Business dashboard provides instant insights by showcasing the key performance indicators (KPIs) in an elegant way. It is user-friendly data tool to aid business decision making. Here is an article on the best practices to build a successful data dashboard.
First, understand the different types of data dashboards before designing the dashboard. The three types of dashboards used in businesses are as follows.
Organizations monitor and manage operations with this type of dashboard. The common applications of this dashboard are in operations centers. The dashboard contains time-sensitive data and requires the audience to take immediate actions. Moreover, it highlights the data deviations. And the audience can react proactively looking at the data.
Business executives use data visualization services and analytical dashboards to view the at-a-glance information, analyze them, and make decisions. This type of dashboard is less time sensitive and the audience do not take immediate action upon looking at the dashboard.
This type of dashboard helps business executives to track organizational strategic goals by monitoring the KPIs. Organizations use it to determine the long-term business strategies. They update the dashboard data on a recurring basis, but at lesser intervals than an operational dashboard. And they generally view the dashboard once a day and it helps the executives to stay on top of their business KPIs.
Here are some suggestions on building efficient data dashboards.
1) Show only the most important & necessary parts
The value of information is important when it comes to displaying metrics on the dashboard. What the audience would be able to grasp when they look at the very first 5 seconds is very important. So, display only important metrics and arrange them spaciously. Consider every inch of the dashboard to be a valuable TV commercial, where every second matters. Finally, all the metrics and insights displayed should tie to the purpose of the dashboard.
2) Use size and position wisely
The top left corner is the most important part of a dashboard, so use it wisely, perhaps display an impactful number. Most of the languages follow a Left-to-Right writing order. So, it is good to keep filling the dashboard with cards at the top and keep gradually reducing the cards while going to the bottom. The important cards should be bigger and placed better.
3) Show differences wherever possible
Data dashboards usually show performance metrics over different time periods. So, it is a good practice to show how much the metric has changed with respect to time, which can be a positive percentage (increase) or a negative percentage (decrease).
4) Ensure consistency in the business dashboard
The dashboard components should be consistently placed. The same visualization types and layouts should be consistent between the groups. For example, it is ideal to keep two similar chart types below each other, instead of keeping one chart type and another chart type below each other. Also, the measurement units and naming conventions should be consistently formatted.
5) Pick the right chart type
Choosing the right visualization type is important while designing the dashboard, because every chart type serves a purpose. Here are some tips before picking the chart types.
Line charts are preferred to display change patterns. It is the most common chart type and familiar to most people, so the chart can easily be analyzed immediately. Select bar charts if you want to quickly compare items in the same category. Pie charts are usually preferred when the total of a metric amounts to 100%
Sparklines usually do not have a scale, so there would not be a reference to compare. However, they are suited to show only the trends. Scatterplots may not provide precision and clarity, still they can be used for an expert audience. Most agree that bubble charts are not suitable for data dashboards, because they require more effort to learn the insights.
6) Stick to limited colors and a consistent design language
Colors are an important aspect of the dashboard design. The dashboard looks beautiful and useful only when minimal colors are used. The colors should be chosen from the brand color palette and should not deviate from the palette.
A frequent mistake is using highly saturated colors too often in the dashboard. Intense colors can highlight the metrics, but if the dashboard contains only highly saturated colors, the audience may feel overwhelmed and lost. It is always better to prefer light colors and tone most colors down. Yet many B2B SaaS product dashboards are based on a dark-themed UI because they are analyzed for several hours straight.
Use standard font styles and do not prefer fancy font styles. Furthermore, avoid capital letters as it takes more time for the human mind to absorb them. Also, avoid rotated labels because it does not present a clear view.
7) Using animation (optional) in business dashboard
Every data dashboard should have interaction options such as progressive drill-down and comprehensive filters. It helps to access the finer details of the story. Additionally, animation options can be provided while traversing through the dashboard. It gives a neat visual impression when the audience is interacting with the dashboard.
8) Multi-device optimization
Optimizing the dashboard for multiple devices such as computer, tablet, mobile, is necessary for decision making on-the-go. A responsive design helps to align the dashboard components perfectly onto every type of device. The dashboard should be useful irrespective of the device type. For this reason, only very important dashboard components should be shown as the device size keeps reducing.
9) Ability to export, share, embed the business dashboard
The publisher should provide the option of exporting the dashboard to an offline format. Consequently, the audience can view and analyze the dashboard, even in an offline mode. The dashboard should also generate a ‘share URL’, through which the audience can access the dashboard later. Another important aspect is the ability to embed the dashboard in 3rd party applications or other websites.
10) Leverage information architecture for a great business dashboard
A menu bar should be provided to organize and access the multiple pages of the dashboard. It could be either a horizontal menu bar (in case of less pages) or a vertical menu bar (in case of more pages). Apply the principles of information architecture and hierarchy to decide which cards to show and in which positions. For example, F patterns and Z patterns reflect how a viewer’s eye scans a page. So, consider this logic to structure and order the dashboard elements.
11) Design the cards in a consistent manner
The cards of the dashboard are arranged in grids, as it helps to achieve effective alignment of the cards. The grids serves as the basic skeleton of the dashboard.
It is a good practice to write the topic of each card in the top left corner. And the filter of each card can be placed in the top right corner.
12) Update your business dashboard regularly
Get the feedback from the team once the data dashboard is ready. Get answers to some of the most important questions:
- What is the first impression on the dashboard?
- Which parts of the dashboard are understandable and not understandable?
- What is the most useful part of the dashboard?
- Which part of the dashboard is least useful?
- Is there anything important missing from the dashboard?
See how the dashboard is perceived by different minds. Revisit the dashboard and evolve it regularly based on the feedback.