You've executed some detailed analysis and created some awesome visualizations which you have saved to a dashboard. However despite the great visualizations the dashboard doesn't look quite right. Here are 11 quick and easy tips to get your dashboard looking up to scratch, appealing and easy to use for the end-user.
1. Put your visualizations in a logical order
The visualizations which show the key metrics should be at the top and to the left of the dashboard as this is where research shows the user will direct most of their attention (as shown). Make sure that related visualizations, or visualizations where a comparison can be made are placed next to each other. The dashboard should be arranged to make the end user consume the dashboard in the order the dashboard creator intended it to be consumed. In Bime changing the layout of visualizations on your dashboard could not be easier, once in the edit mode simply drag-and-drop.
2. Be space efficient
Try to minimize the amount of 'unused' space on the dashboard. Bime makes this easy to do with some simple built in customizable features. Why not try these few simple tweaks to optimize space on a dashboard.
- Delete unnecessary legends
- Put labels inside of the visualization itself rather than below or by the side
- Rotate your labels to fit more labels into a smaller area
- When using an 'explosion' measure use the cover view instead of the tile view
3. One screen?
Ideally a dashboard would always fit one screen without the need for scrolling, switching between pages etc. to allow the user to dig into the data, quickly and easily. However, this doesn't mean visualizations should be crammed onto one page at all costs. If a dashboard doesn't fit one page, the next best thing is to organize the dashboard so the viewer has only one scrolling bar, either to scroll down or to scroll across, but preferably not both. Alternatively in Bime several dashboards can be linked together to be listed under different tabs but under the same heading. This is usually only advisable if there are natural divisions in your data.
4. Size your visualizations adequately
If possible, make your visualizations big enough so that all information on the visualization can be viewed without having to make further clicks on specific points to find out the underlying data. If the space you have allocated for a visualization isn't enough then that visualization will require its own scrolling bar, this makes it more difficult for the user to get the information quickly - ideally, visualizations should be made large enough so they don't require their own scrolling bars. However, making your visualizations too large can often result in making the overall dashboard inconveniently large, therefore a trade off may be required.
Remember, it is important to have the end user in mind, how will they be consuming the dashboard? For example if the end user will be viewing the dashboard on a mobile device then it may be a good idea to consider making the visualizations larger.
5. Align the elements of your dashboard
In all forms of web design, designers often use a grid system, leaving small gaps between elements on the page to ensure the lines on the page align where possible (see the example below from The Guardian homepage). In Bime users have the option to utilize the free flow grid layout setting or let Bime automatically align size and position of visualizations on a dashboard.
6. Utilize color
Color can be used to show patterns, set the overall mood or just make the dashboard look sleeker and the user has several different options of how to use color on the dashboard. Using different colors to the rest of the dashboard can draw attention to certain parts and using similar colors can also tie two parts of a dashboard together. Generally, a complimentary color scheme can drastically improve the appeal of your dashboard as a coherent color scheme draws the whole dashboard together and makes it look more professional. A good starting point is to identify colors which are prominent in any images or visualizations you have used on your dashboard and then use a color scheme to compliment these colors. However, the color scheme of your dashboard can also be used to provoke certain emotions or use colors which are related to the information you are trying to show on the dashboard. Different colors can be used as running themes throughout a dashboard to represent different groups, such as with this football dashboard from our showcase in which throughout, red represents the English league and blue the French.
Certain color combinations will be more pleasing on the eye, the color wheels below are taken from a Kissmetric blog post on the subject.
7. Keep your dashboard updated
In Bime, if selected, the built in cache, Deja Vu, will take a snapshot of your data therefore if your original data source is on premise the user is still able to share the dashboard created from this data, online. The deja-vu is updated automatically every time the dashboard is loaded and saved and can be scheduled to update automatically at regular periods, for example daily. In Bime all the data on the dashboard can easily be re-loaded from the query cache, from the data cache and from the data source. It is also possible to allow users to update the cache to allow them to view a perfectly up-to-date version of the dashboard.
8. Make sure you provide context to your data
In Bime the stunning range of visualizations bring the data to life and as they say 'a picture (or interactive visualization!) is worth a thousand words'. However, again it is important to think about the end user, what information do they need to consume the dashboard? Make sure the dashboard includes adequate labels, legends and provide enough data on the dashboard to allow the user to get the information they need.
9. Allow interactivity on your dashboard
Which interactivity features may be useful for the end-user to get the most out of the data? The user may want to look at slightly different metrics to the owner of the dashboard or look at the underlying data behind a visualization on the dashboard. In Bime dashboards are interactive and everyone viewing the dashboard can click on a specific data point to view the numbers associated with that point. Additionally, in the premium version of Bime, the owner of the dashboard can choose to allow external viewers the ability to drill through, drill down and decompose the data.
10. Use text efficiently
Make sure that the text you have used on your dashboard, such as visualization headings, helps to explain the dashboard, graph titles are important and should signal exactly what that visualization shows. Use text to direct and assist the user in certain parts of the dashboard using rich text including font size, type and hyperlinks.
11. Avoid overloading the user
One of the main purposes of a dashboard is to provide a clear summary of the data, quickly and clearly. Therefore be selective with visualizations and only provide information which is needed for analysis. If it is essential to include extremely detailed visualizations in the dashboard then it can sometimes be useful to add them nearer the bottom and put the visualizations which provide a more general overview at the top so as the user works there way through the dashboard, layers of detail are gradually revealed. Alternatively in the example just mentioned, if they just want to look at the dashboard quickly then the key metrics are summarized as soon as they click to open the dashboard at the top of the page.
This is obviously only an express guide to dashboard design. What killer tips do you have for designing stunning dashboards? View our selection of showcase dashboards for further inspiration.
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