The last millimeter – Without a good UI, even the best data fails to connect

With a web app, it’s all about the last millimeter – the UI (user interface) someone sees on the screen, and the resulting UX (user experience) they have.

You may collect the world’s greatest data under the hood, but without the right skin to house it, present it, and filter it, the user is lost.

How will someone experience your web page, list or data set? Can they get the info they need? Is it enjoyable to use? In addition to just delivering the goods, are you also creating an experience, such that the user will want to return? Is it elegant?

All too often the last millimeter is forgotten, and nowhere is this more true than with event listing sites. Most of the time, users are faced with an unbeautiful grid view of info with commands to select something here, then click something here to get… something else over here?

Even with all the actual data in the system that the user wants (“What’s on tonight?”), without a good presentation and UX, the info may just as well not be there at all.

Unusable data. With apologies to Eddie Tufte.
Unusable data. With apologies to Eddie Tufte.

A good last millimeter lights up your data set. It is the difference between having access to Google maps – or only the data that sits behind Google maps. Imagine a grid list of numbers and coordinates – all the data used to drive the map – but without that brilliant UI. Wouldn’t be worth much.

A great example of an attractive and usable UI is Travel Portland’s events page.

You can easily change the date or genre you want to explore, and the results are gentle on the eyes and well summarized. There is a human – as opposed to a computer or machine – touch.

It should be this easy.
It should be this easy.

They say a voyage of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

But when it comes to a good app and usable data, everything comes down to the last millimeter.