Designing a dashboard is one of the most crucial components for any type of data representation. A good dashboard can have a massive impact on any company, by uplifting productivity and increasing efficiency. Vise-versa, a bad dashboard could ruin a company, misleading business heads and workers creating chaos. Therefore, the need for a well designed dashboard cannot be overstated. Here are a few points that I think can help anyone make a good dashboard.
Know the users of the dashboard:
Before developing a dashboard, one should know and understand the users of the dashboard very well.
Ask yourself: Who am I designing the dashboard for? Why do they need it? and What is their level of understanding with the subject matter and data? If the dashboard is being used by higher level managers, they would be interested in KPI’s and macro level Charts rather than simple entry data level or tables.
Make proper use cases of the available data:
Before the actual development of the dashboard make a comprehensive use case of the available data. This helps in choosing the right visualisation/charts to present the data and helps to display relevant data to the user.
Utilise the entire space on of the dashboard:
Try to avoid leaving blank spaces in your dashboard. If the dashboard is visually organised, users will easily be able to find the information needed by them. Poor layout forces users to think more before they grasp the point leading to time delays for decision makers.
Here is an example of a dashboard showing the charts and KPI that are properly organised with no blank space in it.
KPI’s and chart placement:
The general rule of thumb is to keep the important KPI’s on the top left of the dashboard. As, most people start scanning the dashboard from the top left of the screen. Thus, grouping the various charts properly is vital.
Example: If a dashboard displays Marketing and Sales data on the same tab then make sure there is a need for. Don’t mix the charts showing Marketing data with Sales data on a single tab unless you want to show any comparative analysis.
Make sure to add tool-tip in each visualisation and chart. This helps the user understand the chart better and makes the dashboard more intuitive. You can provide additional information in tool-tip when the user hovers over the chart.
In the image below, additional information is given in the tool-tip
Be consistent with money or number formatting:
Make sure that the numbers displayed in the charts have the same formatting in all the subsequent charts. Keeping the same numbering system throughout the dashboard will help users understand the data faster. Different numbering systems in the same dashboard can lead to miscalculation by the users.
Example: If one chart show values in Millions make sure that the other charts don’t show values in thousands or billions unless required. If you are showing values up to 2 decimal points, follow through with it and be consistent throughout the dashboard.
Use of colours:
If properly used, colour’s role in a dashboard for conveying meaning could be invaluable but if badly used, colour can be confusing and even misleading. Always be consistence with the use of colours. Colour coordination throughout the dashboard should be the same.
Example: If green and red are used to denote “good” and “bad” in one chart, they shouldn’t be used to denote anything else in any other chart on your dashboard. Using limited colours is also recommended. Excessive use of many colours can create visual overload and get in the way of analysis.
In the image below only two colours are used to tell about the goals achieved and goals pending.
Help text and Information page:
Always provide an information/Index page at the beginning of the dashboard. Don’t assume your user knows where to start interacting with your dashboard. Help text for each chart gives the user an idea about what information you are giving in that chart. This makes it easier to understand to the user.
Provide context in the Dashboard:
How will you know whether the numbers are good or bad? or Whether they are normal? if there is no context. Without comparative values, numbers on a dashboard are meaningless for the users. And more importantly, they won’t know whether any action is required. Always try to provide maximum information, even if some of it may seem obvious to you. Your audience will not find it confusing. Name all the axes and add titles to all charts. This is very important and help with comparative values.
Check how your dashboard looks on different devices:
The context and device on which users will regularly accesses their dashboards will have direct consequences on the style in which the information is displayed. Check how the dashboard looks on other various devices like a laptop, tablet and smartphone. Remember to build dashboards that will fit all types of screens, whether it’s a smartphone, PC or a tablet.