When it comes to designing a BI dashboard it is crucial not to underestimate the importance of visual appearance.
Even if the information contained is of a high quality, this can easily be overshadowed by the poor aesthetic design of the dashboard itself. By following a few simple tips on layout, colour and typography, you can ensure your BI dashboard not only works well, but looks great too.
Layout of a BI Dashboard
The layout of a BI dashboard is of critical importance when it comes to getting information across to the user. The difficulty involved in this stage is how to present significant volumes of data while ensuring your dashboard does not become confusing and congested.
It is widely believed that a successful dashboard should be restricted in size to a single page and with such a limited amount of space available the structure of information becomes increasingly important. Lachlan James argues that ‘If you can’t interpret a dashboard at-a-glance, the information is actually fighting against its intended purpose – it’s too detailed.’
There is often a temptation to cram as much information as possible onto a dashboard and this can leave the user feeling confused and overwhelmed. Instead you should pick out only the main KPIs and ensure they are well structured, actionable and relevant to one another.
Although the layout can depend heavily on your businesses specific Intelligence requirements, there are a number of templates available to help you streamline and structure your dashboard.
Colour of a BI Dashboard
Colour can be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to data visualization and it is therefore of critical importance that you get it right when designing a BI dashboard.
At its most simplistic level, colour can be used to draw the reader’s attention to certain areas of the dashboard which usually contain the most important information. Other uses can include the emotive qualities of certain colours and its use in differentiating between multiple data sets.
Colour is a useful tool but it’s important that you use it in moderation and for a reason. According to Lachlan James, ‘Every line, dot or color should be added because it conveys a specific and intended message’. A great way to do this is to start off with all of the data displayed in a soft or neutral colour and then strategically add in colour bit by bit only where it is entirely necessary.
As well as controlling how much colour you use, it is also important to think about which colours you are going to use throughout your BI dashboard. It’s vital that you think about the connotations of certain colours and the message that they might portray.
Furthermore you need to think about how easy it is for viewers to see the different sections of the data when you are using a number of different colours. Worldwide, over 8% of males and 0.5% of females suffer from some degree of colour-blindness and with such a high prevalence it is important that you take this into consideration when determining the colour scheme of your dashboard.
Typography of a BI Dashboard
Finally, it is important that you carefully consider the use of text throughout your BI dashboard. Following these simple tips can help you to ensure the text is legible and easy to follow:
- Make sure the font is not too large or too small for the viewer to read. Size is critical in order to get the necessary information across without dominating the page
- Try to stick to a relatively basic typeface which is easy to read and avoid highly stylised fonts
- Avoid using all capital letters; this can often be difficult to read
- Only use bold and italics when they are necessary in order to emphasize a point
- Avoid putting text at an angle
- Avoid stretching or compressing your text too much in order to fit the space requirements
- Avoid any unnecessary effects such as shadows or 3D text.
Improving the layout, colour and typography can leave your BI Dashboard looking clean, clear and professional.
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