Five Things to Keep in Mind When Designing Dashboards

Dashboards are a great way to present information, especially when the data needs to be shown at a high level. Digital dashboards are collections of key reports, metrics, KPIs, and other data that provide relevant context and highlight the essential elements of a research study. They are a great tool for presenting information to executives who may only have a few minutes to review and make decisions about a project. Here are five key points to consider when developing dashboards for executives.

#1. Dashboards are not scorecards.
Scorecards are report cards for your projects. Scorecards measure performance against goals, show the success/failure of specific metrics, and are utilized once a project is complete. Dashboards, on the other hand, are used throughout a project and offer a snapshot of a study’s progress. Dashboards are a collection of reports, KPIs, and comments from consumers, all of which provide context for the status of a project.

#2. Looks matter.
A dashboard needs to convey information quickly and clearly, so appearance is very important. All elements of a dashboard, including gauges, colour, highlights, and fonts, are critical to ensuring that messages are communicated efficiently.

#3. Dashboards should be actionable.
Every dashboard should be created with the goal of making the data actionable. Since organizations collect large amounts of data, dashboards need to provide an overview of the most relevant information in a concise, clear manner. Remember that dashboards are not reports: their function is to assist with the decision-making process.

#4. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
While dashboards keep track of the relevant information for a project, the same information and style of presentation will not meet the needs of all hierarchical levels. According to dashboardinsight.com, performance dashboards can be loosely categorized into four levels, and each should include a different number of metrics:

  • CEO/board level – about six high-level metrics
  • Corporate vice president/director level – between 12 and 20 metrics
  • IT strategic level – range of 12 to 50 metrics
  • IT operational level – around 20 metrics

Always begin dashboard design with a clear understanding of the end user and his or her executive level. While different levels of users will require various dashboard views, remember that you can create filters to extract the information required for each type of user.

#5. Focus on simplicity.
Poorly designed dashboards gather huge amounts of data on one screen, preventing clear understanding and slowing down decision making. With more and more web applications using a minimalist design (a change for the better), dashboards need to be clear and simple. Use clear fonts, appropriate whitespace ratios, and iconography to guide the user through the dashboard.