3 Musts When Designing Your Dashboard

Mar 25, 2013

I recently participated in a webinar on dashboard design. A dashboard is a self-updating platform that reports metrics that allow you to track your business at a glance. One of the things that struck me was the difference between what users want in a dashboard and what proper dashboard design entails. Users typically want and feel that everything including the kitchen sink should be on the dashboard. Everything is important! But sometimes everything leads to a dashboard that is confusing, overwhelming and therefore unusable.

The term “dashboard” came from the automotive industry because we look at the car dashboard to learn about the cars performance at a glance, only taking our eyes off the road for a split second. The intent is the same with business dashboards. They are not intended to do deep analysis, but rather let you know how the business is doing with a quick scan.

Here are 3 design considerations to ensure your dashboards perform as intended.

1. Who Will Use the Dashboard

Over and over again people want to put everything in one dashboard. Different audiences need to focus on different things to do their job. Therefore their dashboards should be tailored by role within the organization to ensure that they are focusing on those Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are essential to them. Instead of creating one massive dashboard, create different dashboards for each Role in the business, giving the users exactly what they need to make decisions and work towards meeting their objectives.

2. Understand what is really needed

The old adage “Less is More” is true. Too much on your dashboard creates static, confusion and chaos. This results in the viewer focusing on things that are not important at the time. If we follow point one and have different dashboards for our different audiences then we can narrow our list of KPIs for each audience/role. It is likely we can get it down to approx. 6 things that each role must monitor to be successful. For each of these 6 there could be some supporting information that is needed. After that, we leave the realm of dashboards and get into analysis. The analysis can occur in the Business Intelligence application but it should be separate from the actual dashboard so it doesn’t clutter things.

3. Design to highlight what is important

Like the car’s dashboard, only highlight things that are important. There are likely a few things that you need all of the time and then there are some things that only need your attention when things are going off course. Use different reporting methods, colours and fonts to highlight what is important at that moment. It might be that a KPI is smaller and in green when things are going well but if things aren’t going well the font gets larger and the color changes. Again, design this for your audience. Accountants and analyst may want lots of numbers. CEOs and VPs may be more interested in gauges and charts.

QlikView allows for the creation of dashboards that communicate what is going on right now.

QlikView can be tied to operational data and updated as often as needed and it can be linked to data warehouses with historical information.

Together, it allows users to monitor what is happening in their business now and then dive into the data and perform analysis at deeper levels when they need to.

BizXcel is a QlikView partner, building unique solutions for clients to help them generate their greatness.