Insights Canvas

  • Role: Design and Product Leader
  • Stakeholders: CEO, VP of Technology, Director of Marketing, Director of Sales
  • Reports: Sr. UX Designer, UX Designer, Product Manager
  • Summary: Create an exciting new reporting tool specifically directed at better customer insights from data, spread of SurveyGizmo inside an organization, and an increase in upsell and professional services revenue.

People communicate with stories.

We entered into the insights canvas project with this as a guiding principle. The belief behind the Insights Canvas is that effective stories don't need to be complex to be impactful. Our customers were requesting a new way to present data, and we wanted to allow them to tell a richer story than they could with the existing tools on the market. A simple story, properly backed with data, is an amazing tool for decision making.

From the outset, the Insights Canvas involved a heavy amount of user and market research. With a key list of beta customers, and a lot of customer requests under our belt, my team and I set off on defining the product.

The Competitive Landscape

Our competitive analysis showed that there were was a strong and established collection of competitors, but that they were mostly broken into two groups:

1.Infographic & Presentation Tools

Defined by their high degree of visual polish which can help in creating one-time or one-off reports, like Canva

2.Ongoing reporting tools

These reporting tools show undigested live metrics to viewers, like Geckoboard or DataDog.

The team constructing an empathy map after a customer interview.

What we learned about target users:

  1. They are used to PowerPoint's interactions.
  2. Value is most obvious to existing customers.
  3. Advanced features likely will only be accessed via professional services.

Our differentiators would be:

  1. Both rich visuals & streaming live data.
  2. Powerful filtering & segmentation tools.
  3. Scripting & logic allows canvas to dynamically respond to data in real time.

Getting it on front of customers

High fidelity examples of Insights Canvases used for customer research.

During our research we designed highly fidelity visionary comps based on common customer use cases. Each comp highlighted a set of potential features - calculations, animations, interactivity, pulling from multiple data sources - and these conversations helped us prioritize.

During an onsite meeting with a company in Seattle, we spoke to a team of people in product and CX. One of the directors, after seeing the examples, said:

"I would buy this today."

We all took that as a good indicator.

Early interface screens used in iterations of interactive prototypes.

The Work

With the basic requirements defined, we began work on the design. Customer feedback on the demo canvases helped us scope this blue-sky product, and weekly check-ins with development aligned everyone's expectations.

Nailing the interaction is vital for such a rich interface, so we went back to what we knew. Our customers were primarily familiar with Powerpoint, so we used several of the same interactions - handles, grouping, details drawers - that they're comfortable with.

A Rough Start

Our engineering team didn't have experience in building this kind of highly interactive interface. While the release contained many of the developer-oriented power features we had requested and prototyped, it was missing most of the tools which would make the simple, visual side of the editor easy to use.

Timelines stretched out, and important features were cut.

As expected, customers and testers had a difficult time using what was released. Designers, CX, Data Analysts, and heads of product all pointed out that as much as they liked the concept, using what was released was simply a non-starter

Insights Canvas was at risk of being labeled a failure.

Rounding off the edges

The design team recognized immediately that there was a problem. While all the power features were there, the initial experience of using and building a canvas just felt wrong: where the visual editing should have been smooth, it was instead clunky, buggy, and even dangerous.

Great products depend on great first impressions, and great first impressions require thinking about the user's complete experience.

I reached out to sales and account management for their backing in reprioritizing the previously cut features. To solve this primary complaint we added:

  • zoom controls
  • grouping and ungrouping
  • copying and pasting
  • off-canvas space to serve as a workspace or calculation area
  • better interaction with the handles and safer resizing
  • and tons of keyboard shortcuts

Then we took it back to customers, and now that these issues were solved people were excited again. They could see the value of the product, and our sales team was finally able to confidently add these to deals.


After out initial difficulties, the canvas has taken off. Customers love it, and use it to present findings internally. Custom canvases are now regularly the center piece of our largest deals.