Let’s do it live! The impact of live data on UX

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April 30, 2015
Let’s do it live! The impact of live data on UX.
Few things in this world strike terror into the hearts of men (and women) quite like performing in front of a live audience. Thankfully, our computers and websites have no such qualms, and now they have the capacity to deliver live data like never before. Live data — or real-time data — certainly isn’t new to the Web; but it’s increasingly pervasive, and with good reason. Today’s Internet users expect immediate gratification. They don’t just want a site to respond to their input; they expect sites to provide information without a click. Social media is a big driver for these expectations. Users are accustomed to constantly updated content through their social feeds, so they presume this kind of performance from all sites. Today, failure to deliver up-to-date information can create a dissatisfying user experience. The good news is that technology is making it easier for you to deliver real-time data to your site’s users.

How did we get here?

The biggest challenge for real-time data was the need for a constantly open client-server connection as opposed to request and response. For years, the most popular commercial applications for live data were in the financial industry. Finance companies invested heavily in these technologies and closely guarded them as trade secrets. Eventually, independent developers caught up, creating Java applets to make real-time data more accessible for other applications, and later created native web-browser hacks to deliver consistent HTTP connections. Today, improved servers, browsers, software and other tech advances make it easier to develop for and deliver real-time data. Libraries and services, like Firebase, Signalr, Parse, Meteor, and Socket.io enable us to build and deploy real-time mobile and web apps in minutes. Nearly every developer now has access to the tools necessary to incorporate live data into their projects.

Today’s real-time data landscape

Live data delivery is increasingly popular across all forms of digital products. It gives users the most up-to-date information, provides marketers with immediate feedback, and encourages effective communication. When everyone knows where they stand at the moment, they can collaborate more easily. Real-time data offers benefits for a variety of web applications. E-commerce customers can monitor constantly updated quantities to order an item before it’s out of stock. Attendees can get real-time updates at events. News and sports information can be delivered without lag. Travelers can get live prices on airline tickets, hotels, rental cars and more. And that’s just the consumer side. Marketers and product owners can utilize incoming real-time data to identify emerging market opportunities, help guide business decisions, monitor alerts for reputation management and more. Delivering real-time data to consumers also has business benefits. Thinking back to our e-commerce example, that diminishing inventory list uses scarcity to create urgency and entice consumers to act quickly. Exciting real-time web applications like gaming and communication are evolving daily, as are opportunities involving the Internet of Things. Studies project that by the year 2020, there will be more than 200 billion Internet-connected objects worldwide. Imagine the possibilities of a network of devices collecting and distributing data in real-time.

Is real-time data right for your project?

When considering incorporating real-time data into your next project, simply ask yourself two questions:
  1. Will the user benefit from live information?
  2. Is there value in back-and-forth interaction between users?
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, your audience will be well served with real-time data. So, don’t wait another minute to build your first live-data project. After all, with each passing second, more valuable data goes unseen. Featured image, live connection image via Shutterstock.

Damion Wasylow

Damion Wasylow writes for University of Florida’s online master’s degree program in Web Design and Online Communication. He started his design career 20 years ago, and has an insatiable curiosity around emerging digital trends.

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