On the mark

U-TAB gets straight to the point, Tim Macer explains how.

While many on-line reporting and cross-tab programs miss the mark, by dumbing down the kinds of analysis you can do, U-TAB, from the analysis bureau Weeks Computing, gets straight to the point. As soon as you open this end-user-oriented tab program, you are presented with a table: usually the last one you were looking at in your previous session.
As you click your way through its various options, to select new questions or present the results in many different ways, it is rare not to have a table in sight, somewhere on screen. It is a skillful piece of interface design that gives constant confirmation and feedback on your actions. This is particularly helpful when applying different questions or filters to a table, as you can spot mistakes and correct them immediately in the normal flow of your work. Equally skillful is near-universal mouse control: the only time you are likely to reach for the keyboard is if you decide to alter one of the texts for a question or table. The interface looks good, and the cascading menus and intelligently thought-out context-sensitive right-button menus mean you can work at a cracking pace. The tab engine is also very fast: tabs with millions of records appear virtually instantly on a decent PC.
In terms of what the program lets you do, U-TAB wins no prize for advancing the frontiers of human ingenuity. Instead, it sticks scrupulously to the things end-users like to do with their data, striking a good balance between making things easy, but retaining flexibility in the range of options it provides. The whole look and feel of the output can be changed or coloured any way you choose, or you can doctor one of the many templates it comes with to get a quick, custom result.
It has particularly good support for significance testing and exception reporting, which is unusual in these kinds of programs. It uses graduated colour-coding to help to highlight high and low values very effectively, and this too can be customised. Also unusual is the "indexing" of one table row on another, and its built-in support for rolling averages on time-series data - requirements that would have you knocking on the door of IT or Data Processing with most other systems.
U-TAB offers superb integration with Microsoft Office, and in fact you can post results directly to the Powerpoint charting
U-TAB by Weeks Computing
  • Quick to learn and productive to use
  • Better than average range of features
  • Excellent integration with Excel and Powerpoint
  • Program is free to distribute, pay per survey
  • Closed system with a proprietary database with no DIY set-up
  • Windows solution only - no web enablement
engine, allowing you to use Powerpoint from within U-TAB. It is equally easy to get accumulated data out of U-TAB into Excel or into Word tables.
The program does not, however, offer any real integration with the web, and options to save work from one session to another are paltry. Perhaps the biggest restriction is that it uses a proprietary database, which is created using U-TAB's big batch brother, W-TAB. The problem is, W-TAB is not a released product, so you must enlist Weeks' services to do the conversion, for a fee. By way of consolation, there is currently no licence fee to pay to use U-TABS. This may change, if a standalone database-building module, currently under consideration at Weeks Computing, should come to pass.
The program's success in making research data accessible to non-researchers is immediately apparent at Harley Davidson Europe, where it forms a key part of the company's customer satisfaction index or CSI programme.
John Kear, Dealer Development Manager - Europe, comments: "Our team of dealer development managers throughout Europe use this when working on issues that come out of the normal CSI. Beyond that, it is also used by marketing, sales and technical services, so it actually facilitates a lot of cross-functional co-operation."
Using a single electronic delivery platform has other advantages for a pan-European operation and has helped to overcome some of the language barriers associated with working on hardcopy reports. It has also allowed the CSI to move from six-monthly published reports to near-continuous electronic delivery to the end user. When a new batch of data is available, Kear is able to pick this up from a secure webpage created for him by Weeks Computing and make it available to everyone immediately, simplifying the logistics of report distribution to a few mouse clicks, and saving on storage space too.
The key to U-TAB's success at Harley Davidson has been the greater access it provides to research data, without trying to be too clever. According to Kear: "It is not a particularly complex piece of software – anyone familiar with Lotus or Office can get their head round this relatively easily – but it reflects what users want. We are able to use it to look at unique or unusual situations in a way we did not have the time or the ability to do when all the information was only available in printed format."

Weeks Computing: www.weekscomputing.com

Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist and advisor in software for market research. His website is at www.meaning.uk.com

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, October 2002, Issue 437.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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