Getting existing data into a web product is a process that most SAAS companies require at one point or another. The data typically arrives in the form of a comma-separated value file or CSV. The user is then tasked with fitting their information into the products existing database structure. I recently analyzed friction points associated with this process and put some thinking into how I would simplify the experience.
Although it’s a necessity, this task begins as an annoyance to the user and can quickly evolve into a frustration or even a deal-breaker. There are several pain points that we need to be aware of, and we need to do our best to lighten the overall cognitive load in consideration of the following:
- Having the correct file format
- Correctly linking column names
- Duplicates, invalid data, and incorrectly formatted CSV files
However, simply solving these issues does not make this process delightful. We’ll need to pay close attention to the user to recognize all areas of improvement.
I began by looking at how it’s being handled by other sites. Lots of examples exist and each seem to have their own subtle variations. While taking notes on each examples pros and cons, I thought about the user’s familiarity with their data. The one constant in every CSV upload process is that the user brings their own CSV file. Our system should conform to their file whenever possible.