Despite their growing popularity, there are still far too many examples of ineffective Dashboards. Failures in Dashboard design can leave these visualisations looking cluttered, unclear and unprofessional.
Dashboards are all the rage right now and provide an effective way of presenting vital information at a glance. However, there are many problems that can occur in the Dashboard design process, diminishing the utility of the final product.
In this blog we look at four of the biggest problems that can occur in Dashboard design – and how you can fix them.
1. Creating too much clutter
One of the most common problems with Dashboard design is including too much information. It is generally believed that best practice dashboards should be limited in size to a single page in order to provide the user with an at-a-glance summary of the key performance indicators. However, with such a limited amount of space on offer, it is easy to fall into the trap of cramming in as much data as possible. This can lead to Dashboards becoming cluttered, unclear and difficult to interpret – something which ultimately defeats their purpose.
In order to fix this problem you should be extremely strict when it comes to editing the information that needs to be included. It is also important to stick to a clear and simple structure which allows you to optimise the space on offer rather than cramming information wherever it will fit. Charlie Claxton suggests using a simple pen and paper in the initial design stages of a Dashboard in order to achieve clarity and simplicity.
A Dashboard should never exceed the boundaries of a single page as fragmenting data can often lead to important information being obscured and neglected. Stephen Few argues that Dashboards help to “paint a complete picture”, highlighting connections between data that would not be noticeable otherwise.
2. Poor visual design
The visual appearance of a Business Dashboard is just as important as the data itself. There is little point collecting large volumes of data for it then to be poorly communicated to the people who need it most. This must be taken into consideration in the Dashboard design process. It’s easy to get carried away with flashy graphics and Data Visualisations in an attempt to make your data stand out, but this can actually make the information more difficult to interpret by creating a sensory overload for the user. The excessive or inappropriate use of colour is another factor which can contribute towards this problem and can leave your Dashboard looking unprofessional. According to Lachlan James, “Every line, dot or color should be added because it conveys a specific and intended message”1.
In order to fix these problems, you need to develop a clear understanding of the roles of visualisations and colour. Rather than simply seeing them as a way to make your Dashboard more attractive, you must under consider the message that they convey. This is especially the case when it comes to colour, the use of which can have a range of connotations. It can be used as a powerful tool to draw an emotive response from the user.
3. Limited functionality
When it comes to Dashboard design it is easy to concentrate so heavily on the content that you fail to account for how it will ultimately be used. Even Dashboards with the best data can be hampered by restrictions to functionality and these can diminish the value for users. In order to ensure that the data provides actionable insights, it is crucial that Dashboards have a degree of interactivity. This may include the ability to filter, sort and manipulate the data in order to extract relevant information and save this information for a later date or create reports. Bad examples of Dashboards are those which are completely static, simply presenting the data without allowing the user to do anything with it.
In order to fix this problem it could be beneficial to invest in software which can do the job for you. There are a number of Business Intelligence tools out there that can help to increase the functionality of your Dashboards and reporting processes. At Matillion, we specialise in self-serve reporting tools which allow users to view their data and create reports without the high level of technical expertise that other tools require.
4 Restricted access
The platform on which Dashboards will be viewed is also a crucial factor which must not be overlooked in the Dashboard design process. Advances in technology have completely redefined the market for Dashboards and Business Intelligence, with Kevin Lindquist arguing that “Through the use of mobile devices, the need for Dashboards has become critical in companies large and small”2. Furthermore a recent Gartner report found that 50% of Mobile BI users will rely exclusively on mobile devices for insight delivery by 2015. With such a rapid rise in Mobile BI users, it is more important than ever that a BI Dashboard can be accessed through these devices.
One of the common problems with using Dashboards on these devices is that they look completely different on a smaller screen and this can affect the clarity and appearance of data. In order to avoid this problem, you must therefore take into consideration the screen size and resolution of individual devices in order to optimise the display of your Dashboard.