User interface thoughts

Image - Mark Chitty

Key employees in the financial world frequently move from one organisation to another, prompted by the offer of higher rewards. This poses a problem for companies that want to hang on to their staff but don’t want to pay over the odds for their skills. How do they know what ‘the odds’ are?

PRPi recognised this issue 15 years ago and provided a solution in the form of key staff remuneration surveys. By collating and analysing employee remuneration data across a range of firms, PRPi are able to provide their clients with sound, evidence based insight into how their staff are rewarded in comparison to the rest of the market. As a result PRPi’s clients are better placed to make appropriate remuneration decisions for their staff.


Originally these surveys were delivered as written reports containing a static data set and corresponding analysis. As the internet took off though PRPi saw the opportunity to deliver the survey results in an online interactive tool that allowed clients a more varied and comprehensive view of the findings.

Initially PRPi’s audience were reluctant to move away from their printed reports. This was due in part to their general conservative nature, but also because the online tool itself was fairly technical to use. PRPi engaged Thinkers to revise the user interface and make it less ‘techy’ – effectively a re-skinning exercise, or so they thought.


Thinkers look holistically at a situation. We think beyond initial solutions that clients may have in mind to re-frame the requirements, putting users centre stage. We made PRPi think more clearly about their business and the value they offered their clients. We explored how clients used the survey data to inform their own decisions. This process brought new perspectives on what questions were upper-most in users’ minds as they used the surveys, and what information they need to answer those questions.

This fresh insight enabled us to do far more than merely re-skin the application with new colours and layout. We fundamentally improved it, removing a lot of complexity, resulting in a significantly friendlier, more intuitive application that encouraged users to play with the data. User feedback was universally positive, and there was a dramatic increase in traffic to the application. This result was strategically important to PRPi in helping them position themselves for a successful acquisition by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in summer 2012.


We removed complexity through a range of design changes:

  • Prioritised graphical data presentation, making the application more attractive and friendly and allowing key conclusions to pop out
  • Developed a clear information hierarchy, presenting headline figures in an uncluttered way, making the result set easy to understand
  • Established consistent data presentation across different screens
  • Standardised the controls for querying the system
  • Designed in-place data drill-down providing implicit context for underlying detail
  • Configured default options so that
    • Initial user effort is minimised = meaningful results straight out of the box
    • The learning curve for new users is flattened – advanced options are tucked away so as not to distract or confuse
  • Created a new Client Dashboard which provides a single central location for clients to access all their PRPi resources

As part of the implementation of these changes, we also introduced new technical enhancements.

  • Moved data manipulation logic to the client side to increase application responsiveness (less waiting for page loads) and reduce server load
  • Introduced full AJAX program flow to streamline client-server communication and preserve user context when returning results
  • Collaborated closely with back end developers on:
    • Shared API definition
    • Fully commented self-descriptive code to promote intuitive implementation