Stephen Few, author of Information Dashboard Design, calls structure one of the greatest challenges of dashboard design:
"Dashboard content must be organized in a way that reflects the nature of the information and that supports efficient and meaningful monitoring. Information cannot be placed just anywhere on the dashboard, nor can sections of the display be sized simply to fit the available space. Items that relate to one another should usually be positioned close to one another. Important items should often appear larger, thus more visually prominent, than less important items. Items that ought to be scanned in a particular order ought to be arranged in a manner that supports that sequence of visual attention.” (Pervasive Hurdles to Effective Dashboard Design, Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter, January 2007)
Here are some tips on dashboard design to get the ball rolling.
Choosing what data to include on your dashboard
- First ask yourself what metrics are the best indicators of the state of your business or department. This is an important question. But it is also important to then ask yourself, “Would I do something with this information?” Effective dashboards focus on actionable intelligence and less on “nice to know” metrics. Use your dashboard real estate for the most helpful information.
Two popular layouts:
- Grouping—keep related data metrics in same area
- Gradual Reveal—summary at top of page, detailed metrics of the summary below
Impact of Color
- direct user’s attention to what is most important
- colors should have meaning, i.e. green=good, yellow=caution, red=problem
Pick the right graph type for the type of data to make user comprehension easier
- Bar graph: comparative stats, measured over time
- Point-to-point graph: stats measured over time
- Pie chart: stats that are represented in per-cents
Pay attention to where users tend to focus their attention
Put the most important information where people tend to look first. Studies show that people tend to scan a page in a similar pattern. Imagine the image to the right is overlaid on your dashboard page. The research indicates that users look first for information on the top and left. Users also focus their attention down the left side. The center gets a fair bit of attention as well. But the bottom and right may not catch the users eye.
Dashboards are great tools to help manage your business. Taking the time to tweak and customize your dashboard can make this tool that much more useful.
Reference: October 2009, www.Juice Analytics.com.