Best Practice #6: Interface design is important for reporting


As we begin the second half of our series on the 10 best practices for information management, reporting and analytics let’s review what we have learned so far.

We now understand the importance of securing executive sponsorship, identifying and involving stakeholders early and assessing their unique needs, identifying and integrating data sources, managing user expectations proactively, and determining the best way to process and deliver each report.

So now you have to determine the best way to get data and reports to your end users. Plus, you need to ensure that they have the information readily available, when they need it and in the format that they need it - securely. This brings us to Best Practice #6: Design an Intuitive, User-Friendly Interface for Accessing Reports.

Education customers like to use a “portal” to publish the data and reports they create. This way users can have one place to access what they need, when they need it and in a secure manner – without further assistance.

For example, SAS enables you to create a portal where you can store report processes and provide a self-service reporting environment for users to access what they need with the click of a button. This self-service reporting environment uses familiar, intuitive conventions for navigation, drill-down, data selection and more.

For example, the portal can have tabs across the top of the home page that take the user to information for a specific area, such as dashboards for the provost of a college to review applicants, degrees or enrollment.

Users can also access popular publications – such as the fact book, quick facts or the data dictionary – with one click from the home page. They can see aggregate information for the university or drill down to a specific college, department, degree, program or even the individual student.

Thoughtfully designed screens and easy navigation and selection tools encourage users to explore the data in more ways, leading to unexpected discoveries and better data-driven decisions. Finally, built-in security and access controls ensure users only see what they have permission to see.

Let's look at three examples of portals designed by SAS education customers:

  1. This k-12 presentation by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools explains how their portal helps transform teaching and learning with a holistic view of the district's data and comprehensive evaluations.
  2. This higher education presentation by Western Kentucky University shows how they use their portal to track trends in enrollment, persistence and student success.
  3. The last example is a presentation by the University of Central Florida in which they demo the steps taken to convert legacy, static degree data into a graphic-based, trend-focused degree application.

Stay tuned for more posts from me in this series. If you don't want to wait for the next post to learn all ten best practices, you can read the full white paper now: 10 Tips from SAS Education customers.


About Author

Georgia Mariani

Principal Product Marketing Manager

Georgia Mariani has spent nearly a quarter-century exploring and sharing how analytics can improve outcomes. As a Principal Industry Marketing Manager at analytics leader SAS, supporting the education industry, she passionately showcases customers using analytics to tackle important education issues and help students succeed. Georgia received her M.S. in Mathematics with a concentration in Statistics from the University of New Orleans.


  1. john bentley on

    Way back when at SUGI 24 I presentated a paper titled "14 Steps to a Good GUI". I've just now flipped thru it again and although it was written with SAS/AF in mind it's very relevant to your Best Practice #6: Design an Intuitive, User-Friendly Interface for Accessing Reports.

    • Alison Bolen
      Alison Bolen on

      The best advice never gets stale! Is that old SUGI paper available anywhere online, John?

  2. Pingback: Best Practice #7: Collecting and acting on user feedback - SAS Voices

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