Structuring your Business Intelligence Dashboard: 4 Key Steps

  • Ed Thompson, CTO
  • April 23, 2014

Structuring-your-Business-Intelligence-DashboardStructuring your Business Intelligence Dashboard, is one of the most important factors involved in the design of any BI Dashboard and can completely dictate the way in which users view and interpret the information that is being presented to them. It is therefore essential that you tailor the structure to be in line with the message you are trying to convey.

So when you have gathered up all of the information that you wish to present, and you have made it stand out with the use of colour and Data Visualisations, it is time to think about how you are going to bring this all together on your BI Dashboard.

All too often structure can be neglected in the design process, leaving dashboards looking cluttered, unclear and unprofessional. The importance of a clear and concise structure is underlined by Stephen Few who argues that “Information cannot be placed just anywhere on the dashboard, nor can sections of the display be sized simply to fit the available space”. This blog will look at how a successful structure can be achieved by exploring some of the fundamental considerations relating to the topic.

1 Optimise the space on offer

With a best practice BI Dashboard typically being limited in size to a single page, the area available on which to display information is severely restricted. With this in mind, it becomes even more important that you use this space wisely, and pick a structure that exploits most value from the space on offer. It is crucial that you are able to achieve a balance between a Dashboard that is overly cluttered and one that wastes space with large blank areas.

2 Prioritise the most important information

All the information that is contained on a BI Dashboard is important, otherwise it would not be there. However, it is usually the case that some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are more important than others.
The attention that information receives can be influenced by where it is located on the Dashboard. The figure below shows the areas that are more emphasized by the human eye than others.


Using this information, you can strategically place what you consider to be the most important content in the top left quadrant, as this is the first place a user will typically look when they arrive at your Dashboard.
Many firms make the mistake of placing the company name or a large company logo in this area, wasting valuable space in the most important section.

3 Condense information down where possible

No matter how important a topic is, it probably should not take up the whole BI Dashboard.
However, this can often occur when too many Visualisations are used to display either the same data, or data that could easily be condensed down into a smaller number of figures.
The example below highlights a perfect illustration of where numerous charts could have easily been condensed down into a single, more space-efficient chart, freeing up space for more information to be presented.


4 Consider a simple structure

When it comes to a BI Dashboard, an overly complicated structure can often prove to be confusing for the user, drawing attention away from the information itself. Worse, it may also be difficult to follow, if the information is scattered all over the Dashboard without any indication as to the order in which it should be viewed.
An extremely simple structure may therefore be the best option if you want to present large volumes of data in a way that does not overawe the reader.
One of the most common structures is a simple grid like the one below, where the different elements of the Dashboard are neatly organised into equal sized sections.


However, structures such as this have been criticised for being too rigid, and for providing no indication as to where you should begin to view the data. Alternatively you could adopt a flow structure to display a sequence of data or a relationship structure to highlight relationships between aspects of the information.

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