Dashboard: Design

What is the purpose of a dashboard?

The purpose of a dashboard is to visualize important and critical information in such way that the user can understand the content and make an informed decision.


Analytical Dashboards

An analytical dashboard should help the user to understand what is going on, why, and what changes should be made in the future. Therefore, this kind of dashboard should provide insights from a volume of data collected over time (daily, weekly, monthly or by quarters). It should allow the comparison of trends over time, the identification of performance of products and services, and what-if analysis based on sophisticated models. This dashboard should allow for pivots to identify patterns and opportunities. This dashboard offer drill-down functionality so users can explore the data.


Operational Dashboards

An operational dashboards should allow the user to check frequently changes of performance metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). In other words, the purpose of this kind of dashboard is for management intra-daily business processes. These dashboards are fit for low latency data needs and continual view into the business unit. They allow for alerts, identification of potential operational issues and drill through the information.


Executive / Strategic Dashboards

While this kind of dashboard share some similarities with analytical dashboards, they focus more on the high-level overview of the state of the business including the opportunities that the business may face. The information that this dashboard should display may include the following: cost (ie: cost vs. prior period), sales pipelines, headcount (ie: headcount by department), and periodic revenue (ie: periodic revenue vs prior period).


When designing a dashboard, what questions should you ask?

  1. What business problem(s) this dashboard is trying to solve?
  2. Who is your audience?
    A dashboard designed for the engineering department may not be useful for the sales department.

    1. What type of dashboard are your creating?
  3. What is the dashboard goal?
  4. What is the sate of the data infrastructure?
  5. What are the latency requirements of the data?
  6. Where does the data reside?
    1. How many sources are going to be used?
  7. What information should be displayed?
    A typical mistake is to believe that all data is important, as Amanda Cox from the NY Times explained: “Data isn’t like your kids, you don’t have to pretend to love them equally”.

    1. What are the key metrics that will the users used for actionable information?
  8. Is this dashboard for reporting or exploration?
  9. Do your dashboard uses data definitions that are well understood?
    1. Can your audience recognize what the metrics used means?
    2. Can you help your audience to understand this data?
    3. What is the goal of the metrics you wish to display?
  10. How does your dashboard add value to your organization?
  11. What is the structure of your dashboard?
  12. How frequent will your dashboard update the information?
  13. What is more important? An attractive dashboard or a purely utilitarian dashboard?
  14. Does your audience needs to access your dashboard on-the-go, for example in mobile devices?
  15. Should the user be able to drill down into the context displayed by your dashboard?
  16. Will your audience benefit from interacting with your dashboard?
  17. Will your audience collaborate and share on the dashboard?
  18. Do your dashboard:
    • Support casual use?
    • Is customizable?
    • Module oriented?
    • Compact?
    • Reveal information in a gradual matter?
    • Do guide attention?
    • Lead to action?
  19. Do your dashboard allow users to define the scope of the data using filters?
  20. Do your dashboard display alerts?
  21. Can you print and/or export information from the dashboard?
  22. Can your users add commentary?
  23. Can the information displayed being saved?
  24. Is your dashboard clean?
  25. Where are you displaying the most important information inside your dashboard?
  26. Are you using your white space correctly?
  27. What colors and typography are you using? Are they good enough for your users?
  28. Are you displaying the right charts for the information you wish to display?

Advice for Dashboards Design

  1. Do not clutter your dashboard. Display only the most important metrics.
  2. Consider users with color vision deficiency. For them, some colors may blend together and provide them with the wrong information.
  3. Pick a font easy to read. For example, the user may confuse the letters such as I (capital i) with the letter l. So pick a font that is easy to differentiate between all the letters.
  4. Make sure to know if the dashboard must display the information in real-time or in a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly periods.
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