In our last blog that took a look behind the scenes at the approach to the design of SIMS Primary, we focused on how the next generation of SIMS had been developed to give teachers powerful and intuitive tools to make life in the classroom easier.
In addition to helping teachers, we wanted to make sure that the latest iteration of our MIS solution provided senior leaders and office staff with more power to query the data that goes into their systems every day.
Above all else, we wanted to create something that provided great functionality and simple reporting power but, at the same time, was visually appealing.
The difference between data and information
The first consideration when it comes to dashboards like those in SIMS Primary is to understand what the purpose of putting data into SIMS is – to get it back out again, in such a way that you can use it for a given purpose.
For example, if you’ve got an inspector asking questions in your school, looking closely at groups or classes with lower than average grades, there’s more than likely to be a reason. With the dashboards we’ve designed, senior leaders can take a look at their key information, recognise any significant trends and instantly drill down into the data in the search for answers.
In a nutshell, that’s the difference between data and information – SIMS is packed full of data, but it’s how you pull it out of the system and turn it into something meaningful – information that can be acted on to drive interventions and decisions.
That approach to managing and presenting data in a way that helps staff in schools – and in a way that meets their everyday needs – is at the heart of the changes we’ve made to SIMS Primary.
Dashboard design 101
When we first started work on SIMS Primary, we wanted to make sure that the interface was actually in line with what teachers and senior leaders in schools needed and wanted, so we set about meeting with as many as we could and taking on board their feedback.
From there, we briefed our team of user experience architects on what those requirements were and after extensive research (they effectively swallowed every text book you can find on dashboard design), we started to see the first mockups of what those dashboards might look like.
As you can see from the diagrams below, that show the development of the attendance dashboard over time, we’ve come a long way in terms of the appearance of these displays, experimenting with different locations for the various tools and filters in addition to testing different colours and appearances – with mixed opinions from our test audiences!
Your data, how you want to see it
We wanted to share those early designs with schools as soon as possible, so we created a group of around 20 schools, asking them for their thoughts not just on the layout and appearance, but what actual information they wanted to see. This allowed us to create a really clear picture of what school leaders were looking for – the ability to quickly spot trends in their data that might otherwise not be easy to see.
Those trends could come from a behaviour dashboard showing that children record more negative conduct points on a certain day of the week or it could be an indicator that high levels of pupil mobility are affecting overall attainment. One of the key pieces of functionality that we wanted to include was a high level of flexibility, so schools can choose what data is important to them and how they want to present it.
Whatever your school’s key performance indicators are – a certain level of attendance, a particular threshold for progress – we’ve built SIMS Primary dashboards with the ability to adjust the benchmarks and change the way they’re presented.
After all, it’s your data so why shouldn’t you have control of how it looks?
And with modern technology making more powerful screens and better looking tools, we wanted to make sure that the appearance matched the functionality – a good-looking, smart-working, easy-using interface.
There’ll be more behind the scenes blogs on SIMS Primary coming soon, including some of the insightful reporting functions and financial tools. In the meantime, if you’d like more information, visit our dedicated SIMS Primary microsite.