Output is information delivered to users through the information system by way of intranets, extranets, or the World Wide Web. Some data require extensive processing before they become suitable output; other data are stored, and when they are retrieved, they are considered output with little or no processing. Output can take many forms: the traditional hard copy of printed reports and soft copy such as display screens, microforms, and video and audio output. Users rely on output to accomplish their tasks, and they often judge the merit of the system solely by its output.To create the most useful output possible, the systems analyst works closely with the user through an interactive process until the result is considered to be satisfactory.
Output is any useful information or data delivered by the information system or decision support system to the user. Output can take virtually any form, including print, display, audio, microforms, CD-ROMs or DVDs, and Web-based documents.
The systems analyst has six main objectives in designing output. They are to design output to serve the intended human and organizational purpose, to fit the user, to deliver the right quantity of output, to deliver it to the right place, to provide output on time, and to choose the right output method.
It is important that the analyst realize that output content is related to output method. Output of different technologies affects users in different ways. Output technologies also differ in their speed, cost, portability, flexibility, accessibility, and storage and retrieval possibilities. All these factors must be considered when deciding among print, display, audio, electronic, or Web-based output, or a combination of these.
The presentation of output can bias users in their interpretation of it. Analysts and users must be aware of the sources of bias. Analysts should interact with users to design and customize output; inform users of the possibilities of bias in output; create flexible and modifiable output; and train users to use multiple outputs to help verify the accuracy of any particular report.
Printed reports are designed with the use of computer-aided software design tools that feature form design templates and drag-and-drop interfaces. The data dictionary serves as the source for necessary data on each report.
Designing output for user displays is important, especially for DSS and the Web. Aesthetics and usefulness are critical when creating well-designed output for displays. It is important to produce prototypes of screens and Web documents that encourage users to interact with them and make changes where desired.
Once you have mastered the material in this chapter you will be able to:
- Understand the objectives for effective output design.
- Relate output content to output methods inside and outside the organization.
- Realize how output bias affects users.
- Design display output.
- Design dashboards, widgets, and gadgets.
- Design a Web site for ecommerce.