental model of the end-user of the report, built from navigation within websites or apps to transfer that experience to a similar product such as our report, facilitating its use, exploration, and interaction with it, maximizing the user experience through the adoption of an element or convention of usability and navigation already known and facilitating the main goal of the user (find the information they are looking for).
When we design our report, we prepare a product that will be consumed in a browser, so it is vital to keep these UX and UI principles in mind to take our design to another level.
It is crucial when designing your report to determine the navigation based on the end-user, the structure of your report, and the information in it, considering in your design existing conventions that can be transferred and reused, such as commonly used bars, tabs, and buttons, horizontal layout at the top or vertical to the left for navigation
Without pretending to be an exhaustive list, just considering the fundamental aspects, navigation helps the users of your reports in the following ways:
Know that the information is segmented
Shapes the report
Helps in user orientation
Enables a way to access the information
Move through the report/sections
Not all navigation patterns are the same
Basic Navigations elements.
The bar is a section of the user interface that allows integrating elements that can be interacted with, enabling navigation, which has a direct relationship with the usability of our report
These elements communicate and enable the user to initiate or take actions within our interface.
These elements organize information into groups of content and allow you to navigate through them to help users find them easily.
Power BI navigations elements
Power BI has features and elements that will allow us to build a better navigation experience; in a recent update, new elements were incorporated to create a page and bookmark navigators; another option for navigation, available for some time is the use of blank buttons which can be customized and set the type of action they will perform, in our case "Page navigation."
Instead of taking advantage of the new features of "Page and Bookmark Navigators," I prefer to make the navigation sidebar using blank buttons because, in my opinion, it provides more formatting and customization options for each button state that fits a more compact design of a sidebar and more graphical through the use of icons on each button.
Building the navigation by using buttons, shapes, icons, bookmarks, and other options available in Power BI will be covered in the next post; in the meantime, you can subscribe to BIBB and download the sample template.
Power BI template (Navbar example)
When designing your next awesome report, don't forget to consider and practice these concepts behind the tool and the functions that you can find in Power BI.