Legacy experience transformation

Project execution

The mission
IBM SPSS Statistics is one of the most widely used statistics applications, with over 250 organizations in industries such as academia, social science, market research, or government. First developed in 1968, it went from punch cards over command-line interfaces to a Java UI Client. Since 2000, its user interface remained almost unchanged. And now is the time for another revolution. The traditional tool is especially appreciated by long-term power users. However, entry-level users are seeking a more approachable software. With project SPSS Statistics NX, we are building a sister offer based on the powerful algorithms of the classic software version, but its user experience and its interface being fully redesigned to meet the needs of new generations.
2017 – 2021
Design Lead, UX/UI Designer

Target audience

Originally, SPSS Statistics was devised for social science, yet is today being used in every field where statistics is relevant. While the classic product is appreciated by a diverse array of customers, project NX is aiming at the new generation.

We target beginner users in the academic domain. A group experiencing the highest pain points with the current product,  representing  the next generation of SPSS Statistics users.  Hence, by focusing on them, we could have the biggest impact on the market.

Target audience

The approach

The new software project NX has been fully developed in close collaboration with end-users. First as an experimental project and in the last two years, as a closed early access program. It enabled near to 500 participants to test  the next generation software and contribute to the endeavor .

Users have been participating in regular surveys, webinars, interviews,  testing activities or workshops, helping us to shape the future of the SPSS Statistics product family.

Collaboration with product team

Fear of statistics

The look and feel of such a product can harm the users’ perception. In the classic version, issues related to the user interface, to its usability and to its experience were the most reported through the NPS (Net Promoter Score) feedback . Especially for the young generation the interface felt intimidating.

"Beginners are intimidated by the program. The screen today frightens them."
– Professor

Comparison loading screen classic software vs. new generation software

We took special care  in providing a visual welcoming getting-started experience while reducing the cognitive load.  In this getting-started experience we sought to lead the users to their first success moment, orienting them through their first steps in the application.

Learning curve

A legacy software like SPSS Statistics was made for experts and trained statisticians. The original system is entirely lacking guidance and onboardings. Thus it can be  challenging to get started and understand how to proceed. And  indeed, to that end,  books of 300 pages are necessary and classes are dedicated to learning  SPSS Statistics .

“Most US textbooks these days do have an appendix about SPSS. We really spend a lot of time in class on how to use it”
- Professor
Learning experience of new generation software

Product onboarding is good practice  which we wanted to include in our software. We designed a tour based on a real statistical case helping users to get started with the application and become familiar with basic statistical concepts.

Multiple hints and on-demand quick guides are inserted to make the product accessible to our target audience through their regular use.

Lack of guidance  

SPSS Statistics is a software  built for trained statisticians and a flexible application providing a large amount of powerful tools. However, users must be comfortable with statistical concepts and language to know what to use and when to use it. Such is not the case for our target audience, and the most frequent pain they express is the general lack of guidance.

“I feel unsure over the whole process! I hope that everything works out.”
- Student

Key added values in new generation software: data overview, descriptive variable panel, analysis catalog, analysis set-up guide

One of our main goals  in this project was to introduce guidance to support our users across their end-to-end experience. We developed unique solutions to discover data, choose appropriate statistical analyses, and set them up correctly. We intended to empower beginner users to  exploit powerful statistics with confidence.

Lack of structure

SPSS Statistics classic is fully constructed with pop-up windows. Every action you make triggers a new window, which will be stacked on top of the ones  already opened. This renders it difficult to understand the relationship between the windows and makes it tedious to keep an overview.

“You need those windows …  but managing all of these windows is quite of a pain.”
- Professor

Comparison of the UI frame and navigation of the classic software vs. the new generation software


Our goal was to structure our software by creating a UI- frame and a navigation system enabling users to orient themselves and progress through a guided flow. On top of this, we restructured the content to separate basic settings from additional  ones, allowing beginners to get started with simple steps.

Complex patterns

Another typical downside of legacy software is its interaction patterns. They are as old as the software itself is. Best practices of interactions are strongly bound to the evolution of programming languages. Most often, interactions conceived several years ago are rather complex with low affordance.

“The Students enter everything, but they forgot to hit ‘apply’ so the ‘run’ button won’t enable. That’s when they get stuck”
- Professor

Comparison of the interaction pattern to build models of the classic software vs. the new generation software


Generating a new software version, we had to reinvent the interaction patterns to meet today’s usability good practices. We brought to the forefront the most needed actions and introduced sequential processes .

The Impact

During our closed early access program, we observed a large engagement rate from our audience with regular proactive feedback. Compared to the regular use NPS rating of the classic application we were able to achieve an overall increase of 400%.

“This is a mind-blowing leap ahead for student users of SPSS like myself. I am really looking forward to being able to use this on a regular basis!"
- Student

Our project was singled out for its excellence, whether for its new design system , its overall transformation or singular innovations:  internally with the outstanding IBM Innovation Award, or the most desired Business Technical Award.  And we also  reaped external recognition such as the well-known Red Dot Design Award in the user experience category.

Design team at the red dot award ceremony

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